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.”

 

De­vel­op­ment of the Next Gen­er­a­tion NKG2D CAR T-cell Man­u­fac­tur­ing Process

Celyad’s view on developing and delivering a CAR T-cell therapy with multi-tumor specificity combined with cell manufacturing success
Overview
Transitioning potential therapeutic assets from academia into the commercial environment is an exercise that is largely underappreciated by stakeholders, except for drug developers themselves. The promise of preclinical or early clinical results drives enthusiasm, but the pragmatic delivery of a therapy outside of small, local testing is most often a major challenge for drug developers especially, including among other things, the manufacturing challenges that surround the production of just-in-time and personalized autologous cell therapy products.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

UP­DAT­ED: Sanofi CEO Hud­son lays out new R&D fo­cus — chop­ping di­a­betes, car­dio and slash­ing $2B-plus costs in sur­gi­cal dis­sec­tion

Earlier on Monday, new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson baited the hook on his upcoming strategy presentation Tuesday with a tell-tale deal to buy Synthorx for $2.5 billion. That fits squarely with hints that he’s pointing the company to a bigger future in oncology, which also squares with a major industry tilt.

In a big reveal later in the day, though, Hudson offered a slate of stunners on his plans to surgically dissect and reassemble the portfoloio, saying that the company is dropping cardio and diabetes research — which covers two of its biggest franchise arenas. Sanofi missed the boat on developing new diabetes drugs, and now it’s pulling out entirely. As part of the pullback, it’s dropping efpeglenatide, their once-weekly GLP-1 injection for diabetes.

“To be out of cardiovascular and diabetes is not easy for a company like ours with an incredibly proud history,” Hudson said on a call with reporters, according to the Wall Street Journal. “As tough a choice as that is, we’re making that choice.”

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Chris Garabedian. Xontogeny

Per­cep­tive teams up with Chris Garabe­di­an to open up a new, $210M biotech fund fo­cused on A rounds

Perceptive Advisors is one of those prolific biotech investor groups which has traditionally enjoyed zeroing in on clinical-stage investments and crossover rounds, a group that prefers more established drug development players with near-term payoff potential.

But now they’re partnering with Xontogeny chief and longtime biotech entrepreneur Chris Garabedian on a $210 million fund — with money contributed by institutional investors and family funds — to go into the launch space with their first early-stage VC fund. Dubbed the Perceptive Xontogeny Venture Fund, LP, or just PXV Fund, they plan to favor upstarts that Garabedian is fostering in his incubator. But they’ll also plan to reach outside that inner circle for more A rounds to back, with plans to dominate initial funding with $10 million to $20 million per newborn biotech.

Roger Perlmutter, Merck

#ASH19: Here’s why Mer­ck is pay­ing $2.7B to­day to grab Ar­Qule and its next-gen BTK drug, lin­ing up Eli Lil­ly ri­val­ry

Just a few months after making a splash at the European Hematology Association scientific confab with an early snapshot of positive data for their BTK inhibitor ARQ 531, ArQule has won a $2.7 billion buyout deal from Merck.

Merck is scooping up a next-gen BTK drug — which is making a splash at ASH today — from ArQule in an M&A pact set at $20 a share $ARQL. That’s more than twice Friday’s $9.66 close. And Merck R&D chief Roger Perlmutter heralded a deal that nets “multiple clinical-stage oral kinase inhibitors.”

This is the second biotech buyout pact today, marking a brisk tempo of M&A deals in the lead-up to the big JP Morgan gathering in mid-January. It’s no surprise the acquisitions are both for cancer drugs, where Sanofi will try to make its mark while Merck beefs up a stellar oncology franchise. And bolt-ons are all the rage at the major pharma players, which you could also see in Novartis’ recent $9.7 billion MedCo buyout.

ArQule — which comes out on top after their original lead drug foundered in Phase III — highlighted early data on ‘531 at EHA from a group of 6 chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients who got the 65 mg dose. Four of them experienced a partial response — a big advance for a company that failed with earlier attempts.

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US biosim­i­lar launch­es about to turn a cor­ner

The US biosimilar industry has lingered in the shadow of the European market since the US pathway for approvals was initiated in 2009.

Ten years later (or less than five years since the first FDA approval of a biosimilar), and just 42% (11 out of 26) of FDA-approved biosimilars have launched. But in the next three months (see chart below), a clutch of new biosimilars will hit the market, including new ones in oncology, hinting at a wave of uptake.

Left top to right: Mark Timney, Alex Denner, Vas Narasimhan. (The Medicines Company, Getty, AP/Endpoints News)

In a play-by-play of the $9.7B Med­Co buy­out, No­var­tis ad­mits it over­paid while of­fer­ing a huge wind­fall to ex­ecs

A month into his tenure at The Medicines Company, new CEO Mark Timney reached out to then-Novartis pharma chief Paul Hudson: Any interest in a partnership?

No, Hudson told him. Not now, at least.

Ten months later, Hudson had left to run Sanofi and Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan was paying $9.7 billion for the one-drug biotech – the largest in the string of acquisitions Narasimhan has signed since his 2017 appointment.

The deal was the product of an activist investor and his controversial partner working through nearly a year of cat-and-mouse negotiations to secure a deal with Big Pharma’s most expansionist executive. It represented a huge bet in a cardiovascular field that already saw two major busts in recent years and brought massive returns for two of the industry’s most eye-raising names.

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Paul Hudson. Sanofi

New Sanofi CEO Hud­son adds next-gen can­cer drug tech to the R&D quest, buy­ing Syn­thorx for $2.5B

When Paul Hudson lays out his R&D vision for Sanofi tomorrow, he will have a new slate of interleukin therapies and a synthetic biology platform to boast about.

The French pharma giant announced early Monday that it is snagging San Diego biotech Synthorx in a $2.5 billion deal. That marks an affordable bolt-on for Sanofi but a considerable return for Synthorx backers, including Avalon, RA Capital and OrbiMed: At $68 per share, the price represents a 172% premium to Friday’s closing.

Synthorx’s take on alternative IL-2 drugs for both cancer and autoimmune disorders — enabled by a synthetic DNA base pair pioneered by Scripps professor Floyd Romesberg — “fits perfectly” with the kind of innovation that he wants at Sanofi, Hudson said.

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Game on: Re­gen­eron's BC­MA bis­pe­cif­ic makes clin­i­cal da­ta de­but, kick­ing off mul­ti­ple myelo­ma matchup with Bris­tol-My­ers

As J&J attempts to jostle past Bristol-Myers Squibb and bluebird for a landmark approval of its anti-BCMA CAR-T — and while GlaxoSmithKline maps a quick path to the FDA riding on its own BCMA-targeting antibody-drug conjugates — the bispecifics are arriving on the scene to stake a claim for a market that could cross $10 billion per year.

The main rivalry in multiple myeloma is shaping up to be one between Regeneron and Bristol-Myers, which picked up a bispecific antibody to BCMA through its recently closed $74 billion takeover of Celgene. Both presented promising first-in-human data at the ASH 2019 meeting.

FDA lifts hold on Abeon­a's but­ter­fly dis­ease ther­a­py, paving way for piv­otal study

It’s been a difficult few years for gene and cell therapy startup Abeona Therapeutics. Its newly crowned chief Carsten Thiel was forced out last year following accusations of unspecified “personal misconduct,” and this September, the FDA imposed a clinical hold on its therapy for a form of “butterfly” disease. But things are beginning to perk up. On Monday, the company said the regulator had lifted its hold and the experimental therapy is now set to be evaluated in a late-stage study.