Aer­pio shares tum­ble as lead eye drug trips up in mid-stage di­a­bet­ic retinopa­thy study

Rough­ly two years af­ter rais­ing $40 mil­lion in a pri­vate place­ment, Aer­pio Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals’ lead ex­per­i­men­tal eye drug has hit a road­block af­ter fail­ing a mid-stage study in pa­tients with non-pro­lif­er­a­tive di­a­bet­ic retinopa­thy (NPDR) — the ear­li­est stage of di­a­bet­ic eye dis­ease, which oc­curs when high blood sug­ar lev­els cause dam­age to blood ves­sels in the reti­na.

Stephen Hoff­man

These blood ves­sels can swell and leak, or close re­strict­ing blood flow and even­tu­al­ly cul­mi­nate in blind­ness. In the 167-pa­tient tri­al, called TIME-2b, pa­tients were giv­en the drug — AKB-9778 —  (once or twice dai­ly) or place­bo (once or twice dai­ly) for 48 weeks. The main goal was to im­prove the the study eye di­a­bet­ic retinopa­thy sever­i­ty score (DRSS) by two or more steps com­pared to the place­bo.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of AKB-9778 twice dai­ly missed the study’s pri­ma­ry end­point, the com­pa­ny said on Mon­day. Shares of the Cincin­nati-based drug de­vel­op­er $AR­PO cratered more than 68% to $1.36 in pre-mar­ket trad­ing.

About 9.6% of pa­tients giv­en AKB-9779 twice dai­ly ex­pe­ri­enced such an im­prove­ment, ver­sus 3.8% on the place­bo — draw­ing a less than rosy p val­ue (p=0.270). The rates of pro­gres­sion to sight-threat­en­ing com­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing di­a­bet­ic mac­u­lar ede­ma (DME) and/or pro­lif­er­a­tive di­a­bet­ic retinopa­thy (PDR), dur­ing the treat­ment pe­ri­od were sim­i­lar be­tween treat­ment groups, Aer­pio not­ed, adding that the use of the ex­per­i­men­tal drug had an “en­cour­ag­ing” im­pact on key sec­ondary goals, in­clud­ing a mea­sure of kid­ney func­tion and in­traoc­u­lar pres­sure.

Un­like pa­tients with di­a­bet­ic eye dis­ease who are typ­i­cal­ly giv­en an­ti-VEGF in­jec­tions in­to the eye, AKB-9778 is self-ad­min­is­tered sub­cu­ta­neous­ly by the pa­tient, akin to in­sulin. The ex­per­i­men­tal drug is a small mol­e­cule in­hibitor of VE-PTP, the most crit­i­cal neg­a­tive reg­u­la­tor of Tie2 — a path­way be­lieved to sta­bi­lize vas­cu­la­ture — in dis­eased blood ves­sels. In a sep­a­rate study, called TIME-2, AKB-9778 im­proved un­der­ly­ing symp­toms by two or more steps on a di­a­bet­ic retinopa­thy sever­i­ty scale in both eyes.

Un­de­terred by the TIME-2b fail­ure, Aer­pio chief Stephen Hoff­man ex­pressed en­thu­si­asm for the to­tal­i­ty of da­ta on the drug. “(C)ol­lec­tive­ly these da­ta sup­port a po­ten­tial­ly im­por­tant role of the Tie2 path­way for the treat­ment of di­a­bet­ic com­pli­ca­tions, as well as for open an­gle glau­co­ma,” he said in a state­ment, adding that a Phase Ib study of a top­i­cal drop for­mu­la­tion of AKB-9778 is ex­pect­ed to com­mence in the sec­ond quar­ter.

Aer­pio al­so has an­oth­er ex­per­i­men­tal eye drug in de­vel­op­ment, in ad­di­tion to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al ther­a­py for in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (Moderna via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: NI­AID and Mod­er­na spell out a 'ro­bust' im­mune re­sponse in PhI coro­n­avirus vac­cine test — but big ques­tions re­main to be an­swered

The NIAID and Moderna have spelled out positive Phase I safety and efficacy data for their Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 — highlighting the first full, clear sketch of evidence that back-to-back jabs at the dose selected for Phase III routinely produced a swarm of antibodies to the virus that exceeded levels seen in convalescent patients — typically in multiples indicating a protective response.

Moderna execs say plainly that this first stage of research produced exactly the kind of efficacy they hoped to see in humans, with a manageable safety profile.

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Trans­port Sim­u­la­tion Test­ing for Your Ther­a­py is the Best Way to As­sure FDA Ex­pe­dit­ed Pro­gram Ap­proval

Modality Solutions is an ISO:9001-registered biopharmaceutical cold chain engineering firm with unique transport simulation capabilities that support accelerated regulatory approval for biologics and advanced therapeutic medicinal products (ATMP). Our expertise combines traditional validation engineering approaches with regulatory knowledge into a methodology tailored for the life sciences industry. We provide insight and execution for the challenges faced in your cold chain logistics network.

