Al­ler­gan/Ed­i­tas fi­nal­ly kick off CRISPR tri­al — mark­ing first in vi­vo test of the gene-edit­ing tech­nol­o­gy

More three years af­ter Al­ler­gan $AGN dipped its toes in­to the world of CRISPR/Cas9 gene edit­ing by en­list­ing Ed­i­tas $ED­IT as a part­ner — the com­pa­nies are now off to the races with a tri­al in pa­tients with a rare eye dis­ease.

This tri­al marks the first in­stance of us­ing the tech­nol­o­gy to ed­it DNA with­in the body.

Mean­while, part­ners Ver­tex $VRTX and CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics $CR­SP kick­start­ed a tri­al ear­li­er this year that em­ployed the tech­nol­o­gy to en­gi­neer a gene-edit­ed stem cell ther­a­py to treat pa­tients suf­fer­ing from se­vere he­mo­glo­binopathies, a group of blood dis­or­ders. Sang­amo Ther­a­peu­tics $SG­MO has test­ed its old­er zinc fin­ger tech­nol­o­gy in pa­tients with two lyso­so­mal stor­age dis­eases, but a set­back dif­fused en­thu­si­asm for the pro­gram — but the com­pa­ny bounced back with en­cour­ag­ing ear­ly da­ta on its he­mo­phil­ia pro­gram part­nered with Pfiz­er.

Al­ler­gan and Ed­i­tas had orig­i­nal­ly ex­pect­ed to file an ap­pli­ca­tion to test their ther­a­py in hu­mans by the end of 2017, but man­u­fac­tur­ing trou­ble pushed that time­line to Oc­to­ber 2018. To get the FDA en­dorse­ment, Ed­i­tas fought off a stiff patent chal­lenge — and like its peers — bat­ted back per­sis­tent ques­tions about off-tar­get ef­fects to ad­e­quate­ly con­vince the reg­u­la­tor it was armed and ready to make the jump from an­i­mal stud­ies to hu­mans.

The tri­al, chris­tened Bril­liance, will eval­u­ate their ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py AGN-151587 (ED­IT-101) for the treat­ment of Leber con­gen­i­tal amau­ro­sis 10 (LCA10), a rare, in­her­it­ed form of blind­ness caused by mu­ta­tions in the CEP290 gene.

LCA is a group of in­her­it­ed reti­nal de­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­ders caused by mu­ta­tions in at least 18 dif­fer­ent genes, and are con­sid­ered the most com­mon cause of in­her­it­ed child­hood blind­ness, oc­cur­ring in two to three per 100,000 live births glob­al­ly. The most com­mon form of the dis­ease, LCA10, ac­counts for ap­prox­i­mate­ly 20% to 30% of all LCA pa­tients.

Ka­trine Bosley Ed­i­tas

Spark Ther­a­peu­tics’ ap­proved gene ther­a­py Lux­tur­na, which de­liv­ered via a vi­ral vec­tor, is tai­lored to treat an­oth­er rare eye dis­ease due to mu­ta­tions in both copies of the RPE65 gene. The FDA nod sparked Roche’s $4.3 bil­lion takeover of the com­pa­ny, al­though the deal is yet to be con­sum­mat­ed.

The Bril­liance study is set to en­roll 18 pa­tients — and in­clude up to five co­horts and eval­u­ate three dos­es of the drug. Each pa­tient will re­ceive a sin­gle dose of AGN-151587 ad­min­is­tered via an eye in­jec­tion aimed at pho­tore­cep­tor cells in the reti­na.

Ed­i­tas’ se­nior team has seen up­heaval in the past year. In Jan­u­ary, CEO Ka­trine Bosley, who led the com­pa­ny for near­ly five years, an­nounced her ex­it and sev­ered ties with the board, with­out ex­pla­na­tion. Chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer An­drew Hack an­nounced his de­ci­sion to leave by March, back in De­cem­ber 2018, and chief med­ical of­fi­cer Ger­ald Cox jumped ship at the end of last year.

Be­set by set­backs, Al­ler­gan’s Brent Saun­ders made the best of a bad sit­u­a­tion by agree­ing to be swal­lowed by Ab­b­Vie $AB­BV in an eye-wa­ter­ing $63 bil­lion deal ear­li­er this year. The US drug­mak­er was swayed by the po­ten­tial of Al­ler­gan’s block­buster Botox fran­chise to sta­bi­lize its rev­enue as its $20 bil­lion cash cow Hu­mi­ra hur­tles to­wards a patent cliff in the Unit­ed States.

So­cial im­age: Shut­ter­stock

UP­DAT­ED: In a stun­ning turn­around, Bio­gen says that ad­u­canum­ab does work for Alzheimer's — but da­ta min­ing in­cites con­tro­ver­sy and ques­tions

Biogen has confounded the biotech world one more time.

