Aptinyx shares crater as lead drug fails in PhII neu­ro­path­ic pain study

Aptinyx’s ap­proach to mod­u­lat­ing the NM­DA re­cep­tor to treat dis­or­ders of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem has hit a sig­nif­i­cant snag, as its lead ex­per­i­men­tal drug failed a mid-stage study in pa­tients with di­a­bet­ic pe­riph­er­al neu­ropa­thy (DPN), oblit­er­at­ing the re­cent­ly pub­lic com­pa­ny’s stock on Wednes­day.

Nor­bert Riedel

The drug — dubbed NYX-2925 — was de­vel­oped by the Evanston, IL-based biotech that went pub­lic last Ju­ly bank­ing on its ap­proach to mod­u­late NM­DA re­cep­tors, which are cru­cial to brain and ner­vous sys­tem func­tion. The Phase II tri­al pit­ted three oral dos­es of the drug (10 mg, 50 mg, or 200 mg) ver­sus a place­bo in 300 pa­tients over four weeks. The ex­per­i­men­tal treat­ment failed to con­fer a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in av­er­age dai­ly pain — as mea­sured by a Nu­mer­i­cal Rat­ing Scale (NRS) — at week four, miss­ing the pri­ma­ry end­point of the study.

The com­pa­ny’s shares $AP­TX plum­met­ed about 70% in ear­ly trad­ing.

The com­pa­ny sug­gest­ed its 50mg dose had the most promis­ing im­pact. Pa­tients treat­ed with the dose showed a 1.61-point re­duc­tion in av­er­age dai­ly pain on the NRS — the largest de­crease among the dose lev­els eval­u­at­ed — ver­sus the 1.23-point fall in those giv­en the place­bo, re­sult­ing in a non-sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment (p=0.1586).  Pa­tients on the 50 mg dose al­so showed im­prove­ment on key sec­ondary end­points, in­clud­ing sleep and pain on walk­ing, Aptinyx added.

“While the study did not meet its pri­ma­ry end­point…we be­lieve the to­tal body of clin­i­cal da­ta in­di­cates the po­ten­tial of NYX-2925 to treat chron­ic pain,” Aptinyx chief Nor­bert Riedel said in a state­ment, adding that the com­pa­ny is now in process of find­ing a way for­ward for NYX-2925.

“It seems that at best that path for­ward may con­sist of an­oth­er phase II tri­al in DPN, us­ing the two dos­es that showed a nu­mer­i­cal dif­fer­ence to place­bo (50mg and 200mg) and in­cor­po­rat­ing longer du­ra­tion of treat­ment (8 or 12 weeks). Such a study could be­gin in H2 2019 and pro­duce a re­sult in 2020. How­ev­er, it is not clear yet whether the com­pa­ny’s board, in­ves­ti­ga­tors, ad­vi­sors and in­vestors will en­dorse the in­vest­ment in that (cost­ly) tri­al. In­vestors are like­ly to elim­i­nate all val­ue for this pro­gram from the com­pa­ny’s stock to­day and thus leave the stock re­liant up­on ear­li­er pro­grams tar­get­ing more chal­leng­ing dis­ease in­di­ca­tions in­clud­ing cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment in Parkin­son’s dis­ease (NYX-458) and post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der (PTSD) (NYX-783),” Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges wrote in a note.

In a sep­a­rate on­go­ing ex­plorato­ry mid-stage study, NYX-2925 has shown en­cour­ag­ing re­sults in a small group of pa­tients with fi­bromyal­gia, the com­pa­ny not­ed in an in­ter­im analy­sis post­ed last month. The full re­sults of that study are ex­pect­ed in the first half of this year.

“We don’t re­gard the stock as “dead mon­ey” af­ter to­day’s news, but do rec­og­nize that a sig­nif­i­cant part of its pri­or val­u­a­tion is now im­paired. Ear­li­er this month the com­pa­ny pro­vid­ed pos­i­tive bio­mark­er da­ta for NYX-2925 in its oth­er in­di­ca­tion of fi­bromyal­gia; at this stage those bio­mark­er ef­fects are en­cour­ag­ing but in­suf­fi­cient,” Porges added.

Var­i­ous drug de­vel­op­ers are fo­cus­ing on the NM­DA re­cep­tor, de­vel­op­ing com­pounds to ac­ti­vate or in­hib­it it to treat CNS dis­or­ders, but that strat­e­gy has seen a se­ries of set­backs in part due to safe­ty con­cerns. Aptinyx be­lieves its ap­proach — with­out ever ful­ly turn­ing the re­cep­tor “on” or “off” — will al­low it to evade these chal­lenges. Al­ler­gan has bought in­to this Aptinyx phi­los­o­phy, hav­ing li­censed their de­pres­sion drug, which is now called AGN-241751. Aptinyx it­self was was spun out of Al­ler­gan’s $1.7 bil­lion buy­out of Nau­rex which CEO Brent Saun­ders want­ed for its lead NM­DA drug — now dubbed ra­pastinel — for ma­jor de­pres­sion.