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Who are the women blaz­ing trails in bio­phar­ma R&D and lead­ing the fight against Covid-19? Nom­i­nate them for End­points' spe­cial re­port

One of the many inequalities the pandemic has laid bare is the gender imbalance in biomedical research. A paper examining Covid-19 research authorship wondered out loud: Where are the women?

It’s a question that echoes beyond our current times. In the biopharma world, not only are women under-represented in R&D roles (particularly at higher levels), their achievements and talents could also be undermined by stereotypes and norms of leadership styles. The problem is even more dire for women of color.

Jeff Albers, Blueprint CEO

Di­ag­nos­tic champ Roche buys its way in­to the RET ti­tle fight with Eli Lil­ly, pay­ing $775M in cash to Blue­print

When Roche spelled out its original $1 billion deal — $45 million of that upfront — with Blueprint to discover targeted therapies against immunokinases, the biotech partner’s RET program was still preclinical. Four years later, pralsetinib is on the cusp of potential approval and the Swiss pharma giant is putting in much more to get in on the commercial game.

Roche gains rights to co-develop and co-commercialize the drug, with sole marketing responsibility for places outside the US and China (where CStone has staked its claim).

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Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca R&D chief (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

A day af­ter Mod­er­na vac­cine re­sults, ru­mors swirl of pend­ing As­traZeneca da­ta

A day after Moderna and the NIH published much-anticipated data from their Phase I Covid-19 vaccine trial, attention is turning to AstraZeneca which, according to a UK report, is expected to publish its own early data tomorrow.

ITV’s Robert Peston reported that AstraZeneca will publish the Phase I data in The Lancet. 

AstraZeneca and Moderna represent the two most ambitious Covid-19 vaccine efforts, having set the quickest timelines for approval (though they were recently joined in that regard by the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership) and some of the loftiest goals in total doses. Yet there is even less known about AstraZeneca’s vaccine’s effect on humans than there was about Moderna’s before yesterday. Although, in a controversial move, Moderna released some statistics from its Phase I in May, AstraZeneca has yet to say anything about what it saw in its Phase I trial — a move consistent with the scientific convention to withhold data until it can be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Ludwig Hantson, Alexion CEO

Why pay $4B for a steady di­et of dis­ap­point­ment? Porges turns thumbs down on Alex­ion’s M&A strat­e­gy, of­fers some point­ers

When Alexion announced recently that it was paying $1.4 billion to bag Portola and its underperforming Factor Xa inhibitor reversal agent, you could hear the head-scratching going on around virtual Wall Street.

Why was Alexion going down the discount lane for new products? And why something like this? Analysts have been urging Alexion to get serious about M&A for years if it was serious about diversifying the company beyond Soliris and its successor drug. But this wasn’t the kind of heavy-impact deal they were looking for.

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Mil­li­pore­Sig­ma to build new $20 mil­lion, 12,000-square-foot lab in Switzer­land

On the heels of opening a new laboratory in Shanghai last week, MilliporeSigma is continuing its construction push.

The Merck KGgA life science subsidiary announced Wednesday its intentions to build a new $20 million lab in Buchs, Switzerland to support its reference materials business. It’s estimated that the new facility will be completed in December 2021 and open in early 2022 and is expected to be 12,000 square feet.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

‘Plan­ning to vac­ci­nate every­one in the US,’ Mod­er­na out­lines ef­forts to sup­ply their Covid-19 vac­cine as man­u­fac­tur­ing ramps up ahead of PhI­II

Twelve days from the planned start of their Phase III pivotal trial, the executive crew at Moderna has set up the manufacturing base needed to begin production of the first 500,000 doses of their Covid-19 vaccine with plans to feed it into a global supply chain. But the initial batches will likely be ready in the US first, where company CEO Stéphane Bancel plans to be able to vaccinate everyone.

“We have started making commercial product at-risk, and will continue to do so every day and every week of the month,” Bancel told analysts during their morning call on the Phase I data just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Covid-19 roundup: Vac­cine by end of 2020? Ken Fra­zier warns hype do­ing 'grave dis­ser­vice'

When it comes to setting expectations about a Covid-19 vaccine, Ken Frazier does not mince words.

Over a month after first casting doubts on the aggressive 12- to 18-month timeframe championed by the US government and his biopharma peers, the Merck CEO again cautioned against any hype around a quick vaccine approval.

In a wide-ranging interview with Harvard Business School professor Tsedal Neeley that touched other big topics such as race, Frazier emphasized that vaccines take a long time to develop. He would know: Out of the seven new vaccines introduced around the world in the past 25 years, four came from Merck.

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