A few months af­ter emerg­ing from stealth, Prax­is is hand­ed a clin­i­cal hold for lead de­pres­sion drug

Less than a month af­ter Prax­is Pre­ci­sion Med­i­cines hit Wall Street with an up­sized IPO, the FDA has slapped a clin­i­cal hold on its lead can­di­date for ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der (MDD), send­ing shares spi­ral­ing.

With­out pro­vid­ing much in­for­ma­tion, the FDA said in an email that it re­viewed Prax­is’ IND for its Phase II/III tri­al, and is plac­ing a full clin­i­cal hold on the study. More de­tails should come in the next 30 days, ac­cord­ing to the email. Prax­is says it has reached out to the agency, which said it isn’t done fi­nal­iz­ing com­ments.

“The FDA has not pro­vid­ed any rea­son for the clin­i­cal hold,” Prax­is said in a state­ment. Ac­cord­ing to an S-1/A filed on Oct 15, the study would have sat­is­fied one of two reg­is­tra­tional tri­als re­quired by the FDA to sup­port clin­i­cal ef­fi­ca­cy. The biotech’s stock $PRAX plunged more than 26% af­ter the news broke on Tues­day.

Cowen an­a­lysts aren’t wor­ried, though. In a note to in­vestors on Tues­day, an­a­lysts Ritu Bar­al and Ly­la Youssef said they be­lieve the hold “should be re­solved in short or­der giv­en the con­tin­ued clean pre­clin­i­cal and clin­i­cal safe­ty pro­file.” The can­di­date, PRAX-114, is cur­rent­ly in an on­go­ing Phase IIa tri­al in Aus­tralia. Part A en­rolled 33 MDD pa­tients, and ear­ly da­ta sug­gest “rapid, marked im­prove­ments in de­pres­sion scores” af­ter two weeks of treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to the an­a­lysts. Af­ter one week, pa­tients showed LS mean Hamil­ton De­pres­sion Rat­ing Scale im­prove­ments of 15 to 19 points across three dose groups.

The can­di­date, GA­BA pos­i­tive al­losteric mod­u­la­tor, is al­so in Phase II tri­als for per­i­menopausal de­pres­sion. The field is a tough one, with sci­en­tists strug­gling for years to de­vel­op bet­ter an­ti-de­pres­sants. Last De­cem­ber, Sage Ther­a­peu­tics’ MDD drug flopped in a large tri­al, cost­ing the com­pa­ny $6 bil­lion in mar­ket cap and forc­ing it to cut half of em­ploy­ees.

If PRAX-114 gets ap­proved, Cowen pre­dicts its US sales po­ten­tial will  be in the $3 bil­lion range.

Prax­is emerged from stealth mode this spring, with $100 mil­lion and two drugs in Phase II. It ini­tial­ly set out to iden­ti­fy mu­ta­tions that cause epilep­sy in pa­tients who didn’t in­her­it the dis­ease, and is now ap­ply­ing those dis­cov­er­ies to oth­er CNS dis­eases, like de­pres­sion, move­ment dis­or­ders and pain syn­dromes. In Ju­ly, Prax­is bagged an­oth­er $110 mil­lion in a Se­ries C1 led by Even­tide As­set Man­age­ment.

Even­tide holds 9.4% of Prax­is’ stock, ac­cord­ing to the S-1/A. Black­stone, No­vo Hold­ings and Vi­da Ven­tures, which al­so kicked in on the round, have 23.1%, 6/6% and 7.3% re­spec­tive­ly.

Back in Au­gust, Prax­is filed for a $100 mil­lion IPO. It end­ed up bring­ing in $190 mil­lion, from $10 mil­lion shares priced at $19 apiece — a buck high­er than the $17 to $18 range. Be­tween $70 to $80 mil­lion was tagged for PRAX-114.

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos (via Getty Images)

With ad­u­canum­ab caught on a cliff, Bio­gen’s Michel Vounatsos bets bil­lions on an­oth­er high-risk neu­ro play

With its FDA pitch on the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab hanging perilously close to disaster, Biogen is rolling the dice on a $3.1 billion deal that brings in commercial rights to one of the other spotlight neuro drugs in late-stage development — after it already failed its first Phase III.