In terms of pain, pa­tients have few ef­fec­tive op­tions oth­er than high­ly ad­dic­tive opi­oids, and there­fore drug de­vel­op­ers work­ing on non-opi­oid op­tions are keen­ly watched. This is like­ly one of the rea­sons the FDA grant­ed NYX-2925 fast track sta­tus for neu­ro­path­ic pain as­so­ci­at­ed with DPN.

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By Mwango Kashoki, MD, MPH, Vice President-Technical, and Richard Macaulay, Senior Director, of Parexel Regulatory & Access

In recent years, we’ve seen a significant uptake in the use of regulatory options by companies looking to accelerate the journey of life-saving drugs to market. In 2018, 73% of the novel drugs approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) were designated under one or more expedited development program categories (Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, Priority Review, and Accelerated Approval).ᶦ

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As the world becomes increasingly dependant on Asia for the ingredients of its medicines, Sanofi sees business to be done in Europe.

The French drugmaker said it’s creating the world’s second largest active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) manufacturer by spinning out its six current sites into a standalone company: Brindisi (Italy), Frankfurt Chemistry (Germany), Haverhill (UK), St Aubin les Elbeuf (France), Újpest (Hungary) and Vertolaye (France). They have mapped out €1 billion in expected sales by 2022 and 3,100 employees for the new operations headquartered in France.

Lessons for biotech and phar­ma from a doc­tor who chased his own cure

After being struck by a rare disease as a healthy third year medical student, David Fajgenbaum began an arduous journey chasing his own cure. Amidst the hustle of this year’s JP Morgan conference, the digital trials platform Medable partnered with Endpoints Studio to share Dr. Fajgenbaum’s story with the drug development industry.

What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation between Medable CEO Dr. Michelle Longmire and Dr. Fajgenbaum, and it is full of lessons for biotech executives charged with bringing the next generation of medicines to patients.

UP­DAT­ED: NGM Bio takes leap for­ward in crowd­ed NASH field

South San Francisco-based NGM Bio may have underwhelmed with its interim analysis of a key cohort from a mid-stage NASH study last fall — but stellar topline data unveiled on Monday showed the compound induced significant signs of antifibrotic activity, NASH resolution and liver fat reduction, sending the company’s stock soaring.

There are an estimated 50+ companies focused on developing drugs for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, a common liver disease that has long flummoxed researchers. The first wave of NASH drug developers struggled with efficacy as well as safety — and companies big and small have crashed and burned.

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Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (Shutterstock)

FDA grants ‘break­through’ sta­tus to an­tibi­ot­ic al­ter­na­tive as Con­tra­Fect rush­es to join fight against su­per­bug

An experimental drug that promises to be the first anti-infective agent to prove superior to vancomycin — an antibiotic approved in 1958 — has notched the FDA’s “breakthrough” status.

ContraFect said the designation was based on Phase II data in which exebacase was tested against a superbug known as methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, or MRSA. In a subgroup analysis, the clinical responder rate at day 14 was 42.8% higher than that among those treated with standard of care, the company said (p=0.010).

Zhong Nanshan, CGTN via YouTube

Har­vard joins coro­n­avirus fight with $115 mil­lion and a high-pro­file Chi­nese part­ner

For two months, as the novel coronavirus swelled from a few early cases tied to a Wuhan market to a global epidemic, most of the world’s focus and dollars have flowed toward emergency initiatives: building vaccines at a record pace, plucking experimental antivirals out of freezers to see what sticks and immunizing mice for new antibodies.

Now a new and well-funded collaboration between Harvard and a top Chinese research institute will play the long game. In a 5-year, $115 million initiative backed by China Evergrande Group, researchers from the Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health will study the virus in an effort to develop therapies against infections by the novel coronavirus, known as SARS–CoV-2, and to prevent new ones.

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In the first step of what’s likely to be a long and uphill battle for the drugmaker, the FDA has accepted Novartis’s BLA submission for a new multiple sclerosis drug and given it priority review. The PDUFA date for the potential blockbuster drug is in June.

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Juergen Horn

An­i­mal health vet Juer­gen Horn makes new an­ti­body play for pets, rak­ing $15M in Se­ries A haul

Zoetis forked over $85 million in 2017 to acquire Nexvet Biopharma and its pipeline of monoclonal antibodies. Juergen Horn, Nexvet’s former chief product development officer, has now secured $15 million for his own biologic company for animals: Invetx.

Buoyed by emerging advances in gene therapies for humans, scientists have started looking at harnessing the technology for animals setting up companies such as Penn-partnered Scout Bio and George Church-founded Rejuvenate Bio. But akin to Nexvet, Invetx is working on leveraging the time-tested science of monoclonal antibodies to treat chronic diseases that afflict man’s best friend.

As coro­n­avirus out­break reach­es 'tip­ping point,' GSK lends ad­ju­vant tech to Chi­nese part­ner armed with pre­clin­i­cal vac­cine

As the coronavirus originating out of Wuhan spreads to South Korea, Italy and Iran, stoking already intense fears of a pandemic, GlaxoSmithKline has found another pair of trusted hands to place its adjuvant system. China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals will add the adjuvant to its preclinical, protein-based vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2.

Clover, which is based in the inland city of Chengdu, boasts of a platform dubbed Trimer-Tag that produces covalently-trimerized fusion proteins. Its candidate, COVID-19 S-Trimer, resembles the viral spike (S)-protein found in the virus.