ASH: Roche un­corks eye­pop­ping re­spons­es in bis­pe­cif­ic test, hop­ing to add a jew­el to its fu­ture port­fo­lio

In a heat­ed race with some of phar­ma’s biggest play­ers, Roche’s Genen­tech is look­ing to dri­ve a lead bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­body pro­gram through the clin­ic against stub­born blood can­cers. As the field watch­es close­ly, Roche is now trot­ting out da­ta it thinks could earn its drug a first shot at the mar­ket.

Roche’s mo­sune­tuzum­ab, a bis­pe­cif­ic tar­get­ing the CD20 pro­tein on the sur­face of tu­mors and the CD3 pro­tein on T cells, post­ed a 60% com­plete re­sponse rate, ac­cord­ing to da­ta from near­ly 100 pa­tients with third-line-or-lat­er fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma in an open-la­bel, sin­gle-arm Phase I/II study dubbed GO29781 pre­sent­ed Sat­ur­day at #ASH21.

Mo­sun, as it’s called for short, post­ed an over­all re­sponse rate of 80% in those pa­tients, with a me­di­an pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival of 17.9 months. Among re­spon­ders, mo­sun post­ed a du­ra­tion of re­sponse of 22.8 months.

The da­ta are good enough that Roche ex­pects to file these re­sults with the FDA im­me­di­ate­ly. They drug­mak­er says this drug’s 60% CR rate com­pares ex­treme­ly fa­vor­ably with a 14% CR rate with “his­tor­i­cal con­trol” in these heav­i­ly pre­treat­ed pa­tients.

With its block­buster can­cer trio of Avastin, Her­ceptin and Rit­ux­an now fac­ing biosim­i­lar pres­sure in the US and abroad, Roche has looked to ag­gres­sive­ly ex­pand its pipeline of next-gen can­cer agents to help pick up the ex­pect­ed slack in com­ing years. Mo­sun, along­side fel­low bis­pe­cif­ic glofitimab, are in ear­ly-stage hu­man test­ing, but these da­ta do add even more promise to this emerg­ing drug class.

Be­fore a re­cent spate of ap­provals, bis­pecifics were lim­it­ed by an oner­ous safe­ty pro­file, but ear­ly mo­sun da­ta ap­pears to tamp those fears down some­what. while 44% of pa­tients ex­pe­ri­enced cy­tokine re­lease syn­drome, a dan­ger­ous over­re­ac­tion from the im­mune sys­tem, there was just one Grade 3 CRS event re­port­ed and one Grade 4 case. No pa­tient deaths were tied to CRS.

There were two deaths re­port­ed in the study, nei­ther of which were con­nect­ed to mo­sun, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

Roche isn’t the on­ly drug­mak­er de­vel­op­ing a bis­pe­cif­ic against CD20, a com­mon and high­ly val­i­dat­ed tar­get best known as the pro­tein that Rit­ux­an at­tacks. Back in Oc­to­ber, J&J signed away $125 mil­lion in cash and eq­ui­ty for ac­cess to Xen­cor’s plam­o­tam­ab, a CD20xCD3 bis­pe­cif­ic in Phase I test­ing against B cell ma­lig­nan­cies.

Mean­while, Ab­b­Vie and Re­gen­eron are al­so work­ing in this space. Re­gen­eron’s odronex­tam­ab (REGN1979) re­cent­ly restart­ed its own Phase II stud­ies in fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma and dif­fuse large B cell lym­phoma af­ter the FDA slammed a par­tial clin­i­cal hold on the pro­gram due to a high preva­lence of Grade 3 or high­er CRS cas­es. Ab­b­Vie and part­ner Gen­mab are cur­rent­ly run­ning a Phase III study for their can­di­date ep­coritimab in r/r DL­B­CL.

George Scangos (L) and Marianne De Backer

Pi­o­neer­ing biotech icon George Scan­gos hands in his re­tire­ment pa­pers — and this time it’s for re­al

George Scangos, one of the all-time great biotech CEOs, says the time has come to turn over the reins one last time.

The 74-year-old biotech legend spent close to three decades in a CEO post. The first was at Exelixis — which is still heavily focused on a drug Scangos advanced in the clinic. The second “retirement” was at Biogen, where he and his team were credited with a big turnaround with the now fading MS blockbuster Tecfidera. And the third comes at Vir, where he traded in his Big Biotech credentials for a marquee founder’s role back on the West Coast, hammering out a Covid-19 alliance with Hal Barron — then R&D chief at GSK — and breaking new ground on infectious diseases with some high-powered venture players.