The big biotech has turned to Sage Therapeutics for its latest deal, close to a year after the crushing failure of Sage-217, now dubbed zuranolone, in the MOUNTAIN study.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Pascal Soriot (AP Images)

As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

The ad­u­canum­ab co­nun­drum: The PhI­II failed a clear reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dard, but no one is cer­tain what that means any­more at the FDA

Eighteen days ago, virtually all of the outside experts on an FDA adcomm got together to mug the agency’s Billy Dunn and the Biogen team when they presented their upbeat assessment on aducanumab. But here we are, more than 2 weeks later, and the ongoing debate over that Alzheimer’s drug’s fate continues unabated.

Instead of simply ruling out any chance of an approval, the logical conclusion based on what we heard during that session, a series of questionable approvals that preceded the controversy over the agency’s recent EUA decisions has come back to haunt the FDA, where the power of precedent is leaving an opening some experts believe can still be exploited by the big biotech.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

John Maraganore, Alnylam CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Al­ny­lam gets the green light from the FDA for drug #3 — and CEO John Maraganore is ready to roll

Score another early win at the FDA for Alnylam.

The FDA put out word today that the agency has approved its third drug, lumasiran, for primary hyperoxaluria type 1, better known as PH1. The news comes just 4 days after the European Commission took the lead in offering a green light.

An ultra rare genetic condition, Alnylam CEO John Maraganore says there are only some 1,000 to 1,700 patients in the US and Europe at any particular point. The patients, mostly kids, suffer from an overproduction of oxalate in the liver that spurs the development of kidney stones, right through to end stage kidney disease.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter Ko­dak de­ba­cle, US lends $1.1B to a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny and their big Covid-19, mR­NA plans

In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

FDA hands Liq­uidia and Re­vance a CRL and de­fer­ral, re­spec­tive­ly, as Covid-19 cre­ates in­spec­tion chal­lenge

Two biotechs said they got turned away by the FDA on Wednesday, in part due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

North Carolina-based Liquidia Technologies was handed a CRL for its lead pulmonary arterial hypertension drug, citing the need for more CMC data and on-site pre-approval inspections, which the FDA hasn’t been able to conduct due to travel restrictions. The agency also deferred its decision on Revance Therapeutics’ BLA for its frown line treatment, because it needs to inspect the company’s northern California manufacturing facility. The action, Revance emphasized, was not a CRL.

Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron CEO (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Trail­ing Eli Lil­ly by 12 days, Re­gen­eron gets the FDA OK for their Covid-19 an­ti­body cock­tail

A month and a half after becoming the experimental treatment of choice for a newly diagnosed president, Regeneron’s antibody cocktail has received emergency use authorization from the FDA. It will be used to treat non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients who are at high-risk of progressing.

Although the Rgeneron drug is not the first antibody treatment authorized by the FDA, the news comes as a significant milestone for a company and a treatment scientists have watched closely since the outbreak began.

Bahija Jallal (file photo)

TCR pi­o­neer Im­muno­core scores a first with a land­mark PhI­II snap­shot on over­all sur­vival for a rare melanoma

Bahija Jallal’s crew at TCR pioneer Immunocore says they have nailed down a promising set of pivotal data for their lead drug in a frontline setting for a solid tumor. And they are framing this early interim readout as the convincing snapshot they need to prove that their platform can deliver on a string of breakthrough therapies now in the clinic or planned for it.

In advance of the Monday announcement, Jallal and R&D chief David Berman took some time to walk me through the first round of Phase III data for their lead TCR designed to treat rare, frontline cases of metastatic uveal melanoma that come with a grim set of survival expectations.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Vivek Ramaswamy (Jeff Rumans/JPM 2020)

Urovan­t's lead drug dis­ap­points in mid-stage study as first big FDA de­ci­sion looms

Just as Urovant gets ready for its first big FDA decision on vibegron, the drug has flopped in what would’ve been a follow-on indication.

In a Phase IIa trial involving women with abdominal pain due to irritable bowel syndrome, vibegron failed to meet the bar on improving “average worst abdominal pain” over 12 weeks, compared to placebo, among IBS-D patients.

There were actually slightly more responders in the placebo group than in the drug arm, with only 40.9% of those randomized to vigebron achieving at least a 30% decrease in “worst abdominal pain” in the past 24 hours. The trial enrolled 222 women but only 189 completed the study.