Af­ter abrupt­ly pulling its mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, DBV may be left with peanuts in race against Aim­mune

They say slow and steady wins the race. In the sprint to mar­ket the first peanut al­ler­gy treat­ment, hare DBV Tech­nolo­gies $DB­VT has just fum­bled, an­nounc­ing on Wednes­day that it had re­scind­ed the mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion for its peanut al­ler­gy patch, fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions with FDA reg­u­la­tors who are seem­ing­ly un­hap­py with the state of man­u­fac­tur­ing and qual­i­ty con­trol da­ta sub­mit­ted. Mean­while, tor­toise Aim­mune $AIMT is now in pole po­si­tion to leapfrog its ri­val to se­cure first-mover ad­van­tage in the so-far un­der­served mar­ket.

To be sure, both com­pa­nies have had their share of ups and downs. In Oc­to­ber 2017, DBV re­port­ed its treat­ment — dubbed Vi­askin Peanut — was un­able to mark a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant sep­a­ra­tion from a place­bo in a Phase III tri­al, oblit­er­at­ing its shares, al­though the Parisian drug de­vel­op­er said it would march ahead with a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion. Four months lat­er in 2018, arch ri­val Aim­mune came out with piv­otal da­ta on its drug, AR101, which were de­cid­ed­ly pos­i­tive, but in­vestors took is­sue with the mag­ni­tude of pa­tients that dropped out of the drug arm. In re­sponse, Nestlé Health Sci­ence-backed Aim­mune al­so so­lid­i­fied its plans to sub­mit its ap­pli­ca­tion, which is ex­pect­ed by the end of 2018.

Daniel Tassé

“Al­though the agency did not ref­er­ence any med­ical or clin­i­cal ques­tions with the sub­mis­sion of Vi­askin Peanut, the FDA did com­mu­ni­cate that the lev­el of de­tail with re­gards to da­ta on man­u­fac­tur­ing and qual­i­ty con­trols was in­suf­fi­cient in the BLA,” said DBV chief Daniel Tassé said in a state­ment on Wednes­day.

JMP an­a­lyst Li­isa Bayko was not as con­vinced.  “Man­age­ment as­sumes that there are no con­cerns around Vi­askin Peanut’s clin­i­cal mod­ule be­cause there were no ques­tions from the FDA re­gard­ing that sec­tion of the BLA. How­ev­er, the com­pa­ny nev­er di­rect­ly asked if the rest of the BLA was ac­cept­able for re­view,” she wrote in a note.

Un­sur­pris­ing­ly the two com­pa­nies’ shares were trad­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions: DBV’s stock crashed near­ly 49% pre-mar­ket, while Aim­mune’s shares climbed about 6% be­fore the bell.

An­a­lysts keen­ly watch­ing the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of the pair of drug de­vel­op­ers in­di­cat­ed that Aim­mune is now well-poised to be­come the first FDA-ap­proved treat­ment. They al­so ex­pressed out­rage that DBV pro­vid­ed no clear time­line on when and how the ap­pli­ca­tion’s is­sues would be re­solved.

Derek Archi­la

“We are sur­prised this type of in­for­ma­tion would not have been dis­cussed with the agency pri­or to the BLA sub­mis­sion (com­pa­ny has fast track and break­through sta­tus al­low­ing them in­creased agency in­ter­ac­tion) to en­sure the re­quired da­ta was part of the pack­age…this event will on­ly in­crease in­vestors’ skep­ti­cism on man­age­ment’s abil­i­ty to ex­e­cute on its reg­u­la­to­ry ini­tia­tives, which were al­ready con­tro­ver­sial,” Stifel’s Derek Archi­la wrote.

“While DB­VT’s new CEO in­di­cat­ed he an­tic­i­pates be­ing able to pro­vide the ad­di­tion­al in­for­ma­tion need­ed to sup­port the re-fil­ing of the BLA, he of­fered no clear time­lines for a BLA re-sub­mis­sion nor tim­ing on when he ex­pects to up­date in­vestors. The CEO on­ly in­di­cat­ed on the call it would not be “un­rea­son­able” to ex­pect an up­date from the com­pa­ny dur­ing 1Q19, but ul­ti­mate­ly we don’t know when it will oc­cur.”

Bri­an Sko­r­ney

Baird’s Bri­an Sko­r­ney was even more skep­ti­cal of DBV’s for­tunes, sug­gest­ing the de­lay could spell fur­ther dis­as­ter:

(T)his dy­nam­ic like­ly low­ers the prob­a­bil­i­ty that FDA would be will­ing to over­look the Phase 3 fail­ure. Un­der a 1H19 re­view, an Ad­Com would like­ly be set up with the com­pa­ny and pa­tient ad­vo­cates mak­ing the case that “there is noth­ing else avail­able”. Un­der any like­ly re­sub­mis­sion time­line, AR101 is like­ly to have been ap­proved by a Vi­askin Ad­Com and the FDA may be less flex­i­ble when a stan­dard of care ex­ists.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

J&J ad­comm live blog: J&J faces ques­tions on old­er adults, asymp­to­matic in­fec­tion, long-term im­mu­ni­ty

The FDA adcomm has advanced to the free-for-all question stage of the hearing and, as they did for Moderna and Pfizer, committee members are raising questions about the lingering issues surrounding the vaccine.

In J&J’s case, one of those unknowns is a group of participants who appeared to respond worse to the vaccine: those over 60 with comorbidities. In that group, the vaccine was only 42% effective at stopping disease starting 28 days after vaccination.

Genen­tech plots $53M dis­cov­ery quest aimed at spark­ing a 'Holy moly' piv­ot in neu­ro R&D

Genentech has committed $53 million to back a 10-year quest aimed at going back to the drawing board to use new technology and fresh scientific insights to generate a pipeline of drugs for neurological diseases.

Roche’s big South San Francisco hub will mix it up with the scientists drawn together for the Weill Neurohub — formed in 2019 as a joint research partnership involving UCSF, Berkeley and the University of Washington — in an exploration of the field to develop new therapies for some of the toughest diseases in drug R&D: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS and autism.

Am­gen, As­traZeneca speed to­ward fil­ing next-gen an­ti­body for asth­ma af­ter un­cork­ing full late-stage da­ta

On the hunt for a novel competitor to Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent in severe asthma, Amgen and AstraZeneca posted “exciting” results from their next-gen antibody late last year. Now, the partners are showing their hands, and the results look good enough for approval.

Amgen and AstraZeneca’s tezepelumab plus standard of care cut the rate of severe asthma attacks by 56% at the one-year mark compared with SOC alone, according to full data from the Phase III NAVIGATOR study presented Friday at the virtual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting. And those significant results were consistent regardless of patients’ baseline eosinophil counts.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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