A LAG-3, Op­di­vo com­bo from Bris­tol-My­ers of­fers a proof-of-con­cept glimpse of lim­it­ed suc­cess

CHICA­GO — Now that the first wave of PD-(L)1 drugs has splashed out and is get­ting es­tab­lished in the can­cer mar­ket, one of the next steps down the pipeline in­volves match­ing up check­point in­hibitors in new com­bos as the lead­ers in the field pur­sue a fast and fu­ri­ous R&D strat­e­gy to mar­ket ex­pan­sion. To that end, Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb $BMY turned up at AS­CO with some in­trigu­ing proof-of-con­cept da­ta that mar­ries their drug Op­di­vo with a LAG-3 drug, of­fer­ing an ear­ly glimpse on how it could work for a par­tic­u­lar cat­e­go­ry of pa­tient.

Pao­lo Ascier­to

Their com­bo, BMS-986016, achieved a 12.5% ob­jec­tive re­sponse rate among 55 melanoma pa­tients who had al­ready been on a PD-(L)1 ther­a­py. More im­por­tant­ly, there was sig­nif­i­cant split in re­spons­es among pa­tients based on LAG-3 ex­pres­sion, with 20% of the pa­tients with at least 1% of tu­mor-as­so­ci­at­ed im­mune cells with­in the tu­mor mar­gin achiev­ing an ORR com­pared to 7.1% with less than 1%.

Jef­feries’ Biren Amin con­clud­ed that the da­ta were un­der­whelm­ing, but an ad­just­ment around LAG-3 ex­pres­sion could en­hance its fu­ture.

Op­di­vo was the first of the PD-(L)1s to dom­i­nate the mar­ket, but af­ter Bris­tol-My­ers’ tri­al work de­railed on a mis­step in lung can­cer, the big biotech has dou­bled down on on­col­o­gy, shak­ing up its R&D group and tack­ling a steadi­ly widen­ing num­ber of stud­ies. This is one step back in the right di­rec­tion.

“As a po­ten­tial­ly syn­er­gis­tic im­mune path­way to PD-1/PD-L1, LAG-3 has emerged as an im­mune check­point re­cep­tor that reg­u­lates T cell func­tion and whose in­hi­bi­tion may in­crease ben­e­fits for pa­tients,” said Pao­lo Ascier­to of the Is­ti­tu­to Nazionale Tu­mori Fon­dazione Pas­cale of Naples, Italy. “These re­sults in­di­cate that BMS-986016 in com­bi­na­tion with Op­di­vo may of­fer clin­i­cal ben­e­fit, par­tic­u­lar­ly for pa­tients whose tu­mors con­tain im­mune cells that ex­press LAG-3. Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion is war­rant­ed to un­der­stand the im­pact of this com­bi­na­tion as well as the util­i­ty of LAG-3 as an im­mune bio­mark­er.”

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Cy­to­ki­net­ics’ ALS drug fails PhI­II, leav­ing the biotech with a sin­gle late-stage prospect

Cytokinetics’ candidate for the muscle disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, failed a Phase III trial, the Bay Area biotech announced Friday morning.

At a second interim analysis of the trial, an independent review committee recommended that Cytokinetics discontinue its COURAGE-ALS trial for reldesemtiv, as it “found no evidence of effect” compared to placebo on the primary or key secondary endpoints.

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Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee lobs more bi­par­ti­san pres­sure on­to PBMs

Congress is honing in on how it wants to overhaul the rules of the road for pharmacy benefit managers, with a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday serving as the latest example of the Hill’s readiness to make changes to how pharma middlemen operate.

While pledging to ensure patients and pharmacies “don’t get a raw deal,” Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) laid out the beginning of what looks like a major bipartisan effort — moves the PBM industry is likely to challenge vigorously.

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Nicklas Westerholm, Egetis Therapeutics CEO

Ac­qui­si­tion talks on­go­ing for Swedish rare dis­ease biotech Egetis, shares up al­most 40%

Shares of the Sweden-based rare disease biotech Egetis Therapeutics skyrocketed on Thursday afternoon as the company said it’s engaged in “ongoing discussion” with external parties regarding a “potential acquisition.”

Egetis confirmed rumors with a statement on Thursday while noting that there is no certainty that a takeover offer will be made.

Nonetheless, the possibility of an acquisition has shot up Egetis’ share price. By the afternoon on Thursday, its stock price was {$EGTX.ST} up over 38%. An Egetis spokesperson told Endpoints News in an email that it has no further comments.

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Lu­pus drug de­vel­op­ment mar­ket heat­ing up, while FDA links with ad­vo­ca­cy group to fur­ther ac­cel­er­ate re­search

The long-underserved systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) market is suddenly buzzing with treatment possibilities. Less than two years after AstraZeneca’s approval for Saphnelo — the first new SLE drug in a decade and joining just one other approved in GSK’s Benlysta – the pipeline of potential drugs numbers in the dozens.

Although most are very early stage — Spherix Global Insights estimates five in Phase II/III — the pharma R&D enthusiasm is catching on among doctors, patients and advocacy groups. On Wednesday, the Lupus Research Alliance and the FDA formed a novel private-public partnership called Lupus Accelerating Breakthroughs Consortium (Lupus ABC) to help advance lupus clinical trial success.

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CHMP gives thumbs-up for We­govy use in ado­les­cents, along with nine new drug rec­om­men­da­tions

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended nine drugs for approval this week while also giving thumbs up for six expanded indications, including Novo Nordisk’s approved obesity medication Wegovy for younger people. Wegovy is already approved as an obesity treatment in the EU for adults, and the new indication would allow prescriptions for adolescents aged 12 and older.

Green­Light re­ceives buy­out of­fer; Apol­lomics com­pletes SPAC merg­er

RNA biotech GreenLight Biosciences has been handed an offer for potential acquisition.

GreenLight said in a release that it has received a non-binding “indication of interest” from Fall Line Endurance Fund to acquire GreenLight’s capital stock for $0.60 per share in cash. The release said any potential agreement between the two parties would depend on certain conditions.

Through a special committee, the biotech will evaluate the offer but added there’s no certainty a deal will go forward. GreenLight will also not make any more announcements until a deal comes through or “otherwise determines” a statement is necessary.

TScan Therapeutics' departing CEO David Southwell and CSO/COO Gavin MacBeath

TCR up­start an­nounces CEO ex­it, with CSO now act­ing re­place­ment

A public T cell biotech’s chief executive has decided to leave the company.

TScan Therapeutics said Friday morning that CEO David Southwell stepped down earlier this week, leaving both his chief executive and board member roles. Filling in is Gavin MacBeath, the company’s CSO and COO. He became the acting CEO on Tuesday, and will continue to remain CSO and COO, TScan’s announcement read.