Al­ny­lam achieves break­through RNAi suc­cess as PhI­II patisir­an study hits all goals, shares soar

Al­ny­lam in­vestors $AL­NY can now start breath­ing again.

The big Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech says that their Phase III study of patisir­an — part­nered with Sanofi — scored a pos­i­tive hit for the pri­ma­ry as well as all sec­ondary end­points in treat­ing rare cas­es of hered­i­tary AT­TR amy­loi­do­sis with polyneu­ropa­thy.


The score sets up Al­ny­lam’s first new drug ap­pli­ca­tion with the FDA be­fore the end of this year with a Eu­ro­pean fil­ing fol­low­ing soon af­ter, while Sanofi gears up for a slate of ap­pli­ca­tions around the globe.

Shares of Al­ny­lam shot up more than 20% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing Wednes­day, as the com­pa­ny added to a mar­ket cap that start­ed to­day at just un­der $7 bil­lion. But it didn’t stop there, with shares up 32% in ear­ly trad­ing as ex­cite­ment about the news spread fast. By mid-af­ter­noon, the stock was up 49%, worth more than $3 bil­lion in mar­ket cap.

Al­ny­lam’s gung-ho CEO John Maraganore, who has steered the com­pa­ny through calm seas and mael­stroms for more than a decade as he pi­o­neered one of the biggest RNA ven­tures in the in­dus­try, was clear­ly beam­ing as the in­dus­try ea­ger­ly pounced on the news of the first pos­i­tive Phase III study for an RNAi drug. He said:

This mo­ment is the cul­mi­na­tion of a 15-year jour­ney of tire­less work by count­less con­trib­u­tors who have over­come enor­mous sci­en­tif­ic and busi­ness chal­lenges to make RNAi ther­a­peu­tics a re­al­i­ty.

Sanofi, which bet big on Al­ny­lam when it in­vest­ed $700 mil­lion in­to the com­pa­ny more than three years ago, al­so cheered the re­sults.

The suc­cess for patisir­an comes af­ter some big clin­i­cal set­backs for Al­ny­lam, which has been dogged for years over the safe­ty is­sues raised by RNAi ther­a­pies. About 8 years ago big phar­ma large­ly bailed on RNAi, dis­turbed by the de­vel­op­ment chal­lenges and the time it would take to de­liv­er ma­jor new ther­a­pies. But Maraganore nev­er flinched, in­sist­ing through­out that his com­pa­ny could de­liv­er on its pipeline promis­es.

All we know right now is what the top line re­sults are.

The pri­ma­ry end­point for the study was the change from base­line in the mod­i­fied neu­ropa­thy im­pair­ment score, where re­searchers reg­is­tered a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant re­sult. Pa­tients on patisir­an al­so scored an im­prove­ment in their qual­i­ty of life. And there were hits on all 5 sec­on­daries:

NIS-W, the sub­do­main of mNIS+7 as­sess­ing mus­cle strength;

Rasch-built Over­all Dis­abil­i­ty Scale (R-ODS), a pa­tient re­port­ed out­come mea­sure of dai­ly liv­ing and dis­abil­i­ty;

10-me­ter walk test, as­sess­ing gait speed;

Mod­i­fied body mass in­dex (mB­MI), as­sess­ing nu­tri­tion­al sta­tus; and

COM­PASS-31, a ques­tion­naire to as­sess au­to­nom­ic symp­toms.

In ad­di­tion, while de­tails are lack­ing, the safe­ty pro­file looked good. Pa­tients in both groups ex­pe­ri­enced ad­verse events, but the drug arm com­pared fa­vor­ably with what we know about the place­bo group. Paul Mat­teis at Leerink not­ed:

In the wake of the re­cent fi­tusir­an set­back – and al­so the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of re­vusir­an last fall – the pos­i­tive patisir­an re­sult with seem­ing­ly clean safe­ty is like­ly to im­prove sen­ti­ment sig­nif­i­cant­ly. Specif­i­cal­ly, the mor­tal­i­ty rate in the patisir­an arm (4.7%) was low­er than that seen on place­bo (7.8%); giv­en the small N it’s de­bat­able whether or not this con­sti­tutes a true im­prove­ment, but in any case it’s very en­cour­ag­ing with re­spect to RNAi safe­ty. Iron­i­cal­ly, more re­cent set­backs for AL­NY (re­vusir­an and then fi­tusir­an) have come from next-gen RNAi com­pounds that do not uti­lize the old­er, lipid­nanopar­ti­cle tech­nol­o­gy, which is the case for patisir­an. But even de­spite this dif­fer­ence, we ex­pect the re­sult this morn­ing to read pos­i­tive­ly on the plat­form and tech­nol­o­gy over­all.

