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.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Cy­to­ki­net­ics’ ALS drug fails PhI­II, leav­ing the biotech with a sin­gle late-stage prospect

Cytokinetics’ candidate for the muscle disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, failed a Phase III trial, the Bay Area biotech announced Friday morning.

At a second interim analysis of the trial, an independent review committee recommended that Cytokinetics discontinue its COURAGE-ALS trial for reldesemtiv, as it “found no evidence of effect” compared to placebo on the primary or key secondary endpoints.

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CHMP gives thumbs-up for We­govy use in ado­les­cents, along with nine new drug rec­om­men­da­tions

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended nine drugs for approval this week while also giving thumbs up for six expanded indications, including Novo Nordisk’s approved obesity medication Wegovy for younger people. Wegovy is already approved as an obesity treatment in the EU for adults, and the new indication would allow prescriptions for adolescents aged 12 and older.

Austin biotech Mol­e­c­u­lar Tem­plates lays off more than 100 staffers as pipeline nar­rows

Molecular Templates is ridding itself of a Phase I HER2 asset and fine-tuning its pipeline to focus on three programs and a preclinical Bristol Myers Squibb collaboration. With the narrowed scope on its so-called engineered toxin bodies, the Austin, TX biotech is laying off about half of its staff.

That’s a little more than 100 employees, per an SEC filing. Molecular’s layoffs, approved by its board Wednesday, add to the dozens of pullbacks in the industry in the first three months of 2023.

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Green­Light re­ceives buy­out of­fer; Apol­lomics com­pletes SPAC merg­er

RNA biotech GreenLight Biosciences has been handed an offer for potential acquisition.

GreenLight said in a release that it has received a non-binding “indication of interest” from Fall Line Endurance Fund to acquire GreenLight’s capital stock for $0.60 per share in cash. The release said any potential agreement between the two parties would depend on certain conditions.

Through a special committee, the biotech will evaluate the offer but added there’s no certainty a deal will go forward. GreenLight will also not make any more announcements until a deal comes through or “otherwise determines” a statement is necessary.

Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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TScan Therapeutics' departing CEO David Southwell and CSO/COO Gavin MacBeath

TCR up­start an­nounces CEO ex­it, with CSO now act­ing re­place­ment

A public T cell biotech’s chief executive has decided to leave the company.

TScan Therapeutics said Friday morning that CEO David Southwell stepped down earlier this week, leaving both his chief executive and board member roles. Filling in is Gavin MacBeath, the company’s CSO and COO. He became the acting CEO on Tuesday, and will continue to remain CSO and COO, TScan’s announcement read.

Aptinyx eval­u­ates fu­ture of the com­pa­ny fol­low­ing two failed tri­als, 60% lay­offs

This year has been tough for Aptinyx — two failed trials, a 60% cut in its workforce, and now the company has brought on a firm to help evaluate the future of the company.

The press release noted it’s working with the firm Ladenburg Thalmann as its financial advisor to assist in exploring and evaluating “strategic alternatives” — a process that a growing group of struggling biotechs has embarked on, sometimes ending in a merger, asset sale or wind-down.

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Sar­to­rius to ac­quire French man­u­fac­tur­er for $2.6B+ in cell and gene ther­a­py play

The German life science group Sartorius will be picking up French contract manufacturer Polyplus for the price of €2.4 billion, or $2.6 billion.

On Friday, Sartorius announced the acquisition through its French subgroup, Sartorius Stedim Biotech, which will be acquiring Polyplus from private investors ARCHIMED and WP GG Holdings IV. Polyplus has 270 employees and produces materials and components that go into making viral vectors that are used in cell and gene therapies. This includes DNA/RNA reagents as well as plasmid DNA. Polyplus has locations in France, Belgium, China and the US.