Af­ter get­ting skunked by ri­vals, Pfiz­er touts ‘break­through’ can­cer drug lor­la­tinib, heads to the FDA

Mace Rothen­berg, Pfiz­er

Pfiz­er’s Xalko­ri has be­come a Phase III punch­ing bag of sorts for top ri­vals in the can­cer field. In June No­var­tis’ Zyka­dia picked up an FDA ap­proval to chal­lenge Xalko­ri in front­line ALK-pos­i­tive lung can­cer. And Roche’s Ale­cen­sa has been whup­ping up on Xalko­ri as well, prov­ing bet­ter at cut­ting the risk of dis­ease pro­gres­sion.

So it’s no won­der that Pfiz­er is tak­ing its pos­i­tive Phase II da­ta — post­ed to­day — for its next-gen suc­ces­sor lor­la­tinib straight to reg­u­la­tors.

Now in Phase III, Pfiz­er won a break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion for lor­la­tinib from the FDA ear­li­er this year, promis­ing a speedy re­view at an agency that has be­come a mas­ter at mak­ing ac­cel­er­at­ed can­cer drug de­ci­sions.

De­signed for ALK-pos­i­tive and ROS1-pos­i­tive ad­vanced non-small cell lung can­cer, re­searchers high­light­ed a slate of the mid-stage da­ta on the drug.

The key da­ta points:

  • In ALK-pos­i­tive treat­ment-naïve pa­tients, the over­all re­sponse rate was 90%. The in­tracra­nial ORR (IC-ORR) was 75%.
  • For ALK-pos­i­tive pa­tients pre­vi­ous­ly treat­ed with Xalko­ri (crizo­tinib) with or with­out chemother­a­py: ORR was 69%, the IC-ORR was 68%.
  • In ALK-pos­i­tive pa­tients pre­vi­ous­ly treat­ed with a non-crizo­tinib ALK in­hibitor with or with­out chemother­a­py: ORR was 33%.
  • ALK-pos­i­tive pre­vi­ous­ly treat­ed with two or three pri­or ALK in­hibitors with or with­out chemother­a­py: ORR was 39%.
  • ROS1-pos­i­tive re­gard­less of pri­or treat­ment: ORR was 36%.

Now look for Pfiz­er to press hard to punch back at No­var­tis and Roche in de­fense of its can­cer drug fran­chise. Pfiz­er’s made on­col­o­gy a chief fo­cus in the pipeline, scor­ing some of its biggest gains in the field as it added new drugs through the Medi­va­tion buy­out. And as bil­lions gets poured in­to new re­search, pa­tients have ben­e­fit­ed from the quick adop­tion of some game-chang­ing ther­a­pies.

“Lor­la­tinib is an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­am­ple of what can be achieved through trans­la­tion­al re­search and pre­ci­sion med­i­cine de­vel­op­ment. Re­call that Xalko­ri (crizo­tinib) was the first drug ap­proved for pa­tients with ALK-pos­i­tive and ROS1-pos­i­tive NSCLC. By un­der­stand­ing the mu­ta­tions that oc­curred in pa­tients that ren­dered their tu­mors re­sis­tant to Xalko­ri and oth­er ALK in­hibitors, med­i­c­i­nal chemists work­ing at Pfiz­er were able to de­sign a mol­e­cule with the po­ten­tial to over­come that re­sis­tance and in­hib­it ALK de­spite these mu­ta­tions. We are very en­cour­aged by the re­sults of this Phase 2 tri­al that pro­vide the first clin­i­cal ev­i­dence of the ac­tiv­i­ty of lor­la­tinib in this set­ting,” said Mace Rothen­berg, chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, on­col­o­gy, Pfiz­er glob­al prod­uct de­vel­op­ment.

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

CDC’s Robert Redford, NIAID’s Anthony Fauci, Admiral Brett Giroir at HHS, and FDA’s Stephen Hahn prepare to testify at a House hearing on June 23 (Getty)

'Ex­treme­ly po­lit­i­cal' — Trump neuters FDA's at­tempt to strength­en vac­cine EUA, ques­tions need to length­en process

Stephen Hahn went before a Senate committee Wednesday and declared he’s fighting. “Every one of the decisions we have reached has been made by career FDA scientists based on science and data, not politics,” he exclaimed, adding that “FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that. I will fight for science.”

A few hours later, he was undermined by President Donald Trump when a reporter asked if he was okay with stricter vaccine guidelines that the FDA was said to be cooking up. “That has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move,” he decided.

