UP­DAT­ED: Astel­las walks away from $450M+ Cy­to­ki­net­ics pact af­ter tak­ing a few ex­tra months to see progress

Months af­ter los­ing long­time part­ner Am­gen on its lead heart drug, Cy­to­ki­net­ics is wav­ing good­bye to an­oth­er al­ly — and with it, more than $450 mil­lion in po­ten­tial mile­stones.

Cy­to­ki­net­ics said in an SEC fil­ing last week that Astel­las is of­fi­cial­ly walk­ing away from a pact to re­search skele­tal sar­com­ere ac­ti­va­tors for dis­eases as­so­ci­at­ed with mus­cle weak­ness. The com­pa­nies had ex­tend­ed the re­search term of their part­ner­ship — which was ini­tial­ly set to ex­pire on Dec. 31 — through March of this year to fin­ish work they couldn’t get done dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, Cy­to­ki­net­ics CEO Robert Blum told End­points News. But on April 27, Astel­las gave writ­ten no­tice that it’s hit­ting the ex­it.

Ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing, Astel­las is giv­ing up “all li­cens­es and oth­er rights” grant­ed through the pact.

The re­search, de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion pact was ini­tial­ly struck back in 2013. But in April 2020, Astel­las re­turned the rights to relde­sem­tiv, Cy­to­ki­net­ics’ can­di­date to treat mus­cle wast­ing, and oth­er fast skele­tal reg­u­la­to­ry ac­ti­va­tor (FS­RA) com­pounds that were sub­ject to the orig­i­nal agree­ment. Astel­las agreed to pay one-third of the out-of-pock­et costs for Cy­to­ki­net­ics’ con­tin­ued Phase III tri­al for the drug in ALS, in re­turn for “low- to mid-sin­gle dig­it” roy­al­ties in the US, Cana­da, UK and EU for ei­ther 10 years af­ter the first sale, or un­til 2034, ac­cord­ing to an SEC fil­ing.

“The re­search pro­gram that was ex­tend­ed was done with joint agree­ment, just so we could wind down on a cou­ple of mat­ters that we agreed we want­ed to put to bed be­fore we stepped away,” Blum said“We joint­ly de­cid­ed that we were go­ing to fin­ish the re­search to­geth­er, and then go our sep­a­rate ways.”

End­points reached out to Astel­las, but did not re­ceive a re­sponse as of press time.

Cy­to­ki­net­ics is left with­out the op­por­tu­ni­ty to scoop up some ma­jor mile­stones laid out in the orig­i­nal deal. Ac­cord­ing to the deal, Astel­las could have nabbed ex­clu­sive rights to co-de­vel­op and sell the skele­tal sar­com­ere ac­ti­va­tors in all in­di­ca­tions, leav­ing Cy­to­ki­net­ics the right to co-pro­mote and do cer­tain sales work in the US, Cana­da and/or Eu­rope “un­der agreed sce­nar­ios.”

If Astel­las want­ed to take any of the can­di­dates for­ward on its own, it would have owed Cy­to­ki­net­ics $25 to $35 mil­lion per prod­uct, plus up to $250 mil­lion more for all prod­ucts and an­oth­er $200 mil­lion in com­mer­cial mile­stones. On top of all that, Cy­to­ki­net­ics would have been set to re­ceive roy­al­ties in the “mid-sin­gle-dig­it lev­el to low dou­ble-dig­its.”

The news comes about two years af­ter relde­sem­tiv flopped in a Phase II ALS tri­al. At the time, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said the study failed on change from base­line in slow vi­tal ca­pac­i­ty (SVC) af­ter 12 weeks of dos­ing (p=0.11). The analy­sis al­so showed poor p-val­ues for the ALS Func­tion­al Rat­ing Scale and slope of the Mus­cle Strength Mega-Score.

But de­spite fail­ing the pri­ma­ry end­point, the com­pa­ny ar­gued that the da­ta re­flect­ed “clin­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful mag­ni­tudes of ef­fect” across all dose lev­els, and main­tained that the place­bo group de­clined at a slow­er rate than ex­pect­ed, which didn’t help.

“Re­sults from FOR­TI­TUDE-ALS are among the most im­pres­sive we have seen in a Phase II clin­i­cal tri­al in ALS,” lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor Je­re­my Shefn­er said back in 2019.

That wasn’t the first or last time Cy­to­ki­net­ics has tout­ed weak or failed da­ta. Back in No­vem­ber, the com­pa­ny cheered a Phase III read­out for its Am­gen-part­nered heart drug ome­cam­tiv mecar­bil. But while the can­di­date met the pri­ma­ry com­pos­ite end­point, it missed a sec­ondary end­point which an­a­lysts had been fol­low­ing as a key mark­er for suc­cess — re­duc­tion of car­dio­vas­cu­lar death.

