David Reese, Amgen

As teze­pelum­ab awaits FDA de­ci­sion, Am­gen and As­traZeneca tout more da­ta from the Phase III study

As As­traZeneca and Am­gen’s Dupix­ent chal­lenger awaits a de­ci­sion by the FDA, the com­pa­nies are tout­ing new da­ta they hope could bol­ster their case.

Re­searchers re­vealed ad­di­tion­al re­sults from a piv­otal Phase III tri­al for As­traZeneca and Am­gen’s teze­pelum­ab over the week­end, study­ing the treat­ment in se­vere, un­con­trolled asth­ma. In an ex­plorato­ry analy­sis look­ing at pa­tients with or with­out re­port­ed nasal polyps, teze­pelum­ab showed it can re­duce asth­ma ex­ac­er­ba­tion by 86% in the for­mer group and 52% in the lat­ter when com­pared to stan­dard of care.

“These re­sults fur­ther strength­en our con­fi­dence in teze­pelum­ab’s po­ten­tial to ad­dress a sig­nif­i­cant un­met need across a broad pop­u­la­tion of pa­tients with se­vere asth­ma, in­clud­ing those with co­mor­bid nasal polyps,” Am­gen R&D chief David Reese said in a state­ment.

The da­ta come two months af­ter teze­pelum­ab scored pri­or­i­ty re­view from reg­u­la­tors, with a de­ci­sion ex­pect­ed in the first quar­ter of next year.

Peak sales for the drug have been es­ti­mat­ed at $2.5 bil­lion, with some ear­ly es­ti­mates from 2018 go­ing as high as $4.5 bil­lion. While the larg­er fig­ure now ap­pears un­ten­able with the atopic der­mati­tis in­di­ca­tion hav­ing been scut­tled, and the small­er es­ti­mate doesn’t reach as high as the block­buster from Re­gen­eron and Sanofi — Dupix­ent raked in near­ly $4 bil­lion last year — teze­pelum­ab could still carve out a hefty slice of the mar­ket.

Sat­ur­day’s re­sults come from a Phase III study pub­lished in full back in May, in which teze­pelum­ab plus stan­dard of care “demon­strat­ed su­pe­ri­or­i­ty” across the pri­ma­ry and all key sec­ondary end­points com­pared to the stan­dard of care alone. When topline re­sults came the pre­vi­ous No­vem­ber, Reese played up the read­out de­spite lim­it­ed pub­lic da­ta, de­clar­ing he was “ab­solute­ly thrilled” with the study.

The com­pa­nies filled every­one in on the ac­tu­al topline da­ta in Feb­ru­ary of this year, say­ing teze­pelum­ab cut the rate of se­vere asth­ma at­tacks by 56% at the one-year mark com­pared with stan­dard of care alone.

Not every­thing has been smooth sail­ing for the drug, how­ev­er, giv­en month­ly as a sub­cu­ta­neous in­jec­tion. Af­ter flunk­ing two Phase II tri­als in AD, As­traZeneca re­vealed the pair had thrown in the tow­el on the con­di­tion in their sec­ond quar­ter up­date ear­li­er this sum­mer.

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, teze­pelum­ab whiffed on an­oth­er area Dupix­ent man­aged to lock down in asth­ma — re­duc­ing the num­ber of oral cor­ti­cos­teroids asth­ma pa­tients need­ed to take. Am­gen and As­traZeneca’s treat­ment failed to hit that mark in an­oth­er Phase III study, a re­sult Reese called “sur­pris­ing” in De­cem­ber 2020.

Cor­rec­tion: This ar­ti­cle has been cor­rect­ed to amend teze­pelum­ab’s method of de­liv­ery. It is giv­en via sub­cu­ta­neous in­jec­tion, not in­tra­venous in­fu­sion. 

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.

Graphic: Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

What kind of biotech start­up wins a $3B syn­di­cate, woos a gallery of mar­quee sci­en­tists and re­cruits GSK's Hal Bar­ron as CEO in a stun­ner? Let Rick Klaus­ner ex­plain

It started with a question about a lifetime’s dream on a walk with tech investor Yuri Milner.

