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.

Nick Galakatos, Blackstone global head of life sciences

Nick Galakatos and the Black­stone team now have a record $4.6B to in­vest in bio­phar­ma, with a big fo­cus on push­ing com­pa­nies over the top

Nick Galakatos and his team at Blackstone Life Sciences have seen their biggest opportunities swell up in mostly established players who don’t have all the money they need to accomplish everything on the to-do list. And right now, with the industry booming, that’s a long list with some hefty needs.

The Blackstone team has neatly tied up the largest private fund ever raised in life sciences for making big dreams come true in biopharma. Late Thursday, Blackstone put out word that they had closed their highly anticipated fund with the projected $4.6 billion all in.

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UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen shares spike as ex­ecs com­plete a de­layed pitch for their con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer's drug — the next move be­longs to the FDA

Biogen is stepping out onto the high wire today, reporting that the team working on the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab has now completed their submission to the FDA. And they want the agency to bless it with a priority review that would cut the agency’s decision-making time to a mere 6 months.

The news drove a 10% spike in Biogen’s stock $BIIB ahead of the bell.

Part of that spike can be attributed to a relief rally. Biogen execs rattled backers and a host of analysts earlier in the year when they unexpectedly delayed their filing to the third quarter. That delay provoked all manner of speculation after CEO Michel Vounatsos and R&D chief Al Sandrock failed to persuade influential observers that the pandemic and other factors had slowed the timeline for filing. Actually making the pitch at least satisfies skeptics that the FDA was not likely pushing back as Biogen was pushing in. From the start, Biogen execs claimed that they were doing everything in cooperation with the FDA, saying that regulators had signaled their interest in reviewing the submission.

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Gilead boasts of pos­i­tive remde­sivir da­ta on mor­tal­i­ty — but their analy­sis pro­vokes the skep­tics

Gilead is surging again off data that suggest its antiviral remdesivir might improve survival.

The new data come from an analysis Gilead conducted comparing the death rate and recovery time of patients in one of its remdesivir trials to a group of 800 patients “with similar baseline characteristics and disease severity” who received only standard-of-care around the same time. The result, they said, suggested that patients who received remdesivir had a 62% better chance at surviving than those who did not.

Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

OWS shifts spot­light to drugs to fight Covid-19, hand­ing Re­gen­eron $450M to be­gin large scale man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US

The US government is on a spending spree. And after committing billions to vaccines defense operations are now doling out more of the big bucks through Operation Warp Speed to back a rapid flip of a drug into the market to stop Covid-19 from ravaging patients — possibly inside of 2 months.

The beneficiary this morning is Regeneron, the big biotech engaged in a frenzied race to develop an antibody cocktail called REGN-COV2 that just started a late-stage program to prove its worth in fighting the virus. BARDA and the Department of Defense are awarding Regeneron a $450 million contract to cover bulk delivery of the cocktail starting as early as late summer, with money added for fill/finish and storage activities.

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Top biotech an­a­lyst projects a gloomy out­look for Pfiz­er's JAK port­fo­lio

Many in the pharma world are hoping — better yet, expecting — JAK inhibitors to provide one of the next big boons for the industry. Few have invested as heavily in this area as Pfizer, which boasts a portfolio including Xeljanz and at least five mid-to-late stage candidates in the pipeline.

But a top Wall Street analyst is pumping the brakes on just how much good fortune is in store for the Big Pharma.

Hal Barron, GSK

Win or lose on the mar­ket­ing OK, the FDA just gunned down GSK’s bright hopes for their BC­MA ther­a­py

The FDA’s ODAC — the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee — has a well-known bias in favor of adding new cancer drugs to the market, even if efficacy is at best marginal and serious safety issues demand careful management.

Doctors want as many arrows in their quiver as they can get. And when patients are dying after failing multiple drugs, why not give it a go one more time?

GlaxoSmithKline, though, is about to test out how their new BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin can do after being mauled in an in-house FDA review, ahead of the Tuesday expert panel discussion. Even if the agency goes ahead with an expected green light, this drug will likely be constrained to a small niche — icing any plans they may have for making waves in oncology anytime soon.

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Covid-19 roundup: BioN­Tech go­ing head-to-head with Mod­er­na as PhI­II mR­NA launch looms; Tri­al on Shin­zo Abe’s once-fa­vorite an­tivi­ral is in­con­clu­sive

It’s a race to the Phase III finish line now for the 2 leading mRNA vaccines in the pipeline for Covid-19.

BioNTech chief Ugur Sahin told the Wall Street Journal that his company will start Phase III testing of their vaccine later this month, setting them up to lateral the data to regulators before the end of this year.

That puts them essentially on the exact same schedule as Moderna is dedicated to. The Massachusetts rival to BioNTech also expects to launch Phase III this month. Lots of rumors have circulated about delays and conflict among the scientists advancing the Moderna jab, but the biotech has consistently stuck to its plan to start a late-stage pivotal this month.

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Andrew Kruegel, Kures president and co-founder (Columbia Tech Ventures via Vimeo)

Af­ter psilo­cy­bin and ke­t­a­mine, a new biotech comes along de­vel­op­ing a drug Scott Got­tlieb fought

Andrew Kruegel was six years into his chemistry work at Columbia University, when, one day in August 2016, he learned he might have only 30 days before the government made him destroy his research.

Kruegel had been studying kratom, a leaf long used in Southeast Asia as a stimulant or for pain. It had opioid-like properties, he found, but seemed to offer pain relief without the addictive potential or respiratory side effects of traditional opioids — a riddle that might help illuminate how human opioid receptors work.

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The home run count: The $100M+ mega-round boom in biotech in­spired a $7.3B feed­ing fren­zy — so far this year

Over the last 6 months there’s been a blizzard of money piling up drifts of the green stuff through the biotech landscape. And the forecast calls for more cash windfalls ahead.

Even as a global pandemic has killed more than half a million people, blighted economies and divided nations over the proper response, it’s also helped ignite an unprecedented burst of big-time investing. And not just in Covid-19 deals, as we’ve looked at before.

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