Alex­ion's suc­ces­sor to Soliris hits co-pri­ma­ry end­points in a piv­otal, but can't sur­pass the big block­buster

With a group of ri­vals press­ing in from every side, look­ing to cap­ture a piece of Alex­ion’s $ALXN block­buster mar­ket for the rare dis­ease trend­set­ter Soliris, re­searchers for the biotech say the first of two piv­otal stud­ies for PNH came through with non-in­fe­ri­or da­ta on their next-gen drug dubbed ALXN1210. That should leave the com­pa­ny on track for a bad­ly need­ed reg­u­la­to­ry fil­ing lat­er this year.

John Orloff

But, the parox­ys­mal noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria drug al­so failed a key mea­sure of su­pe­ri­or­i­ty, leav­ing Alex­ion tout­ing the sim­i­lar­i­ties of the two ther­a­pies and an eas­i­er dos­ing sched­ule that may leave quite a few sup­port­ers a wee bit dis­sat­is­fied.

The co-pri­ma­ry end­points in the study were trans­fu­sion avoid­ance and lac­tate de­hy­dro­ge­nase (LDH) nor­mal­iza­tion, stacked along­side four key sec­ondary end­points. The analy­sis on su­pe­ri­or­i­ty quick­ly broke down on the ex­am­i­na­tion of break­through he­mo­lo­y­sis: 4% of pa­tients giv­en and 10.7% for pa­tients treat­ed with Soliris. That de­liv­ered a failed p val­ue of 0.074, halt­ing the su­pe­ri­or­i­ty re­view and leav­ing some an­a­lysts a bit frus­trat­ed.

Un­der new man­age­ment af­ter CEO Lud­wig Hantson swept the old crew out, the biotech has con­cen­trat­ed heav­i­ly on ALXN1210 to save the com­pa­ny’s on­ly big fran­chise. At $542,640 a year, Soliris re­mains one of the 10 most ex­pen­sive ther­a­pies on the plan­et and Alex­ion’s cash cow.

The stock spiked on the news, pick­ing up a 9% gain mid-morn­ing as in­vestors ab­sorbed the da­ta.

Ge­of­frey Porges, Leerink

Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges led the cheer­ing sec­tion this morn­ing, but al­so not­ed that the tri­al fell well short of a com­plete suc­cess.

This con­sis­tent pic­ture of pos­i­tive trends in fa­vor of ALXN1210 should re­as­sure in­vestors that Alex­ion’s 2nd gen­er­a­tion prod­uct is in­deed bet­ter than Soliris; we ex­pect the stock to re­act pos­i­tive­ly to this dis­clo­sure, al­though con­tro­ver­sy will still ex­ist about whether 1210 could have shown su­pe­ri­or­i­ty in a larg­er tri­al, and whether the up­com­ing switch study could still meet the high­er hur­dle.

R&D chief John Orloff said:

Soliris has es­tab­lished a high bar for ef­fi­ca­cy. Achiev­ing non-in­fe­ri­or­i­ty on both co-pri­ma­ry and all key sec­ondary end­points, as well as see­ing nu­mer­ic re­sults in fa­vor of ALXN1210, in such a rig­or­ous study met a very high hur­dle. We look for­ward to reg­u­la­to­ry sub­mis­sions of ALXN1210 in PNH in the U.S., EU, and Japan in the sec­ond half of 2018.

Porges and al­lies be­lieve the da­ta sets up 1210 for a near cer­tain ap­proval, guard­ing the com­pa­ny’s fran­chise for many more years. But Alex­ion isn’t op­er­at­ing alone here any­more. Sev­er­al ri­vals are well along with new PNH drugs that they be­lieve can out­per­form Soliris, and now 1210.

One of those ri­vals is Apel­lis $APLS, which com­plet­ed a $150 mil­lion IPO last No­vem­ber. In 3 pa­tients nev­er treat­ed with Soliris, in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­port­ed that all of them ex­pe­ri­enced a quick cor­rec­tion on a key bio­mark­er for lac­tate de­hy­dro­ge­nase, or LDH, af­ter be­ing treat­ed with the biotech’s drug. In 6 pa­tients not re­spond­ing well to Soliris, the av­er­age he­mo­glo­bin lev­el was brought up an av­er­age of 36%, LDH was cor­rect­ed and trans­fu­sions dropped from 3.4/month on eculizum­ab monother­a­py to 0.3/month when APL-2 was added to eculizum­ab. And the biotech raised no un­usu­al red flags on the safe­ty side. Now it’s aim­ing at a piv­otal of its own.

The big ques­tion at Alex­ion re­mains open. What will Hantson do with the pipeline now? He has sought to stream­line de­vel­op­ment ef­forts and quite a few an­a­lysts are press­ing hard to make them di­ver­si­fy be­yond PNH.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

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Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.