As drug­mak­ers seek ways to elude IL-2 flaws, Clin­i­gen se­cures the full rights to orig­i­nal trou­bled IL-2 drug Pro­leukin

Pro­leukin, the trou­bled IL-2 can­cer drug sold by No­var­tis, has found a new home at Clin­i­gen, while oth­ers in the field of im­muno-on­col­o­gy seek ways to cre­ate an im­proved ver­sion of the class of drugs sans the tox­i­c­i­ty that has stymied the use of the orig­i­nal IL-2.

Last year, Lon­don-list­ed Clin­i­gen $CLIN ac­quired the rights to sell the drug out­side the Unit­ed States from No­var­tis $NVS, in a deal where fi­nan­cial de­tails were not dis­closed. The drug, which is used to treat metasta­t­ic re­nal cell car­ci­no­ma and metasta­t­ic melanoma, has gen­er­at­ed rough­ly $80 mil­lion in an­nu­al sales in the last few years, ac­cord­ing to Eval­u­ate Phar­ma. In the year lead­ing up to June 30, 2018, Pro­leukin gen­er­at­ed US sales of $60 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Clin­i­gen, cit­ing IQVIA es­ti­mates.

Clin­i­gen, which says it aims to re­vi­tal­ize med­i­cines of im­por­tance that have been side­lined due to chal­lenges, on Wednes­day said it is ac­quir­ing the re­main­ing US rights from No­var­tis in a deal up to $210 mil­lion in cash, in­clud­ing $120 mil­lion up­front. The rest will come in de­ferred and mile­stone pay­ments. The deal is ex­pect­ed to be con­sum­mat­ed by April.

Pro­leukin is cur­rent­ly be­ing in­ves­ti­gat­ed in some 80 ac­tive tri­als for use in a pletho­ra of dis­eases, and Clin­i­gen is “ex­plor­ing op­tions with com­pa­nies who are look­ing to cre­ate ei­ther new dosage ver­sions of (the) Il-2 or com­bi­na­tion reg­i­mens,” a spokesper­son told End­points News, de­clin­ing to elab­o­rate fur­ther on its re­vi­tal­iza­tion strat­e­gy.

The Pro­leukin ac­qui­si­tion will aug­ment Clin­i­gen’s earn­ings, adding at least 25% to its EPS in the first full fi­nan­cial year af­ter the prod­uct tran­si­tions to the com­pa­ny, and is al­so ex­pect­ed to cut its debt bur­den.

The ini­tial IL-2 ap­proach showed the promise of the tar­get, but safe­ty is­sues in­clud­ing a dose-lim­it­ing tox pro­file and im­muno­sup­pres­sion thwart­ed its po­ten­tial. Now com­pa­nies such as Nek­tar Ther­a­peu­tics $NK­TR are work­ing on a next-gen IL-2 ther­a­py, an ef­fort that com­bined with Bris­tol-My­ers’ $BMY Op­di­vo has re­cent­ly hit a snag.

Clin­i­gen al­ready owns three prod­ucts in the US: Fos­cav­ir, Ethy­ol and To­tect, al­though Pfiz­er has won the com­mer­cial li­cense to Fos­cav­ir and Cum­ber­land Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to Ethy­ol and To­tect.

ZS Per­spec­tive: 3 Pre­dic­tions on the Fu­ture of Cell & Gene Ther­a­pies

The field of cell and gene therapies (C&GTs) has seen a renaissance, with first generation commercial therapies such as Kymriah, Yescarta, and Luxturna laying the groundwork for an incoming wave of potentially transformative C&GTs that aim to address diverse disease areas. With this renaissance comes several potential opportunities, of which we discuss three predictions below.

Allogenic Natural Killer (NK) Cells have the potential to displace current Cell Therapies in oncology if proven durable.

Despite being early in development, Allogenic NKs are proving to be an attractive new treatment paradigm in oncology. The question of durability of response with allogenic therapies is still an unknown. Fate Therapeutics’ recent phase 1 data for FT516 showed relatively quicker relapses vs already approved autologous CAR-Ts. However, other manufacturers, like Allogene for their allogenic CAR-T therapy ALLO-501A, are exploring novel lymphodepletion approaches to improve persistence of allogenic cells. Nevertheless, allogenic NKs demonstrate a strong value proposition relative to their T cell counterparts due to comparable response rates (so far) combined with the added advantage of a significantly safer AE profile. Specifically, little to no risk of graft versus host disease (GvHD), cytotoxic release syndrome (CRS), and neurotoxicity (NT) have been seen so far with allogenic NK cells (Fig. 1). In addition, being able to harness an allogenic cell source gives way to operational advantages as “off-the-shelf” products provide improved turnaround time (TAT), scalability, and potentially reduced cost. NKs are currently in development for a variety of overlapping hematological indications with chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-Ts) today, and the question remains to what extent they will disrupt the current cell therapy landscape. Click for more details.