In a stunning about-face, the company and its partners at Eisai say that a new analysis of a larger dataset on aducanumab has restored its faith in the drug as a game-changer for Alzheimer’s and, after talking it over with the FDA, they’ll now be filing for an approval of a drug that had been given up for dead.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 63,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Vas Narasimhan. Getty Images

UP­DAT­ED: Failed PhI­II fe­vip­iprant tri­als pour more cold wa­ter on No­var­tis' block­buster R&D en­gine — and briefly spread the chill to a high-pro­file biotech

Back in July, during an investor call where Novartis execs ran through an upbeat assessment of their Q2 performance, CEO Vas Narasimhan and development chief John Tsai were pressed to predict which of the two looming Phase III readouts — involving cardio drug Entresto and asthma therapy fevipiprant, respectively — had a higher likelihood of success. Tsai gave the PARAGON-HF study with Entresto minimally better odds, but Narasimhan emphasized that their strategy of giving fevipiprant to more severe patients gave them confidence.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 63,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: The FDA sets a reg­u­la­to­ry speed record, pro­vid­ing a snap OK for Ver­tex's break­through triplet for cys­tic fi­bro­sis

The FDA has approved Vertex’s new triplet for cystic fibrosis at a record-setting speed.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 63,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

IM­brave150: Roche’s reg­u­la­to­ry crew plans a glob­al roll­out of Tecen­triq com­bo for liv­er can­cer as PhI­II scores a hit

Just weeks after Bristol-Myers Squibb defended its failed pivotal study pitting Opdivo against Nexavar in liver cancer, Roche says it’s beat the frontline challenge with a combination of their PD-L1 Tecentriq with Avastin. And now they’re rolling their regulatory teams in the US, Europe and China in search of a new approval — badly needed to boost a trailing franchise effort.
Given their breakthrough and Big Pharma status as well as the use of two approved drugs, FDA approval may well prove to be something of a formality. And the Chinese have been clear that they want new drugs for liver cancer, where lethal disease rates are particularly high.
Researchers at their big biotech sub, Genentech, say that the combo beat Bayer’s Nexavar on both progression-free survival as well as overall survival — the first advance in this field in more than a decade. We won’t get the breakdown in months of life gained, but it’s a big win for Roche, which has lagged far, far behind Keytruda and Opdivo, the dominant PD-1s that have captured the bulk of the checkpoint market so far.
Researchers recruited hepatocellular carcinoma — the most common form of liver cancer — patients for the IMbrave150 study who weren’t eligible for surgery ahead of any systemic treatment of the disease.
Roche has a fairly low bar to beat, with modest survival benefit for Nexavar, approved for this indication 12 years ago. But they also plan to offer a combo therapy that could have significantly less toxicity, offering patients a much easier treatment regimen.
Cowen’s Steven Scala recently sized up the importance of IMbrave150, noting:

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 63,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Clay Sie­gall’s $614M wa­ger on tu­ca­tinib pays off with solid­ly pos­i­tive piv­otal da­ta and a date with the FDA

Back at the beginning of 2018, Clay Siegall snagged a cancer drug called tucatinib with a $614 million cash deal to buy Cascadian. It paid off today with a solid set of mid-stage data for HER2 positive breast cancer that will in turn serve as the pivotal win Siegall needs to seek an accelerated approval in the push for a new triplet therapy.

And if all the cards keep falling in its favor, they’ll move from 1 drug on the market to 3 in 2020, which is shaping up as a landmark year as Seattle Genetics prepares for its 23rd anniversary on July 15.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 63,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

David Liu, Liu Group

David Liu un­veils newest ad­vance­ment in CRISPR tech: Prime edit­ing

The researcher behind base-editing is out with what some scientists are hailing as the biggest advancement in CRISPR technology since that 2016 breakthrough: “prime editing.” The new molecular gadget is capable of erasing any base pair and stenciling in another and cutting or adding long segments of DNA without breaking both strands of the helix.

David Liu, base editing pioneer and founder of Beam Therapeutics, published the findings in Nature alongside Andrew Anzalone. They estimated that the breakthrough “in principle” puts 89% of human diseases in purview — although experts cautioned that human therapies were a long way off.

Bhaskar Chaudhuri. Frazier Healthcare Partners

Fra­zier Health­care Part­ner­s' der­ma­tol­ogy up­start at­tracts a mar­quee syn­di­cate, $94M+ for 'in-be­tween' top­i­cal drug

For the past three years Frazier Healthcare Partners’ Bhaskar Chaudhuri has been carefully and quietly grooming Arcutis Therapeutics, a new dermatology play he co-founded to deliver topical formulations of well-known drugs. Now that the biotech is poised to enter Phase III, he’s being joined by a marquee syndicate for its $94.5 million Series C.

HBM Healthcare Investments, Vivo Capital, BlackRock, Omega Funds, Pivotal BioVentures, and Goldman Sachs jumped on board, joining Bain Capital Life Sciences, OrbiMed and RA Capital Management in backing Arcutis’ lead topical cream for plaque psoriasis.

A new com­pa­ny en­ters the Tec­fidera fight, of­fer­ing to kill two birds

The remedy for the most common side effect for one of the most common multiple sclerosis drugs is simple: aspirin.

Taking aspirin with Biogen’s Tecfidera will reduce the flush, a sometimes painful form of red skin irritation, many patients experiences. The problem is that the aspirin has to be taken at least 30 minutes before Tecfidera, turning a simple twice-a-day, one-dose oral drug into a staggered two-drug regimen.

UP­DAT­ED: Bris­tol-My­ers makes Op­di­vo pitch for front­line lung can­cer with open la­bel PhI­II study

Despite a head start, when Bristol-Myers Squibb and its pioneering checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo suffered a key lung cancer setback in 2016, they found themselves relegated to the backseat as Merck’s Keytruda seized the wheel on the road to immunotherapy stardom. Bristol-Myers has since suffered blow after blow in its quest to take a big slice of the lucrative market, peppered with some small successes. On Tuesday, the New Jersey drugmaker touted positive data from a Phase III open-label study in a bid to carve itself a piece of the frontline lung cancer market.