Lat­er that month, Am­gen shrugged off its 14-year al­liance with Cy­to­ki­net­ics, leav­ing the com­pa­ny to sol­dier on alone.

“Car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic health is­sues in the world which means pa­tients need more in­no­va­tion, not less,” Am­gen said in a state­ment. “… Un­for­tu­nate­ly, the re­sults of GALAC­TIC-HF did not meet the high bar we had set for the pro­gram.”

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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Ted White, Verrica Pharmaceuticals CEO

'Hands may be tied': FDA slaps Ver­ri­ca with 3rd CRL due to prob­lems with con­tract man­u­fac­tur­er

The FDA has rejected Verrica Pharmaceuticals’ skin disease treatment for a third time — and once again the contract manufacturer is to blame.

The biotech emphasized that the only deficiency in the complete response letter is related to a general reinspection of the CMO, Sterling Pharmaceuticals, and has nothing to do specifically with its drug-device; the rest of the NDA is good to go.

CEO Ted White said the company is “extremely disappointed,” but will keep working toward approval.

Mihael Polymeropoulos, Vanda Pharmaceuticals CEO

Phar­ma com­pa­ny con­tin­ues its FDA law­suit spree, this time af­ter agency de­nies fast-track des­ig­na­tion

Vanda Pharmaceuticals is making a name for itself, at least in terms of suing the FDA.

The DC-headquartered firm on Monday filed its latest suit against the agency, with the company raising concerns over the FDA’s failure to grant a fast track designation for Vanda’s potential chronic digestive disorder drug tradipitant, which is a neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist.

Specifically, Vanda said FDA’s “essential point” in its one-page denial letter on the designation pointed to “the lack of necessary safety data,” which was “inconsistent with the criteria for … Fast Track designation.”

Mod­er­na seeks to dis­miss Al­ny­lam suit over Covid-19 vac­cine com­po­nent, claim­ing wrong venue

RNAi therapeutics juggernaut Alnylam Pharmaceuticals made a splash in March when it sued and sought money from both Pfizer and Moderna regarding their use of Alnylam’s biodegradable lipids, which Alnylam claims have been integral to the way both companies’ mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines work.

But now, Moderna lawyers are firing back, telling the same Delaware district court that Alnylam’s claims can only proceed against the US government in the Court of Federal Claims because of the way the company’s contract is set up with the US government. The US has spent almost $10 billion on Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine so far.

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Cracks in the fa­cade: Is phar­ma's pan­dem­ic ‘feel good fac­tor’ wan­ing?

The discordant effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on pharma reputation continues. While the overall industry still retains a respectable halo from its Covid-19 quick response and leadership, a new patient group study reveals a different story emerging in the details.

On one hand, US patient advocacy groups rated the industry higher-than-ever overall. More than two-thirds (67%) of groups gave the industry a thumbs up for 2021, a whopping 10 percentage point increase over the year before, according to the PatientView annual study, now in its 9th year.

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Michael Corbo, Pfizer CDO of inflammation & immunology

UP­DAT­ED: Plan­ning ahead for crowd­ed ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis mar­ket, Pfiz­er spells out PhI­II da­ta on $6.7B Are­na drug

Pfizer has laid out the detailed results behind its boast that etrasimod — the S1P receptor modulator at the center of its $6.7 billion buyout of Arena Pharma — is the winner of the class, potentially leapfrogging an earlier entrant from Bristol Myers Squibb.

Pivotal data from the ELEVATE program in ulcerative colitis — which consists of two Phase III trials, one lasting 52 weeks and the other just 12 weeks — illustrate an “encouraging balance of efficacy and safety,” according to Michael Corbo, chief development officer of inflammation & immunology at Pfizer. The company is presenting the results as a late breaker at Digestive Disease Week.

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Robert Califf (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP Images)

House Re­pub­li­cans at­tack Chi­na-on­ly da­ta in FDA sub­mis­sions, seek new in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to re­search in­spec­tions

Three Republican representatives are calling on the FDA to take a closer look at the applications including only clinical data from China.

The letter to FDA commissioner Rob Califf late last week comes as the agency recently rejected Eli Lilly’s anti-PD-1 antibody, which attempted to bring China-only data but ran into a bruising adcomm that may crush the hopes of any other companies looking to bring cheaper follow-ons based only on Chinese data.

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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.