Rahul Ballal, Imara

As sick­le cell pa­tients find new op­tions, NEA-found­ed Imara pitch­es mid-stage al­ter­na­tive for $86M IPO

No­vem­ber 2019 proved to be a fruit­ful month for pa­tients with blood dis­or­ders known as he­mo­glo­binopathies. With­in days, the FDA ush­ered two drugs for sick­le cell dis­ease and an­oth­er for be­ta tha­lassemia to the mar­ket — liven­ing up a bar­ren field.

Willem Scheele Imara

Imara, a rel­a­tive­ly young plow­er, is rid­ing on that en­thu­si­asm as it shoots for an $86.25 mil­lion IPO.

Imara emerged from New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates’ or­phan drug ac­cel­er­a­tor Cy­dan in 2016 as a sin­gle-prod­uct com­pa­ny. $77.3 mil­lion in pri­vate fi­nanc­ing lat­er IMR-687 re­mains the sole as­set in its pipeline; the dif­fer­ence is the drug is now in Phase II for sick­le cell dis­ease, with topline da­ta slat­ed for lat­er this year and two oth­er mid-stage be­ta tha­lassemia stud­ies lined up.

IMR-687 was one of a group of small mol­e­cule PDE9 in­hibitors that Imara had li­censed from Lund­beck for a song — $1.8 mil­lion to-date — af­ter ev­i­dence emerged that the class of ther­a­pies, orig­i­nal­ly de­signed for neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases, could help ad­dress ab­nor­mal­i­ties in red blood cells. Pfiz­er is al­so de­vel­op­ing a PDE9 in­hibitor for SCD af­ter dis­con­tin­u­ing a pro­gram in Alzheimer’s.

Michael Gray Imara

The the­o­ry is that block­ing PDE9 in­creas­es cyclic GMP lev­els, which is as­so­ci­at­ed with re­ac­ti­va­tion of fe­tal he­mo­glo­bin and thus re­store some func­tion­al­i­ty im­paired in blood dis­or­ders.

In con­trast, No­var­tis’ Adakveo is an in­jec­tion that blocks P-se­lectin in hopes of stop­ping va­so-oc­clu­sion, while Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics’ Oxbry­ta in­hibits he­mo­glo­bin S poly­mer­iza­tion to pre­vent red blood cells from form­ing the sick­le shape. Re­blozyl, mar­ket­ed by Cel­gene (now Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb) and Ac­celeron, is a fu­sion pro­tein that boosts red blood cell growth in ane­mic pa­tients by tar­get­ing TGF-be­ta pro­teins.

While Re­blozyl is on­ly ap­proved for pa­tients who re­quire reg­u­lar trans­fu­sions, Imara hopes to al­so ad­dress those who are not de­pen­dent on the pro­ce­dure.

While al­lo­gene­ic hematopoi­et­ic stem cell trans­plants can be cu­ra­tive for both sick­le cell dis­ease and be­ta tha­lassemia, Imara not­ed that it’s rarely used due to a cum­ber­some process. Sim­i­lar­ly, while gene ther­a­pies by blue­bird and gene edit­ing ap­proach­es be­ing ad­vanced by CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics are promis­ing, they are “com­plex, cost­ly, dif­fi­cult to ad­min­is­ter and po­ten­tial­ly on­ly suit­able for a lim­it­ed sub­set of pa­tients,” ex­ecs wrote in the S-1.

David Mott NEA

CEO Rahul Bal­lal leads the team of 16. His com­pen­sa­tion pack­age last year to­taled $2 mil­lion, thanks in large part to op­tion awards. CFO Michael Gray re­ceived $1.2 mil­lion-plus while CMO Willem Scheele got a lit­tle over $1 mil­lion.

NEA, rep­re­sent­ed on the board by chair­man David Mott as well as Sara Nay­eem, re­mains the largest share­hold­er at 31.8%. Lund­beck­fond In­vest holds 16.3%; Pfiz­er is in for 11.2%, Or­biMed and Ar­ix 10.8%, Bay City Cap­i­tal 6.4% and RA Cap­i­tal 5.6%.

Janet Woodcock (Greg Nash/Pool via AP Images)

'I re­al­ly don’t look back': Janet Wood­cock on her tran­si­tion away from drugs

Janet Woodcock may have one of the most historically long and drug-intense tenures in FDA history, but her new role is outside of all things pharma and the once-acting FDA commissioner isn’t looking back.

“No I really don’t look back,” Woodcock told Endpoints News via email on Monday morning. “Yes I will be transitioning. Longer discussion on infrastructure needed.”

Co­pay coupons gone wrong, again: Pfiz­er pays al­most $300K to set­tle com­plaints in four states

Pfizer has agreed to pay $290,000 to settle allegations of questionable copay coupon practices in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and Vermont from 2014 to 2018.

While the company has not admitted any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, Pfizer has agreed to issue restitution checks to about 5,000 consumers.