But it won’t help Io­n­is, which has a com­pet­ing ther­a­py. That drug is now be­ing con­sid­ered an al­so ran against Al­ny­lam’s ther­a­py, with some an­a­lysts ex­pect­ing patisir­an to claim an 80% mar­ket share. Io­n­is stock $IONS plunged 10% this morn­ing.

Maraganore, this year’s BIO chair­man, is one of the most fa­mil­iar fig­ures in the biotech world. And he had plen­ty of sup­port to­day from the cheer­ing sec­tion on Twit­ter.

“This is a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone that sup­ports our be­lief that RNAi ther­a­peu­tics have the po­ten­tial to be­come an in­no­v­a­tive new class of med­i­cines for pa­tients with rare ge­net­ic dis­eases,” said Elias Zer­houni, the pres­i­dent of R&D at Sanofi. “The APOL­LO da­ta sug­gest that patisir­an could help im­prove the lives of peo­ple liv­ing with hAT­TR amy­loi­do­sis with polyneu­ropa­thy, a pa­tient pop­u­la­tion in ur­gent need of ad­di­tion­al treat­ment op­tions. We look for­ward to work­ing with Al­ny­lam to make patisir­an avail­able around the globe as quick­ly as pos­si­ble.”

 

Patrik Jonsson, the president of Lilly Bio-Medicines

Who knew? Der­mi­ra’s board kept watch as its stock price tracked Eli Lil­ly’s se­cret bid­ding on a $1.1B buy­out

In just 8 days, from December 6 to December 14, the stock jumped from $7.88 to $12.70 — just under the initial $13 bid. There was no hard news about the company that would explain a rise like that tracking closely to the bid offer, raising the obvious question of whether insider info has leaked out to traders.

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2019 Trin­i­ty Drug In­dex Eval­u­ates Ac­tu­al Com­mer­cial Per­for­mance of Nov­el Drugs Ap­proved in 2016

Fewer Approvals, but Neurology Rivals Oncology and Sees Major Innovations

This report, the fourth in our Trinity Drug Index series, outlines key themes and emerging trends in the industry as we progress towards a new world of targeted and innovative products. It provides a comprehensive evaluation of the performance of novel drugs approved by the FDA in 2016, scoring each on its commercial performance, therapeutic value, and R&D investment (Table 1: Drug ranking – Ratings on a 1-5 scale).

As­traZeneca makes case for use of blood thin­ner Bril­in­ta in stroke pa­tients

AstraZeneca’s extravagant projections for its clot fighter Brilinta may have fizzled in the face of underwhelming trial data — but a new pivotal study is set to expand its use substantially.

On Monday, the British drugmaker said the drug, when taken in conjunction with aspirin, induced a statistically significant reduction in the risk of the primary composite endpoint of stroke and death, compared to aspirin alone, in 11,000 patients that have suffered minor acute ischaemic stroke or a high-risk transient ischemic attack (TIA).

Samantha Truex (file photo)

Bruce Booth and Saman­tha Truex's lat­est ven­ture aims just above Hu­mi­ra

In 2000, about a year after the first trial data on Humira came out, a Japanese team identified a new gene that appeared to prevent GI cancer in mice: gasdermin, they called it, after the particular proteins it expressed.

Over the next decade-and-a-half, scientists found five more genes in the same family – often identified as gasdermin A, B, C, D, E and F – and yet their purpose baffled scientists. Mutations in A appeared to make mice bald (alopecia), but deleting it had no effect. Mutations in F and A were linked to deafness. Mutant E caused human cells to self-destruct.

FDA’s golodirsen CRL: Sarep­ta’s Duchenne drugs are dan­ger­ous to pa­tients, of­fer­ing on­ly a small ben­e­fit. And where's that con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al?

