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.”

 

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors. 

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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