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Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine (Credit: Jamie Scott Lytle)

A stem cell pi­o­neer sent an ex­per­i­ment in­to space. Pa­tients are the next fron­tier

Last July, Jeanne Loring stood on a dirt road surrounded by Florida swampland and watched as a nearby SpaceX rocket blasted into the sky. The payload included a very personal belonging: cell clusters mimicking parts of her brain.

For more than two decades, Loring has been at the forefront of a stem cell field that always seems on the brink of becoming the next thing in medicine, but has been slow to lift off.

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Pa­tient death spurs tri­al halt for Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics

Magenta Therapeutics is pausing an early-stage clinical trial after a patient died. The death was deemed to be possibly related to its drug, MGTA-117.

The biotech said the pause of the Phase I/II trial is voluntary and gives it time to review all available data before deciding what to do next. It’s also reported the known information to the FDA.

The dose-escalation trial was designed to test whether MGTA-117, an antibody-drug conjugate, could serve as a more targeted alternative to high-intensity chemotherapy as a conditioning agent for cancer patients who are set to receive a stem cell transplant. It recruited patients with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.

FDA re­ports ini­tial 'no sig­nal' for stroke risk with Pfiz­er boost­ers, launch­es con­comi­tant flu shot study

The FDA hasn’t detected any potential safety signals, including for stroke, in people aged 65 years and older who have received Pfizer’s bivalent Covid booster, one senior official told members of the agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Thursday.

The update comes as the FDA and CDC investigate a “preliminary signal” that may indicate an increased risk of ischemic stroke in older Americans who received Pfizer’s updated shot.

Bris­tol My­ers claims win with CAR-T ther­a­py Breyanzi in leukemia

Bristol Myers Squibb is looking to expand Breyanzi into more indications — and the pharma’s newest data readout makes progress on that front.

The Big Pharma put out word Thursday that the CAR-T cell therapy met the primary endpoint of complete response rate compared to historical control in a subset of patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) that were refractory to a BTK inhibitor and pretreated with a BCL-2 inhibitor.

FDA cuts off use for As­traZeneca’s Covid-19 ther­a­py Evusheld

The FDA has stopped use of another drug as a result of the new coronavirus variants. On Thursday, the agency announced that AstraZeneca’s antibody combo Evusheld, which was an important prevention option for many immunocompromised people and others, is no longer authorized.

The FDA said it made its decision based on the fact that Evusheld works on fewer than 10% of circulating variants.

Evusheld was initially given emergency authorization at the end of 2021. However, as Omicron emerged, so did studies that showed Evusheld might not work against the dominant Omicron strain. In October, the FDA warned healthcare providers that Evusheld was useless against the Omicron subvariant BA.4.6. It followed that up with another announcement earlier this month that it did not think Evusheld would work against the latest Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

In­vestor 'misalign­men­t' leads to tR­NA biotech's shut­ter­ing

A small biotech looking to carve a lane in the tRNA field has folded, an investor and a co-founder confirmed to Endpoints News.

Similar to Flagship’s Alltrna and other upstarts like Takeda-backed hC Bioscience, the now-shuttered Theonys was attempting to go after transfer RNA, seen as a potential Swiss Army knife in the broader RNA therapeutics space. The idea is that one tRNA drug could be used across a galaxy of disorders and diseases.

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Vu Truong, Aridis Pharmaceuticals CEO (Aridis/Nasdaq)

Aridis' mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body fails PhI­II, but plans for sec­ond tri­al any­way

Aridis Pharmaceuticals’ monoclonal antibody missed the bar in a Phase III test in ventilator-associated pneumonia caused by the gram-positive bacteria S. aureus, the company announced Wednesday. 

But Aridis is planning for a second Phase III study anyway once it discusses the findings with the FDA and the European Medicines Agency. Execs blamed recruitment challenges stemming from Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the miss, cutting their enrollment target in half.

Al Gianchetti, XyloCor CEO

Xy­lo­Cor wraps up PhII for heart dis­ease gene ther­a­py, plans for piv­otal tri­al

XyloCor Therapeutics says patients with heart disease who got its gene therapy could exercise for longer and had fewer chest pain attacks. The biotech announced it completed a Phase I/II trial of the gene therapy Thursday morning, and plans to move forward with a pivotal trial.

In the Phase II portion of the trial, 28 patients with angina (or chest pain) caused by coronary artery disease and who had no other treatment options were enrolled and were given the highest tested dose from the first part of the trial. Patients were followed for six months.