A gene ther­a­py mys­tery? Gen­Sight blast­ed as 1st PhI­II eye study ends in an in­trigu­ing fail­ure

Gen­Sight has a gene ther­a­py mys­tery on its hands, which is about the last thing it want­ed at the end of Phase III.

As­sess­ing the 48-week da­ta from its first piv­otal test of a treat­ment for Leber Hered­i­tary Op­tic Neu­ropa­thy — or LHON, a rare ge­net­ic dis­ease that caus­es blind­ness — in­ves­ti­ga­tors pulled out a mean­ing­ful im­prove­ment in sight in their one treat­ed eye.  

Bernard Gilly

The mys­tery: The oth­er eyes that re­ceived a sham ther­a­py did just as well with their eye­sight. Ex­act­ly as well.

That makes the Phase III study of GS010 a fail­ure, and rather than stay to try and solve the mys­tery, in­vestors bailed, dri­ving down the Eu­roNext stock $SIGHT down by 34%.

One of the rea­sons why the ear­ly gene ther­a­py pi­o­neers like Gen­Sight picked hered­i­tary eye dis­eases to go af­ter first is that the eye is a con­tained unit, lim­it­ing off-tar­get ef­fects. But Gen­Sight’s Paris-based CEO Bernard Gilly says that as on­ly a frac­tion of pa­tients his­tor­i­cal­ly see a spon­ta­neous im­prove­ment in eye­sight, he’s won­der­ing if the ther­a­py in­ject­ed in­to one eye de­liv­ers an un­ex­pect­ed ben­e­fit to the oth­er.

At the same time, Gen­Sight tout­ed a hit on a reti­nal bio­mark­er for the dis­ease, which they claimed as ev­i­dence that the ther­a­py had an im­pact sep­a­rate from the sham.

“The fact that struc­tur­al mea­sures of the reti­na showed such a large sta­tis­ti­cal dif­fer­ence with treat­ment is com­pelling and ob­jec­tive ev­i­dence that this gene ther­a­py pro­tects the in­tegri­ty of many reti­nal gan­glion cells from the dam­age of LHON,” com­ment­ed com­pa­ny co-founder José-Alain Sa­hel.

That’s a messy ar­gu­ment, with the com­pa­ny ar­gu­ing that it ap­peared the ther­a­py im­proved sight for both eyes, but on­ly hit the sec­ondary bio­mark­er in the treat­ed eye. 

The com­pa­ny — which tried and failed to make it on­to Nas­daq — will be left look­ing for more da­ta to an­a­lyze from its next two Phase III stud­ies, which are up­com­ing. But easy ex­pla­na­tions will be hard to come by.

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

President Trump walks past HHS secretary Alex Azar (Getty Images)

Azar falls in line un­der Trump again. Ex­perts say he's re­in­forc­ing a dark sig­nal sent to the FDA

In the latest incident where Alex Azar has steadfastly taken the side of President Donald Trump over that of the FDA, the HHS secretary was noncommittal this morning when asked if he supports the attempt by his subordinates at the FDA to strengthen guidelines for a vaccine EUA.

Appearing on NBC’s Today Show, the HHS secretary muddied the waters, stating that the guidance that matters is the one that is “actually already out there.”

CDC’s Robert Redfield, NIAID’s Anthony Fauci, Admiral Brett Giroir at HHS, and FDA’s Stephen Hahn prepare to testify at a House hearing on June 23 (Getty)

'Ex­treme­ly po­lit­i­cal' — Trump neuters FDA's at­tempt to strength­en vac­cine EUA

Stephen Hahn went before a Senate committee Wednesday and declared he’s fighting. “Every one of the decisions we have reached has been made by career FDA scientists based on science and data, not politics,” he exclaimed, adding that “FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that. I will fight for science.”

