Aclaris ham­mered as hair loss drug flops in PhII, days af­ter FDA took is­sue with Es­ka­ta ads

The top­i­cal treat­ment for alope­cia area­ta that Aclaris Ther­a­peu­tics li­censed from Rigel Phar­ma has failed a mid-stage study for alope­cia area­ta, leav­ing the com­pa­ny with a drug that seems to have caused no harm but no ben­e­fit ei­ther.

Neal Walk­er Aclaris

While ex­ecs vowed to find a pos­si­ble way for­ward with sub­group analy­sis, the re­sults didn’t leave much room for hope. Nei­ther the 0.46% or 0.12% con­cen­tra­tions of ATI-502 proved su­pe­ri­or to place­bo in im­prov­ing scalp hair cov­er­age — at least not in a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant way. In fact, an un­ex­pect­ed­ly ef­fec­tive ve­hi­cle out­per­formed the low­er dose on sev­er­al end­points, which were al­ter­na­tive mea­sure­ments of hair loss sever­i­ty.

“We are sur­prised and ex­treme­ly dis­ap­point­ed by the re­sults of this Phase 2 tri­al,” pres­i­dent and CEO Neal Walk­er said in a state­ment.

So were in­vestors. Aclaris’ stock $ACRS has tum­bled 32.58% since the an­nounce­ment Wednes­day at mar­ket close and now sits at $3.00.

It con­tin­ues a down­ward tra­jec­to­ry trig­gered by the FDA’s re­quest for Aclaris to pull a pro­mo­tion­al video on a dif­fer­ent treat­ment sev­er­al days ago, stat­ing that the ad “makes false or mis­lead­ing claims” re­gard­ing their hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide top­i­cal so­lu­tion, Es­ka­ta, for raised se­b­or­rhe­ic ker­atoses.

Aclaris is now pin­ning its hopes on the up­com­ing Phase II read­out of ATI-501, an oral JAK1/JAK3 in­hibitor that goes af­ter the same dis­ease. The ba­sic mech­a­nism re­mains the same — stop­ping T cells from launch­ing an at­tack on fol­li­cle cells — but the hope is it will work for more se­vere pa­tients.

Both ATI-501 and ATI-502 were sub­jects of a 2017 li­cense agree­ment, where Aclaris paid Rigel $8 mil­lion up­front for world­wide rights.

“From a hair loss per­spec­tive we still re­main fo­cused on the cat­e­go­ry broad­ly and look for­ward to the re­sults of the oral work lat­er this year,” a sub­dued Walk­er told an an­a­lyst on a con­fer­ence call.

While the biotech al­so counts a “soft top­i­cal” JAK in its ar­se­nal — ob­tained from a $20 mil­lion buy­out of St. Louis-based Con­flu­ence Life Sci­ences — Walk­er said they are more in­ter­est­ed in de­ploy­ing it for oth­er types of hair loss as well as atopic der­mati­tis.

Aclaris is al­so test­ing ATI-502 for vi­tili­go, an­dro­ge­net­ic alope­cia and atopic der­mati­tis while await­ing Phase III re­sults for A-101, a top­i­cal ther­a­py for com­mon warts.

So­cial im­age: Shut­ter­stock

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

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Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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Usama Malik

Ex-Im­munomedics CFO charged with in­sid­er trad­ing, faces up to 20 years in prison af­ter al­leged­ly tip­ping off girl­friend and rel­a­tives of a PhI­II suc­cess

The former CFO of Immunomedics, who helped steer the company to its $21 billion buyout by Gilead last year, has been charged with insider trading, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Usama Malik tipped off his then-girlfriend and four others that a Phase III study for Trodelvy would be stopped early four days before Immunomedics publicly announced the result in April 2020, DoJ alleged in its complaint. The individuals then purchased Immunomedics shares, selling them after the news broke and Immunomedics’ stock price doubled.

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Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Re­searchers move clos­er to de­ci­pher­ing blood clots from As­traZeneca, J&J's Covid-19 vac­cines

Researchers may be nearing an answer for the mysterious and life-threatening blood clots that appeared on very rare occasions in people who received the J&J or AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The new work builds on an early hypothesis researchers in Norway put forward last spring, when the cases first cropped up. They proposed the events were similar to blood clots that can occur in a small subset of patients who receive heparin, one of the most commonly used blood thinners.

Ed Kaye, Stoke Therapeutics CEO

Stoke touts ear­ly signs of ef­fi­ca­cy for Dravet syn­drome drug

Two and a half years after driving his antisense oligonucleotide platform to Wall Street, Stoke Therapeutics CEO Ed Kaye is painting a fuller picture of the company’s first clinical data. And though the trial wasn’t powered to detect statistical significance, Kaye says the readout shows early signs of efficacy in kids with a rare, drug-resistant form of epilepsy

STK-001 was well-tolerated in single and multiple doses in 22 Dravet syndrome patients between the ages of 2 and 18 years old, Stoke announced on Friday. What’s more, 12 of the 17 evaluable patients at the time (70.6%) saw reductions from baseline in convulsive seizure frequency, according to the company.