At the beginning of the great pandemic, former NCI chief and inveterate biotech entrepreneur Rick Klausner and the Facebook billionaire would traipse Los Altos Hills in Silicon Valley Saturday mornings and talk about ideas.

Milner’s question on one of those mornings on foot: “What do you want to do?”

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CBO: Medicare ne­go­ti­a­tions will ham­per drug de­vel­op­ment more than pre­vi­ous­ly thought

As President Biden’s Build Back Better Act — and, with it, potentially the Democrats’ last shot at major drug pricing reforms in the foreseeable future — remains on life support, the Congressional Budget Office isn’t helping their case.

The CBO last week released a new slide deck, outlining an update to its model on how Medicare negotiations might take a bite out of new drugs making it to market. The new model estimates a 10% long-term reduction in the number of new drugs, whereas a previous CBO report from August estimated that 8% fewer new drugs will enter the market over 30 years.

Joshua Brumm, Dyne Therapeutics CEO

FDA or­ders DMD tri­al halt, rais­ing ques­tions about a whole class of promis­ing drugs

Dyne Therapeutics’ stock took a nasty hit this morning after the biotech put out word that the FDA had slapped a clinical hold on their top program for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. And now speculation is bouncing around Biotwitter that there could be a class effect at work here that would implicate other drug developers in the freeze.

Dyne execs didn’t have a whole lot to say about why the FDA sidelined their IND for DYNE-251 in DMD while “requesting additional clinical and non-clinical information for” the drug.

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FDA+ roundup: FDA's neu­ro­science deputy de­parts amid on­go­ing Aduhelm in­ves­ti­ga­tions; Califf on the ropes?

Amid increased scrutiny into the close ties between FDA and Biogen prior to the controversial accelerated approval of Aduhelm, the deputy director of the FDA’s office of neuroscience has called it quits after more than two decades at the agency.

Eric Bastings will now take over as VP of development strategy at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, the company said Wednesday, where he will provide senior clinical and regulatory leadership in support of Ionis’ pipeline.

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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.

Hal Barron (GSK via YouTube)

GSK R&D chief Hal Bar­ron jumps ship to run a $3B biotech start­up, Tony Wood tapped to re­place him

In a stunning switch, GlaxoSmithKline put out word early Wednesday that R&D chief Hal Barron is exiting the company after 4 years — a relatively brief run for the man chosen by CEO Emma Walmsley in late 2017 to turn around the slow-footed pharma giant.

Barron is being replaced by Tony Wood, a close associate of Barron’s who’s taking one of the top jobs in Big Pharma R&D. He’ll be closer to home, though, for GSK. Barron has been running a UK and Philadelphia-based research organization from his perch in San Francisco.

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Chamath Palihapitiya and Pablo Legorreta

Bil­lion­aires Chamath Pal­i­hapi­tiya and Pablo Legor­re­ta hatch an $825M SPAC for cell ther­a­py biotech

Three years after Royalty Pharma chief Pablo Legorreta led a group of investors to buy up a pair of biotechs and create a new startup called ProKidney, the biotech is jumping straight into an $825 million public shell created by SPAC king and tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya.

ProKidney was founded 6 years ago but really got going at the beginning of 2019 with the $62 million acquisition of inRegen, which was working on an autologous — from the patient — cell therapy for kidney disease. After extracting kidney cells from patients, researchers expand the cells in the lab and then inject them back into patients, aiming to restore the kidneys of patients suffering from CKD.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (Credit: World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard)

An un­ortho­dox pro­pos­al for Bio­gen's Medicare-man­dat­ed Aduhelm tri­al

Biogen has gone full blitz since Medicare announced it would only cover its new Alzheimer’s drug when used in clinical trials, accusing the agency of discriminating against Alzheimer’s patients and trying to get physicians to change regulators’ minds.  Critics, meanwhile, cheered what they see as a necessary wall protecting payers and patients from an unproven and unsafe drug.

Far less attention, though, has gone to what a Medicare-funded clinical trial would actually look like. Biogen has operated as if it would be a standard late-stage Alzheimer’s trial, enrolling a couple thousand patients and giving half placebo.

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