Affimed CEO Adi Hoess

Af­fimed spurs promis­ing re­sponse num­bers in NK cell study, but dura­bil­i­ty will be the big ques­tion

Ger­man biotech Af­fimed caught some at­ten­tion ear­li­er this year with a pair of com­plete re­spons­es in an ear­ly study of its NK cell reg­i­men for lym­phoma. The biotech is back with more da­ta from that study, and the re­sults look promis­ing — but will dura­bil­i­ty hold up?

A com­bi­na­tion reg­i­men of donor NK cells and Af­fimed’s CD30-tar­get­ing in­nate cell en­gager AFM13 spurred re­spons­es in 16 of 18 pa­tients with re­lapsed or re­frac­to­ry Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lym­phomas, in­clud­ing sev­en com­plete re­spons­es, as part of the first of two rounds of treat­ment in a Phase I/II study, the biotech said Mon­day.

In a co­hort of pa­tients treat­ed with the high­est dose of the com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py in the first of two treat­ment rounds, all 12 post­ed an ob­jec­tive re­sponse, in­clud­ing five com­plete re­spons­es and sev­en par­tials, Af­fimed said. All of those pa­tients will be con­tin­ued on a sec­ond round of treat­ment, which in­cludes lym­phode­plet­ing chemother­a­py fol­lowed by a sin­gle in­fu­sion of cord blood-de­rived NK cells “pre-com­plexed” with AFM13 and then three week­ly in­fu­sions of AFM13 so­lo.

Af­fimed al­so tout­ed ear­ly safe­ty da­ta for the ther­a­py with five cas­es of tran­sient in­fu­sion-re­lat­ed re­ac­tions af­ter the monother­a­py in­fu­sions of AFM13 and no se­ri­ous side ef­fects re­port­ed.

This MD An­der­son-spon­sored study turned a few heads back in April when Af­fimed churned out ear­ly da­ta show­ing sig­nif­i­cant dis­ease re­duc­tion in all four lym­phoma pa­tients evalu­able at the time, in­clud­ing two com­plete re­spons­es. The pa­tients in this study were heav­i­ly pre­treat­ed with a me­di­an of six pri­or lines of ther­a­py, and Af­fimed’s think­ing is that AFM13 adds a boost to pa­tients’ in­nate im­mune sys­tems that al­lows NK cells to be more ef­fec­tive in at­tack­ing can­cer. That could po­ten­tial­ly crack wide open the use of ther­a­py in lat­er-line pa­tients, the hard­est to treat.

NK cells them­selves of­fer a tan­ta­liz­ing al­ter­na­tive to T cells, which have shown high ef­fi­ca­cy in at­tack­ing tu­mors but al­so come with well-known dele­te­ri­ous side ef­fects. On the flip side, NK cells have strug­gled to show long-last­ing dura­bil­i­ty in ear­ly tri­als, po­ten­tial­ly re­quir­ing re­peat­ed dos­ing over time.

In Af­fimed’s case, all eyes will be on the sec­ond course of ther­a­py that these ear­ly pa­tients face and whether the com­bo reg­i­men can con­tin­ue to hold up over time. In­vestors ap­peared to be wary of draw­ing too many con­clu­sions head­ing in­to that phase, with shares of the biotech trad­ing down about 3% at the open­ing bell.

Out­side of the AFM13 da­ta, it’s been a qui­et year for Af­fimed af­ter it signed a deal with Roivant back in No­vem­ber 2020 worth $60 mil­lion in cash and down­stream biobucks for a li­cens­ing pact cen­tered on bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies. The Ger­man firm had pre­vi­ous­ly signed a sim­i­lar deal with Genen­tech back in 2018 for $96 mil­lion up­front and a whop­ping $5 bil­lion in mile­stones.

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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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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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.

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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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Thibault Camus/Pool via AP Images)

With gener­ic com­pe­ti­tion heat­ing up, Vas Narasimhan out­lines No­var­tis' growth plans at R&D day

Thursday marks Novartis’ annual R&D day, and with it comes CEO Vas Narasimhan’s attempt to spotlight the company’s pipeline strategy and emerging stars.

The biggest question entering Thursday’s presentation dealt with how the big biopharma will make up revenues from upcoming generic competition — Novartis says within the next five years, generics will eat away roughly $9 billion in sales. To offset this, Narasimhan outlined a strategy for 4% growth or higher until 2026, focusing on six key medicines he believes will see multibillion dollar profits during this time.

With on­ly burns to show in gene ther­a­py, Astel­las inks deal with AAV spe­cial­ist Dyno in push for a bet­ter cap­sid

On the hunt for a better AAV capsid for gene therapy, Eric Kelsic’s Dyno Therapeutics has set itself apart with its focus on machine learning to help speed discovery. Now, Japanese drugmaker Astellas — fresh off a slate of gene therapy burns — is taking a bet on Dyno as it looks to the future.

Astellas and Dyno will work together as part of an R&D pact to develop next-gen AAV vectors for gene therapy using Dyno’s CapsidMap platform directed at skeletal and cardiac muscle, the companies said Wednesday. Under the terms of the deal, Dyno will design AAV capsids for gene therapy, while Astellas will be responsible for conducting preclinical, clinical and commercialization activities for gene therapy product candidates using the capsids.

In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.