A Pfizer spokesperson said the company has “enhanced its co-pay coupons to alleviate the concerns raised by states and agreed to a $30,000 payment to each.”

Delaware court rules against Gilead and Astel­las in years-long patent case

A judge in Delaware has ruled against Astellas Pharma and Gilead in a long-running patent case over Pfizer-onwed Hospira’s generic version of Lexiscan.

The case kicked off in 2018, after Hospira submitted an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for approval to market a generic version of Gilead’s Lexiscan. The drug is used in myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI), a type of nuclear stress test.

Taye Diggs (courtesy Idorsia)

Idor­sia inks an­oth­er celebri­ty en­dors­er deal with ac­tor and dad Taye Dig­gs as Qu­viviq in­som­nia am­bas­sador

Idorsia’s latest Quviviq insomnia campaign details the relatable dad story of a well-known celebrity — actor and Broadway star Taye Diggs.

Diggs stopped sleeping well after the birth of his son, now more than 10 years ago. Switching mom-and-dad nightly shifts to take care of a baby interrupted his sleep patterns and led to insomnia.

“When you’re lucky enough to be living out your dream and doing what you want, but because of something as simple as a lack of sleep, you’re unable to do that, it felt absolutely — it was treacherous,” he says in an interview-style video on the Quviviq website.

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Belén Garijo, Merck KGaA CEO (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for EMD Serono)

Mer­ck KGaA pumps €440M in­to ex­pand­ing and con­struct­ing Irish man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties

The area of Ireland famous for Blarney Castle and its cliffsides along the Atlantic Ocean is seeing Merck KGaA expand its commitment there.

The German drug manufacturer is expanding its membrane and filtration manufacturing capabilities in Ireland. The company will invest approximately €440 million ($470 million) to increase membrane manufacturing capacity in Carrigtwohill, Ireland, and build a new manufacturing facility at Blarney Business Park, in County Cork, Ireland.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

House Dems to Sen­ate lead­er­ship: Quick­ly move a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion bill with drug price ne­go­ti­a­tion re­forms

Twenty House Democrats, including Reps. Katie Porter of California and Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, are calling on Senate leaders to move quickly with a reconciliation bill (meaning they only need a simple majority for passage) with prescription drug pricing reforms, and to include adding new authority for Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

They also called on the Senate to specifically follow suit with the House passage of a $35 per month insulin cap (as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s deadline for a vote on that provision has come and gone), and to cap Medicare Part D costs at $2,000 per year for seniors.

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

'Xeno­trans­plan­ta­tion is com­ing': New NE­JM pa­per gives de­tailed look in­to 2 pig-to-hu­man kid­ney trans­plant cas­es

The thymokidney is a curious organ, if you could call it that. It’s a sort of Frankensteinian creation — a system of pig thymus embedded underneath the outer layer of a pig’s kidney, made for human transplantation.

In the first case of pig-to-human xenotransplantation of a kidney into a brain-dead patient, the thymokidney quietly featured front and center.

In that experiment, which took place in September of last year, NYU researchers led by Robert Montgomery sutured a pig thymokidney onto the leg of a brain-dead 66-year-old woman. That case was widely reported on by a horde of major media outlets, including the New York Times, the BBC, and an in-depth feature by USA Today.

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Phillip Gomez, SIGA CEO

UP­DAT­ED: On the back of SIGA Tech­nolo­gies' win with the FDA, the mon­key­pox virus sees the com­pa­ny spring­ing to fur­ther ac­tion

As the cases of monkeypox now sit at well over 100 worldwide and have spread to multiple continents, the orders for any type of vaccine against monkeypox are seeing nations and medical bodies looking to get their hands on anything and everything. And now SIGA Technologies seems to be getting in on the action.

According to Euronews, SIGA Technologies, a pharmaceutical company that is focused on providing medical countermeasures to biological and chemical attacks, is now in talks with several European authorities looking to stockpile its antiviral that can counter monkeypox. The drug known as tecovirimat or Tpoxx was approved by the FDA in 2018 as a vaccine for smallpox but was approved by the European Medicines Agency to also act against monkeypox, cowpox and complications from immunization with vaccinia.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

UP­DAT­ED: Fresh off $11.6B sale to Pfiz­er, New Bio­haven hits Phase III set­back just weeks af­ter Vlad Coric chalked up promise

When Pfizer bought up Biohaven’s migraine portfolio in the largest M&A deal of the year earlier this month, Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric promised the rest of the pipeline, which will live on under the umbrella of New Biohaven, still has a lot to offer. But that vision took a dent Monday as the drugmaker revealed it’s once again flopped on troriluzole.

The glutamate regulator failed to meet the primary endpoint on a Phase III study in patients with spinocerebellar ataxia, an inherited disorder that impairs a person’s ability to walk, speak and swallow. SCA can also lead to premature death.

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