Executive Director of the EMA Emer Cooke (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment signs off on strength­en­ing drug reg­u­la­tor's abil­i­ty to tack­le short­ages

The European Parliament on Thursday endorsed a plan to increase the powers of the European Medicines Agency, which will be better equipped to monitor and mitigate shortages of drugs and medical devices.

By a vote of 655 to 31, parliament signed off on a provisional agreement reached with the European Council from last October, in which the EMA will create two shortage steering groups (one for drugs, the other for devices), a new European Shortages Monitoring Platform to facilitate data collection and increase transparency, and on funding for the work of the steering groups, task force, working parties and expert panels that are to be established.

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Kenneth Galbraith, incoming Zymeworks CEO

Zymeworks re­places half its C-suite, aims to lay off 25% of to­tal work­force as new CEO takes over

New Zymeworks CEO Kenneth Galbraith is aiming to hit the ground running when his tenure officially begins next month, but he’ll be doing so with a much different looking team.

In a lengthy press release outlining the biotech’s 2022 goals, Galbraith said Zymeworks will be laying off at least 25% of its staff over the course of the year. Half of its C-suite will also be replaced immediately as Galbraith looks to remake the company in his image after Ali Tehrani, Zymeworks’ founder and CEO since 2003, stepped down two weeks ago.

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Crit­ics push back on Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion ad blitz to get Medicare to change its Aduhelm rul­ing: 'Dead wrong'

The latest Alzheimer’s Association advertising campaign encourages people to fight.

Not against the disease or for more research or treatments, but against the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. More specifically, CMS’ recent reimbursement decision to only pay for Biogen and Eisai’s controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm for patients in clinical trials.

With CMS’ preliminary decision now in a 30-day comment period, patient advocates’ goal is to convince CMS to reverse its decision with a marketing blitz and public pressure.

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Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Fail­ing to con­firm clin­i­cal ben­e­fit, Gilead pulls 2 ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval in­di­ca­tions for can­cer drug

Gilead recently decided to pull two indications for its cancer drug Zydelig — in relapsed follicular B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (FL) and relapsed small lymphocytic leukemia (SLL) — after failing to complete the confirmatory trials required as part of the accelerated approvals from 2014.

“As the treatment landscape for FL and SLL has evolved, enrollment into the confirmatory study has been an ongoing challenge,” Gilead said in a statement, noting it formally notified the FDA of its decision to voluntarily withdraw these indications.

Hal Barron, Endpoints UKBIO20 (Jeff Rumans)

'Al­tos was re­al­ly a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­ni­ty': Hal Bar­ron re­flects on his big move

By all accounts, Hal Barron had one of the best jobs in Big Pharma R&D. He made more than $11 million in 2020, once again reaping more than his boss, Emma Walmsley, who always championed him at every opportunity. And he oversaw a global R&D effort that struck a variety of big-dollar deals for oncology, neurodegeneration and more.

Sure, the critics never let up about what they saw as a rather uninspiring late-stage pipeline, where the rubber hits the road in the Big Pharma world’s hunt for the next big near-term blockbuster, but the in-house reviews were stellar. And Barron was firmly focused on bringing up the success rate in clinical trials, holding out for the big rewards of moving the dial from an average 10% success rate to 20%.

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Sec­ondary patents prove to be key in biosim­i­lar block­ing strate­gies, re­searchers find

While the US biosimilars industry has generally been a disappointment since its inception, with FDA approving 33 biosimilars since 2015, just a fraction of those have immediately followed their approvals with launches. And more than a handful of biosimilars for two of the biggest blockbusters of all time — AbbVie’s Humira and Amgen’s Enbrel — remain approved by FDA but still have not launched because of legal settlements.

NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

An­oth­er day, an­oth­er xeno­trans­plant, as Unit­ed Ther­a­peu­tics looks to beat com­peti­tors to sci-fi-es­que break­through

Xenotransplantation is having a moment.

Last October, a team from NYU successfully transplanted a kidney from a pig into a brain-dead patient, although observers cast doubt on the importance of the experiment. Then, earlier this month, surgeons at the University of Maryland transplanted a pig heart into a dying human, who appears to still be stable.

Now, another group is planting a flag in the xenotransplantation field. Surgeons at the University of Alabama at Birmingham said Thursday they have achieved the first kidney transplant from a pig to a brain-dead patient, publishing their peer-reviewed findings online. The team, aiming to differentiate itself from the others through the genetic modifications used, is hoping there’s now enough research to soon begin clinical xenotransplantation studies.

Richard Pazdur (via AACR)

Time lim­its on ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­provals? FDA's on­col­o­gy chief Rick Paz­dur eyes po­ten­tial re­forms via in­ter­na­tion­al ap­proach­es

The spotlight on the accelerated approval pathway continues to shine bright, with the FDA’s top oncology official writing in an opinion that the pathway may be strengthened with bits and pieces of what other regulators in Europe and elsewhere have done with their expedited approval pathways, such as adding expiration dates for these faster approvals to ensure they confirm clinical benefit in a timely manner.

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