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.

UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Fol­low­ing news of job cuts in Eu­ro­pean R&D ops, Sanofi con­firms it’s of­fer­ing US work­ers an 'ear­ly ex­it'

Ear­li­er in the week we learned that Sanofi was bring­ing out the bud­get ax to trim 466 R&D jobs in Eu­rope, re­tool­ing its ap­proach to car­dio as re­search chief John Reed beefed up their work in can­cer and gene ther­a­pies. And we’re end­ing the week with news that the phar­ma gi­ant has al­so been qui­et­ly re­duc­ing staff in the US, tar­get­ing hun­dreds of jobs as the com­pa­ny push­es vol­un­tary buy­outs with a fo­cus on R&D sup­port ser­vices.

Suf­fer­ing No­var­tis part­ner Cona­tus is pack­ing it in on NASH af­ter a se­ries of un­for­tu­nate tri­al events

The NASH par­ty is over at No­var­tis-backed Cona­tus. And this time they’re turn­ing off the lights.

More than 2 years af­ter No­var­tis sur­prised the biotech in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty with its $50 mil­lion up­front and promise of R&D sup­port to part­ner with the lit­tle biotech on NASH — ig­nit­ing a light­ning strike for the share price — Cona­tus $CNAT is back with the lat­est bit­ter tale to tell about em­ri­c­as­an, which once in­spired con­fi­dence at the phar­ma gi­ant.

Bet­ter than Am­bi­en? Min­er­va soars on PhI­Ib up­date on sel­torex­ant for in­som­nia

A month af­ter roil­ing in­vestors with what skep­tics dis­missed as cher­ry pick­ing of its de­pres­sion da­ta, Min­er­va is back with a clean slate of da­ta from its Phase IIb in­som­nia tri­al.

In a de­tailed up­date, the Waltham, MA-based biotech said sel­torex­ant (MIN-202) hit both the pri­ma­ry and sev­er­al sec­ondary end­points, ef­fec­tive­ly im­prov­ing sleep in­duc­tion and pro­long­ing sleep du­ra­tion. In­ves­ti­ga­tors made a point to note that the ef­fects were con­sis­tent across the adult and el­der­ly pop­u­la­tions, with the lat­ter more prone to the sleep dis­or­der.

Gene ther­a­py biotech sees its stock rock­et high­er on promis­ing re­sults for rare cas­es of but­ter­fly dis­ease

Shares of Krys­tal Biotech took off this morn­ing $KRYS af­ter the lit­tle biotech re­port­ed promis­ing re­sults from its gene ther­a­py to treat a rare skin dis­ease called epi­der­mol­y­sis bul­losa.

Fo­cus­ing on an up­date with 4 new pa­tients, re­searchers spot­light­ed the suc­cess of KB103 in clos­ing some stub­born wounds. Krys­tal says that of 4 re­cur­ring and 2 chron­ic skin wounds treat­ed with the gene ther­a­py, the KB103 group saw the clo­sure of 5. The 6th — a chron­ic wound, de­fined as a wound that had re­mained open for more than 12 weeks — was par­tial­ly closed. That brings the to­tal so far to 8 treat­ed wounds, with 7 clo­sures.

Ab­b­Vie gets a green light to re­sume re­cruit­ing pa­tients for one myelo­ma study — but Ven­clex­ta re­mains un­der a cloud

Three months af­ter reg­u­la­tors at the FDA forced Ab­b­Vie to halt en­rolling pa­tients in its tri­als of a com­bi­na­tion us­ing Ven­clex­ta (vene­to­clax) to treat drug-re­sis­tant cas­es of mul­ti­ple myelo­ma, the agency has green-light­ed the re­sump­tion of one of those stud­ies, while keep­ing the rest on the side­lines.

The CANO­VA (M13-494) study can now get back in busi­ness re­cruit­ing pa­tients to test the drug for a pop­u­la­tion that shares a par­tic­u­lar ge­net­ic bio­mark­er. To get that per­mis­sion, Ab­b­Vie — which is part­nered with Roche on this pro­gram — was forced to re­vise the pro­to­col, mak­ing un­spec­i­fied changes in­volv­ing risk mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures, pro­to­col-spec­i­fied guide­lines and an up­dat­ed fu­til­i­ty cri­te­ria.

Bris­tol-My­ers star Op­di­vo fails sur­vival test in a matchup with Nex­avar aimed at shak­ing up the big HCC mar­ket

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb has suf­fered an­oth­er painful set­back in its years-long quest to ex­pand the reach of Op­di­vo. The phar­ma gi­ant this morn­ing not­ed that their Check­mate-459 study com­par­ing Op­di­vo with Bay­er’s Nex­avar in front­line cas­es of he­pa­to­cel­lu­lar car­ci­no­ma — the most com­mon form of liv­er can­cer — failed to hit the pri­ma­ry end­point on over­all sur­vival.

This was a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in Bris­tol-My­ers’ tal­ly of PD-1 cat­a­lysts this year. Nex­avar (so­rafenib) has been the stan­dard of care in front­line HCC for the past decade, though Op­di­vo has been mak­ing head­way in sec­ond-line HCC cas­es, where it’s go­ing toe-to-toe with Bay­er’s Sti­var­ga (re­go­rafenib) af­ter re­cent ap­provals shook up the mar­ket.

Dean Hum. Nasdaq via YouTube

Gen­fit goes to Chi­na with a deal worth up to $228M for NASH drug

Fresh off the high of its Nas­daq IPO de­but, and the low of com­par­isons to Cymabay — whose NASH drug re­cent­ly stum­bled — Gen­fit on Mon­day un­veiled an up to $228 mil­lion deal with transpa­cif­ic biotech Terns Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to de­vel­op its flag­ship ex­per­i­men­tal liv­er drug — elafi­bra­nor — in Greater Chi­na.

The deal comes weeks af­ter Gen­fit $GN­FT is­sued a fiery de­fense of its dual PPAR ag­o­nist elafi­bra­nor, when com­peti­tor Cymabay’s PPARδ ag­o­nist, se­ladel­par, fiz­zled in a snap­shot of da­ta from an on­go­ing mid-stage tri­al. The main goal at the end of 12 weeks was for se­ladel­par to in­duce a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in liv­er fat con­tent, but da­ta showed that pa­tients on the place­bo ac­tu­al­ly per­formed bet­ter.