FDA mo­tions Al­ny­lam's lumasir­an in­to a PhI­II short track, set­ting up a shot at an OK in '20

Al­ny­lam $AL­NY may be go­ing so­lo on the de­vel­op­ment of rare dis­ease drug lumasir­an af­ter Sanofi took a pass on its op­tion, but the FDA has come through with a ma­jor as­sist. The com­pa­ny an­nounced to­day that reg­u­la­tors have agreed on a Phase III study de­sign that would ac­cel­er­ate — should all go well — its jour­ney to ap­proval.

For the tri­al de­signed to test lumasir­an in the ul­tra-rare pri­ma­ry hy­per­ox­aluria type 1 (PH1), the new­ly reached align­ment al­lows Al­ny­lam to adopt a pri­ma­ry end­point based on a bio­mark­er: the re­duc­tion of uri­nary ox­alate at six months. The FDA has al­so sanc­tioned a study size of around 25 pa­tients with PH1.

Pritesh Gand­hi

The use of a bio­mark­er spot­lights the FDA’s will­ing­ness to let drug­mak­ers shoot for faster OKs, rather than forc­ing them to wait for da­ta on dis­ease pathol­o­gy (Al­ny­lam notes the bio­mark­er is “di­rect­ly linked to the patho­phys­i­ol­o­gy of PH1 and known to be well cor­re­lat­ed with dis­ease pro­gres­sion”).

The tri­al de­sign pact with the agency al­so marks an ad­vance for the late-stage pipeline at Al­ny­lam as it waits for an ex­pect­ed ap­proval of patisir­an, which will launch their first com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions in RNAi. This biotech has been through all the ups and downs of­ten seen with any new ap­proach to drug de­vel­op­ment. And it’s poised for some ma­jor changes.

With the study de­sign ham­mered out, Al­ny­lam ex­pects to start the PhI­II study in mid-2018, re­port topline re­sults in 2019 and, if pos­i­tive, sub­mit an NDA in ear­ly 2020.

“We are very pleased with the FDA’s shared sense of ur­gency to eval­u­ate the ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty of lumasir­an as a po­ten­tial ther­a­peu­tic op­tion for pa­tients as rapid­ly as pos­si­ble,” said Pritesh Gand­hi, gen­er­al man­ag­er of the lumasir­an pro­gram, in a state­ment.

Al­ny­lam is cur­rent­ly con­duct­ing a Phase I/II Part B study in 20 pa­tients. Pre­lim­i­nary re­sults, an­nounced last year, sug­gest that lumasir­an led to a mean max­i­mal re­duc­tion in uri­nary ox­alate of 66% in an un­blind­ed group of four pa­tients, and all of them achieved uri­nary ox­alate lev­els at or near the nor­mal range. Lumasir­an, an RNAi ther­a­peu­tic, is de­signed to “re­duce the he­pat­ic lev­els of the [gly­co­late ox­i­dase] en­zyme, there­by de­plet­ing the sub­strate nec­es­sary for ox­alate pro­duc­tion.” It was grant­ed a break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion in March.

Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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Hal Barron. GSK

GSK's Hal Bar­ron her­alds their sec­ond pos­i­tive piv­otal for cru­cial an­ti-BC­MA ther­a­py, point­ing to a push for quick OKs in a crowd­ed field

Hal Barron has his second positive round of Phase III data in hand for his anti-BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin (GSK2857916). And GSK’s research chief says the data paves the way for their drive in search of an FDA approval for treating multiple myeloma.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this drug for GSK, a cornerstone of Barron’s campaign to make a dramatic impact on the oncology market and provide some long-lost excitement for the pharma giant’s pipeline. They’re putting this BCMA program at the front of that charge — looking to lead a host of rivals all aimed at the same target.

We don’t know what the data are yet, but DREAMM-2 falls on the heels of a promising set of data delivered 5 months ago for DREAMM-1. There investigators noted that complete responses among treatment-resistant patients rose to 15% in the extra year’s worth of data to look over, with a median progression-free survival rate of 12 months, up from 7.9 months reported earlier. The median duration of response was 14.3 months.

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UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Bob Smith, Pfizer

Pfiz­er is mak­ing a $500M state­ment to­day: Here’s how you be­come a lead play­er in the boom­ing gene ther­a­py sec­tor

Three years ago, Pfizer anted up $150 million in cash to buy Bamboo Therapeutics in Chapel Hill, NC as it cautiously stuck a toe in the small gene therapy pool of research and development.

Company execs followed up a year later with a $100 million expansion of the manufacturing operations they picked up in that deal for the UNC spinout, which came with $495 million in milestones.

And now they’re really going for it.

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Video: Putting the AI in R&D — with Badhri Srini­vasan, Tony Wood, Rosana Kapeller, Hugo Ceule­mans, Saurabh Sa­ha and Shoibal Dat­ta

During BIO this year, I had a chance to moderate a panel among some of the top tech experts in biopharma on their real-world use of artificial intelligence in R&D. There’s been a lot said about the potential of AI, but I wanted to explore more about what some of the larger players are actually doing with this technology today, and how they see it advancing in the future. It was a fascinating exchange, which you can see here. The transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity. — John Carroll

As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi/treme com­bo strikes out — again — in lung can­cer. Is it time for last rites?

AstraZeneca bet big on the future of their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with the experimental CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab. But once again it’s gone down to defeat in a major Phase III study — while adding damage to the theory involving targeting cancer with a high tumor mutational burden.

Early Wednesday the pharma giant announced that their NEPTUNE study had failed, with the combination unable to beat standard chemo at overall survival in high TMB cases of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get hard data until later in the year, but the drumbeat of failures will call into question what — if any — future this combination can have left.

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Why would Am­gen want to buy Alex­ion? An­a­lysts call hot­ly ru­mored takeover un­like­ly, but seize the mo­ment

A rumor that Amgen is closing in on buyout deal for Alexion has sparked a guessing game on just what kind of M&A strategy Amgen is pursuing and how much Alexion is worth.

Mizuho analyst Salim Syed first lent credence to the report out of the Spanish news outlet Intereconomía, which said Amgen is bidding as much as $200 per share. While the source may be questionable, “the concept of this happening doesn’t sound too crazy to me,” he wrote.