CEO Markus Warmuth (Monte Rosa)

Monte Rosa rakes in $96M Se­ries B as it pre­pares 'mol­e­c­u­lar glue' plat­form for IND-en­abling stud­ies

About four months after completing an extension to its Series A, Monte Rosa Therapeutics is putting its next foot forward with another heap of cash.

The Boston-based biotech is back with $96 million in Series B financing with a goal to get its lead program ready for IND-enabling studies by the end of the year. Though Monte Rosa is keeping its specific target a secret for now, the company has been researching how to utilize its protein degradation technology in breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, among other areas.

David Berry (Flagship)

Flag­ship's next big tech­no­log­i­cal bet? The cloud

Earlier this month, Flagship announced their big bet on the software half the industry is talking about, launching the AI and machine learning startup. Now, they and a couple other investors are gambling $100 million on a software that much of the public generally thinks of as a cool, IT afterthought: cloud computing.

The idea, says founder and Flagship partner David Berry, is one of scale: The sheer magnitude of biological data that you can store on cloud technology is unprecedented. And that size, when leveraged properly, can allow you to ask questions and form insights that are similarly unprecedented.

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Jim Roberts and Brian Finrow (Lumen Bioscience)

With a $4M fed­er­al grant, Lu­men jumps in­to the Covid-19 treat­ment race

It’s been less than a month since Lumen Bioscience announced a $16 million Series B to engineer spirulina — a nutrient-packed super food — for diseases like traveler’s diarrhea, norovirus and C. difficile colitis. And now, the biotech has pulled in another $4 million to do the same for Covid-19.

The approach is quite similar to other gastrointestinal targets the company is pursuing, co-founders and Brian Finrow and Jim Roberts said. The Seattle-based company is working on a camelid antibody cocktail to combat GI infection common among Covid-19 patients. In a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, a majority of Covid-19 patients showed GI and respiratory symptoms, and 25% had only GI symptoms.

Vas Narasimhan (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Still held down by clin­i­cal hold, No­var­tis' Zol­gens­ma falls fur­ther be­hind Bio­gen and Roche as FDA asks for a new piv­otal study

Last October, the FDA slowed down Novartis’ quest to extend its gene therapy to older spinal muscular atrophy patients by slapping a partial hold on intrathecal administration. Almost a year later, the hold is still there, and regulators are adding another hurdle required for regulatory submission: a new pivotal confirmatory study.

The new requirement — which departs significantly from Novartis’ prior expectations — will likely stretch the path to registration beyond 2021, when analysts were expecting a BLA submission. That could mean more time for Biogen to reap Spinraza revenues and Roche to ramp up sales of Evrysdi in the absence of a rival.

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FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn at the White House (AP Images)

Un­der fire, FDA to is­sue stricter guid­ance for Covid-19 vac­cine EUA this week — re­port

The FDA has been insisting for months that a Covid-19 vaccine had to be at least 50% effective – a measure of transparency meant to shore public trust in the agency and in a vaccine that had been brought forward at record speed and record political pressure. But now, with concerns of a Trump-driven authorization arriving before the election, the agency may be raising the bar.

The FDA is set to release new guidance that would raise safety and efficacy requirements for a vaccine EUA above earlier guidance and above the criteria used for convalescent plasma or hydroxychloroquine, The Washington Post reported. Experts say this significantly lowers the odds of an approval before the election on November 3, which Trump has promised despite vocal concerns from public health officials, and could help shore up public trust in the agency and any eventual vaccine.

PhII Alzheimer's fail­ure deals new blow to Roche, AC Im­mune — but the tau hy­poth­e­sis is far from dead

The leading anti-tau antibody has failed its first Phase II testing, casting a shadow on a popular target (just trailing amyloid beta) for Alzheimer’s disease.

Roche and AC Immune are quick to acknowledge disappointment in the topline readout, which suggested that semorinemab did not reduce cognitive decline among patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, who are either just starting to have symptoms or have mild manifestations.

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Samit Hirawat (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Af­ter bruis­ing re­jec­tion, blue­bird and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb land ide-cel pri­or­i­ty re­view. But will it mat­ter for the CVR?

With the clock all but up, the FDA accepted and handed priority review to Bristol Myers Squibb and bluebird bio’s BCMA CAR-T, keeping a narrow window open for Celgene investors to still cash in on the $9 CVR from the $63 billion Celgene merger.

The acceptance comes five months after the two companies weres slammed with a surprise refuse-to-file that threatened to foreclose the CVR entirely. Today’s acceptance sets the FDA decision date for March 27, 2021 – or precisely 4 days before the CVR deadline of March 31. Given the breakthrough designation and strong pivotal data — 81.5% response rate, 35.2% complete response rate — priority review was largely expected.

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