As­traZeneca nabs pri­or­i­ty re­view for Lyn­parza in prostate as PARP in­hibitors ex­pand to more can­cers

Lyn­parza keeps rolling.

Three weeks af­ter the FDA cleared the As­traZeneca drug as a first-line treat­ment of a par­tic­u­lar form of ad­vanced pan­cre­at­ic can­cer, the agency has grant­ed pri­or­i­ty re­view for the drug as a sec­ond-line treat­ment of a par­tic­u­lar form of ad­vanced prostate can­cer. A PDU­FA date is set for the sec­ond quar­ter of 2020.

The news is an­oth­er notch in the belt for an R&D pro­gram and an on­col­o­gy pipeline that was strug­gling just three years ago. Lyn­parza, a PARP in­hibitor, and Imfinzi, As­traZeneca’s CT­LA4 im­munother­a­py, will each fin­ish 2019 with over $1 bil­lion sales, and they on­ly con­tin­ue to ex­pand their po­ten­tial mar­ket. Last week, a Lyn­parza com­bo got pri­or­i­ty re­view for a form of ad­vanced ovar­i­an can­cer and yes­ter­day an Imfinzi com­bo earned or­phan des­ig­na­tion for liv­er can­cer.

If ap­proval in ad­vanced prostate can­cer comes, it would al­so mark a step for PARP in­hibitors as a class. Orig­i­nal­ly de­vel­oped for ovar­i­an can­cers with a BR­CA mu­ta­tion, the in­hibitors have been shown ef­fec­tive in a grow­ing num­ber of can­cers. First, that meant breast can­cers with the same mu­ta­tion, but stud­ies have since shown ef­fec­tive­ness in oth­er sol­id tu­mors with the mu­ta­tion and even — for rea­sons still un­clear — some with­out it.

This in­di­ca­tion would be the sec­ond ap­proval out­side ovar­i­an or breast can­cer, af­ter last month’s ap­proval for germline BR­CA-mu­tat­ed metasta­t­ic ade­no­car­ci­no­ma of the pan­creas. The pre­cise in­di­ca­tion now be­fore the FDA is metasta­t­ic prostate can­cer with HRR mu­ta­tions — mu­ta­tions to the DNA’s re­pair process­es, in­clud­ing BR­CA — that was re­sis­tant to med­ical cas­tra­tion.

The sub­mis­sion is based on the 387-per­son, Phase III PRO­found tri­al As­traZeneca un­veiled at ES­MO. It showed that Lyn­parza ex­tend­ed the me­di­an amount of time pa­tients lived with­out their dis­ease pro­gress­ing from 3.5 months to 5.8 months. (For the BR­CA sub­set, it was 3.6 months to 7.4 months).

As­traZeneca did not an­nounce any over­all sur­vival da­ta, but the FDA does not al­ways de­mand it; Lyn­parza was ap­proved for pan­cre­at­ic can­cer de­spite show­ing no sur­vival ben­e­fit.

Mer­ck part­nered with As­traZeneca on com­mer­cial­iz­ing the drug and earns half of all prof­its.

Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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Randy Schatzman, Bolt CEO (Bolt Biotherapeutics)

Bolt Bio­ther­a­peu­tics nabs $93.5M to push Provenge in­ven­tor's new idea deep­er in the clin­ic

A cancer-fighting concept from the inventor of the first cancer vaccine is nearing prime time, and its biotech developer has received a significant new infusion of cash to get it there.

Bolt Biotherapeutics announced a $93.5 million Series C round led by Sofinnova Investments and joined by more than 9 others, including Pfizer Ventures and RA Capital Management. That money will go toward pushing the San Francisco biotech’s platform of innate immune-boosting warheads through its first trial on metastatic solid tumors and into several more.

Days af­ter In­ter­cept re­jec­tion, Akero surges on ‘un­prece­dent­ed‘ NASH da­ta

A year and a half after scoring a $70 million Series B and a top Gilead executive as CEO, Akero Therapeutics has announced new data on their NASH drug. And with the field still reeling from a surprise FDA rejection this week, the news was enough to send their stock surging.

Akero had already said in March that its lead drug had beaten placebo in its Phase II trial, reducing liver fat by 14% in the highest dose group compared to 0.3% in placebo, according to MRI scans. But although NASH is an obesity-related condition and results from fatty buildup in the liver, the real immediate question for any therapy is whether it can resolve the fibrosis and inflammation that results from that buildup. Those data require biopsying the patients, a longer and more invasive process that was further complicated by a pandemic.

Covid-19 has roiled clin­i­cal tri­al plans around the world, rais­ing con­cerns over the in­dus­try’s fu­ture on new drug ap­provals

Over the past 4 months, a group of analysts at GlobalData tracked 322 biopharma companies — biotechs, pharmas, CROs and such — reporting on the trouble Covid-19 has caused for their clinical development plans.

Slightly more than half — 179 — are US operations, with about 1 in 4 scattered throughout Europe and in Canada. And the disruptions are clustered around mid-stage development, though a hefty number of late-stage derailments may well blunt the stream of approvals down the road.

New stan­dard of care? FDA hands Pfiz­er, Mer­ck KGaA an OK for Baven­cio in blad­der can­cer

The breakthrough therapy designation Pfizer and Merck KGaA notched for Bavencio in bladder cancer has quickly paved way for a full approval.

The PD-L1 drug is now sanctioned as a first-line maintenance treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, applicable in cases where cancer hasn’t progressed after platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Petros Grivas, the principal investigator of the supporting Phase III JAVELIN Bladder 100, called the approval “one of the most significant advances in the treatment paradigm in this setting in 30 years.”