Ab­b­Vie’s promised rheuma­toid arthri­tis block­buster upadac­i­tinib hits its marks in an­oth­er PhI­II — this time with­out any deaths

Ab­b­Vie $AB­BV has post­ed an­oth­er pos­i­tive batch of Phase III da­ta on its JAK1 in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, hit­ting the pri­ma­ry and key sec­ondary end­points in their piv­otal pro­gram for rheuma­toid arthri­tis. And this round of da­ta comes with­out any new deaths in the drug arm to rat­tle in­vestors and an­a­lysts.

Their drug — for­mer­ly ABT-494 — hand­i­ly outscored a place­bo, which was not un­ex­pect­ed. The ther­a­py bare­ly edged out Hu­mi­ra on ACR 20 at 12 weeks, but did much bet­ter on a range of end­points like ACR50 (45% ver­sus 29%) and clin­i­cal re­mis­sion rates (29% ver­sus 18%). On­ly 6% of the place­bo arm ex­pe­ri­enced clin­i­cal re­mis­sion.

Ab­b­Vie has been spot­light­ing this JAK1 pro­gram as one of its two top late-stage drug can­di­dates with a mega-block­buster fu­ture ahead for it. While their cash cow Hu­mi­ra has been freed of the threat of biosim­i­lar com­pe­ti­tion to 2023, ri­vals are muscling in on its ter­ri­to­ry. The on­ly way Ab­b­Vie achieves big­ger rev­enue on Hu­mi­ra each year is by in­creas­ing its price.

An­a­lysts fol­low­ing the drug breathed an au­di­ble sigh of re­lief at this lat­est post. Ge­of­frey Porges not­ed:

The to­tal clin­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of upadac­i­tinib has now in­creased sub­stan­tial­ly with­out demon­strat­ing a ma­jor risk for VTEs, which we be­lieve re­duces the risk of un­ex­pect­ed as­set fail­ure. Af­ter the re­cent fail­ure of Ro­va-T in third-line small cell lung can­cer, and the re­lat­ed drop in Ab­b­Vie’s stock val­ue of >20%, the risk of a sub­se­quent pipeline fail­ure now al­so ap­pears sub­stan­tial­ly re­duced.

It’s a busy field. A Sanofi/Re­gen­eron team won an ap­proval for their IL-6 drug sar­ilum­ab (Kevzara) last year, as Gilead push­es ahead on their JAK1 fil­go­tinib af­ter Ab­b­Vie aban­doned it in fa­vor of its in-house pro­gram for upadac­i­tinib. Eli Lil­ly is back up for a re­view of baric­i­tinib, mean­while, af­ter the FDA re­versed a de­ci­sion to re­ject the drug with­out more da­ta. But J&J was per­ma­nent­ly shunt­ed aside re­cent­ly af­ter the FDA spurned its ap­pli­ca­tion on sirukum­ab.

If it can gain a new ap­proval on this drug, Ab­b­Vie ex­ecs are promis­ing peak sales in the range of $6.5 bil­lion a year, even though it faces plen­ty of com­pe­ti­tion.

Ab­b­Vie star­tled in­vestors with news of the death of two pa­tients in one study. And more re­cent­ly in­ves­ti­ga­tors had to ex­plain that an­oth­er pa­tient in the low-dose arm died of a he­m­or­rhag­ic stroke caused by a rup­tured aneurysm while there was al­so a case of pul­monary em­bolism in the same group. That fol­lowed a re­port in Sep­tem­ber that a pa­tient tak­ing a 30 mg dose ex­pe­ri­enced heart fail­ure and pre­sumed pul­monary em­bolism. In the most re­cent cas­es, both pa­tients had al­ready ex­hib­it­ed risks for these con­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to Ab­b­Vie.

Ab­b­Vie has al­so been ham­mered for some as­ton­ish­ing­ly bad da­ta on Ro­va-T, a can­cer drug it ac­quired in a jaw-drop­ping, $10.2 bil­lion buy­out deal for Stem­cen­trx two years ago.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation for a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Tal Zaks. Moderna

The mR­NA uni­corn Mod­er­na has more ear­ly-stage hu­man da­ta it wants to show off — reach­ing new peaks in prov­ing the po­ten­tial

The whole messenger RNA field has attracted billions of dollars in public and private investor cash gambled on the prospect of getting in on the ground floor. And this morning Boston-based Moderna, one of the leaders in the field, wants to show off a few more of the cards it has to play to prove to you that they’re really in the game.

The whole hand, of course, has yet to be dealt. And there’s no telling who gets to walk with a share of the pot. But any cards on display at this point — especially after being accused of keeping its deck under lock and key — will attract plenty of attention from some very wary, and wired, observers.

“In terms of the complexity and unmet need,” says Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer, “this is peak for what we’ve accomplished.”

Moderna has two Phase I studies it wants to talk about now.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

It's not per­fect, but it's a good start: FDA pan­elists large­ly en­dorse Aim­mune's peanut al­ler­gy ther­a­py

Two days after a fairly benign review from FDA staff, an independent panel of experts largely endorsed the efficacy and safety of Aimmune’s peanut allergy therapy, laying the groundwork for approval with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS).

Traditionally, peanut allergies are managed by avoidance, but the threat of accidental exposure cannot be nullified. Some allergists have devised a way to dose patients off-label with peanut protein derived from supermarket products to wean them off their allergies. But the idea behind Aimmune’s product was to standardize the peanut protein, and track the process of desensitization — so when accidental exposure in the real world invariably occurs, patients are less likely to experience a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Rit­ter bombs fi­nal PhI­II for sole lac­tose in­tol­er­ance drug — shares plum­met

More than two years ago Ritter Pharmaceuticals managed to find enough silver lining in its Phase IIb/III study — after missing the top-line mark — to propel its lactose intolerance toward a confirmatory trial. But as it turned out, the enthusiasm only set the biotech and its investors up to be sorely disappointed.

This time around there’s little left to salvage. Not only did RP-G28 fail to beat placebo in reducing lactose intolerance symptoms, patients in the treatment group actually averaged a smaller improvement. On a composite score measuring symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, patients given the drug had a mean reduction of 3.159 while the placebo cohort saw a 3.420 drop on average (one-sided p-value = 0.0106).

Ear­ly snap­shot of Ad­verum's eye gene ther­a­py sparks con­cern about vi­sion loss

An early-stage update on Adverum Biotechnologies’ intravitreal gene therapy has triggered investor concern, after patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) saw their vision deteriorate, despite signs that the treatment is improving retinal anatomy.

Adverum, on Wednesday, unveiled 24-week data from the OPTIC trial of its experimental therapy, ADVM-022, in six patients who have been administered with one dose of the therapy. On average, patients in the trial had severe disease with an average of 6.2 anti-VEGF injections in the eight months prior to screening and an average annualized injection frequency of 9.3 injections.

Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too often, Alex Arfaei arrived too late. 

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets, he’d meet with biotech or pharmaceutical heads for their IPO or secondary funding and his brain, trained on a biology degree and six years at Merck and Endo, would spring with questions: Why this biomarker? Why this design? Why not this endpoint? Not that he could do anything about it. These execs were coming for clinical money; their decisions had been made and finalized long ago.