A few hours later, he was undermined by President Donald Trump when a reporter asked if he was okay with stricter vaccine guidelines that the FDA was said to be cooking up. “That has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move,” he decided.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo (AP Images)

An­drew Cuo­mo says New York will un­der­take its own vac­cine re­view process, and wouldn’t rec­om­mend trust­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment

The concerns keep mounting over President Donald Trump’s politicization of the FDA and other federal agencies guiding the development of a safe and effective vaccine. And today, the telegenic New York governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to introduce even more politics into the matter — latest in an ongoing series of incidents that have cast the proudly independent FDA in starkly political terms.

During his daily press conference Cuomo said that the state will review any coronavirus vaccines approved by the federal government, citing a lack of trust of the Trump administration. The announcement comes one day after Trump accused the FDA of making an “extremely political” move in proposing stricter vaccine guidance.

PhII Alzheimer's fail­ure deals new blow to Roche, AC Im­mune — but the tau hy­poth­e­sis is far from dead

The leading anti-tau antibody has failed its first Phase II testing, casting a shadow on a popular target (just trailing amyloid beta) for Alzheimer’s disease.

Roche and AC Immune are quick to acknowledge disappointment in the topline readout, which suggested that semorinemab did not reduce cognitive decline among patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, who are either just starting to have symptoms or have mild manifestations.

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Vas Narasimhan (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Still held down by clin­i­cal hold, No­var­tis' Zol­gens­ma falls fur­ther be­hind Bio­gen and Roche as FDA asks for a new piv­otal study

Last October, the FDA slowed down Novartis’ quest to extend its gene therapy to older spinal muscular atrophy patients by slapping a partial hold on intrathecal administration. Almost a year later, the hold is still there, and regulators are adding another hurdle required for regulatory submission: a new pivotal confirmatory study.

The new requirement — which departs significantly from Novartis’ prior expectations — will likely stretch the path to registration beyond 2021, when analysts were expecting a BLA submission. That could mean more time for Biogen to reap Spinraza revenues and Roche to ramp up sales of Evrysdi in the absence of a rival.

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Scoop: ARCH’s Bob Nelsen is back­ing an mR­NA up­start that promis­es to up­end the en­tire man­u­fac­tur­ing side of the glob­al busi­ness

For the past 2 years, serial entrepreneur Igor Khandros relied on a small network of friends and close insiders to supply the first millions he needed to fund a secretive project to master a new approach to manufacturing mRNA therapies.

Right now, he says, he has a working “GMP-in-a-box” prototype for a new company he’s building — after launching 3 public companies — which plans to spread this contained, precise manufacturing tech around the world with a set of partners. He’s raised $60 million, recruited some prominent experts. And not coincidentally, he’s going semi-public with this just as a small group of pioneers appears to be on the threshold of ushering in the world’s first mRNA vaccines to fight a worldwide pandemic.

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Laura Shawver (Silverback Therapeutics)

Fol­low­ing a hefty Se­ries B, Sil­ver­back Ther­a­peu­tics quick­ly pulls in $85M for 'an im­por­tant growth phase'

Months after reeling in a $78 million Series B round, Silverback Therapeutics has hooked an even larger Series C.

The Seattle-based company announced Wednesday that it netted $85 million from a slate of new and previous investors. The quick boost could be a sign that an IPO is on the way.

In an email, Silverback CEO Laura Shawver told me she was “not able to provide any additional comments about Silverback” beyond what was shared in the company’s news release. In the prepared statement, she said the company is at “an important growth phase.”

Covid-19 roundup: Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed's 7th vac­cine is live at­ten­u­at­ed; Small biotech touts big suc­cess where gi­ants have failed

Operation Warp Speed is stacking its vaccine portfolio with a “TBD” new candidate: a live attenuated vaccine that can be administered in a single dose, potentially as an oral formulation rather than an injection.

Sound familiar?

That could be because the unannounced candidate appears to match the profile of an inoculation being developed by Merck, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the development based on a presentation by Moncef Slaoui.

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