Back last summer, Sarepta CEO Doug Ingram told Duchenne MD families and investors that the FDA’s shock rejection of their second Duchenne MD drug golodirsen was due to some concerns regulators raised about the risk of infection and the possibility of kidney toxicity. But when pressed to release the letter for all to see, he declined, according to a report from BioPharmaDive, saying that kind of move “might not look like we’re being as respectful as we’d like to be.”

He went on to assure everyone that he hadn’t misrepresented the CRL.

But Ingram’s public remarks didn’t include everything in the letter, which — following the FDA’s surprise about-face and unexplained approval — has now been posted on the FDA’s website and broadly circulated on Twitter early Wednesday.

The CRL raises plenty of fresh questions about why the FDA abruptly decided to reverse itself and hand out an OK for a drug a senior regulator at the FDA believed — 5 months ago, when he wrote the letter — is dangerous to patients. It also puts the spotlight back on Sarepta $SRPT, which failed to launch a confirmatory study of eteplirsen, which was only approved after a heated internal controversy at the FDA. Ellis Unger, director of CDER’s Office of Drug Evaluation I, notes that study could have clarified quite a lot about the benefit and risks associated with their drugs — which can cost as much as a million dollars per patient per year, depending on weight.

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Aymeric Le Chatelier, Ipsen

A $1B-plus drug stum­bles in­to an­oth­er big PhI­II set­back — this time flunk­ing fu­til­i­ty test — as FDA hold re­mains in ef­fect for Ipsen

David Meek

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Instead of prepping a launch, though, the company was hit with a hold on the FDA’s concerns that a therapy designed to prevent overgrowth of bone for cases of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva might actually stunt children’s growth. So they ordered a halt to any treatments for kids 14 and under. Meek left soon after to run a startup in Boston. And today the Paris-based biotech is grappling with the independent monitoring committee’s decision that their Phase III had failed a futility test.

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Roche's check­point play­er Tecen­triq flops in an­oth­er blad­der can­cer sub­set

Just weeks after Merck’s star checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda secured FDA approval for a subset of bladder cancer patients, Swiss competitor Roche’s Tecentriq has failed in a pivotal bladder cancer study.

The 809-patient trial — IMvigor010 — tested the PD-L1 drug in patients with muscle-invasive urothelial cancer (MIUC) who had undergone surgery, and were at high risk for recurrence.

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Stephen Hahn, AP

The FDA has de­val­ued the gold stan­dard on R&D. And that threat­ens every­one in drug de­vel­op­ment

Bioregnum Opinion Column by John Carroll

A few weeks ago, when Stephen Hahn was being lightly queried by Senators in his confirmation hearing as the new commissioner of the FDA, he made the usual vow to maintain the gold standard in drug development.

Neatly summarized, that standard requires the agency to sign off on clinical data — usually from two, well-controlled human studies — that prove a drug’s benefit outweighs any risks.

Over the last few years, biopharma has enjoyed an unprecedented loosening over just what it takes to clear that bar. Regulators are more willing to drop the second trial requirement ahead of an accelerated approval — particularly if they have an unmet medical need where patients are clamoring for a therapy.

That confirmatory trial the FDA demands can wait a few years. And most everyone in biopharma would tell you that’s the right thing for patients. They know its a tonic for everyone in the industry faced with pushing a drug through clinical development. And it’s helped inspire a global biotech boom.

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UP­DAT­ED: New play­ers are jump­ing in­to the scram­ble to de­vel­op a vac­cine as pan­dem­ic pan­ic spreads fast

When the CNN news crew in Wuhan caught wind of the Chinese government’s plan to quarantine the city of 11 million people, they made a run for one of the last trains out — their Atlanta colleagues urging them on. On the way to the train station, they were forced to skirt the local seafood market, where the coronavirus at the heart of a brewing outbreak may have taken root.

And they breathlessly reported every moment of the early morning dash.

In shuttering the city, triggering an exodus of masked residents who caught wind of the quarantine ahead of time, China signaled that they were prepared to take extreme actions to stop the spread of a virus that has claimed 17 lives, sickened many more and panicked people around the globe.

CNN helped illustrate how hard all that can be.

The early reaction in the biotech industry has been classic, with small-cap companies scrambling to headline efforts to step in fast. But there are also new players in the field with new tech that has been introduced since the last of a series of pandemic panics that could change the usual storylines. And they’re volunteering for a crash course in speeding up vaccine development — a field where overnight solutions have been impossible to prove.

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