As­traZeneca stocks up on Calquence am­mu­ni­tion for big BTK ri­val­ry with J&J, Ab­b­Vie

Catch­ing up with J&J and Ab­b­Vie on the BTK in­hibitor front, As­traZeneca says Calquence has hit a home run in a Phase III tri­al for first-line chron­ic lym­pho­cyt­ic leukemia.

At an in­ter­im analy­sis, re­searchers say the drug, when com­bined with Roche’s Gazy­va (obin­u­tuzum­ab), has al­ready demon­strat­ed a pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival ben­e­fit over the chemo-based reg­i­men fea­tur­ing chlo­ram­bu­cil and obin­u­tuzum­ab. The pri­ma­ry end­point win was both sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant and clin­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful, the com­pa­ny says, with­out dis­clos­ing any num­bers.

José Basel­ga As­traZeneca

A third group, which re­ceived Calquence monother­a­py, al­so did bet­ter in PFS than the stan­dard-of-care — a sec­ondary end­point. There was, how­ev­er, no word on oth­er out­come mea­sures such as ob­jec­tive re­sponse rate, time to next treat­ment and over­all sur­vival.

José Basel­ga, who has laid out his am­bi­tion for the on­col­o­gy R&D group that he now leads in a se­ries of re­cent in­ter­views, said the re­sults will ce­ment reg­u­la­to­ry sub­mis­sions lat­er this year.

The dossier will al­so in­clude re­sults from a pre­vi­ous Phase III on pa­tients with re­lapsed or re­frac­to­ry chron­ic lym­pho­cyt­ic leukemia.

Im­bru­vi­ca — the block­buster de­vel­oped by J&J and Ab­b­Vie — in com­bi­na­tion with Gazy­va be­came the first non-chemother­a­py, an­ti-CD20 reg­i­men to be sanc­tioned for treat­ment-naïve CLL this Jan­u­ary, mark­ing the 10th ap­proval since its 2013 launch. The FDA has al­so OK’d its use in this set­ting on its own.

In 2018 Im­bru­vi­ca racked up $2.6 bil­lion in sales, dwarf­ing Calquence — ap­proved for man­tle cell lym­phoma late 2017 — which gen­er­at­ed $62 mil­lion. And Chi­na’s BeiGene is com­ing up from be­hind with its own ‘break­through’ can­di­date.


Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen spot­lights a pair of painful pipeline set­backs as ad­u­canum­ab show­down looms at the FDA

Biogen has flagged a pair of setbacks in the pipeline, spotlighting the final failure for a one-time top MS prospect while scrapping a gene therapy for SMA after the IND was put on hold due to toxicity.

Both failures will raise the stakes even higher on aducanumab, the Alzheimer’s drug that Biogen is betting the ranch on, determined to pursue an FDA OK despite significant skepticism they can make it with mixed results and a reliance on post hoc data mining. And the failures are being reported as Biogen was forced to cut its profit forecast for 2020 as a generic rival started to erode their big franchise drug.

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Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner (AP Images)

As FDA sets the stage for the first Covid-19 vac­cine EUAs, some big play­ers are ask­ing for a tweak of the guide­lines

Setting the stage for an extraordinary one-day meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee this Thursday, the FDA has cleared 2 experts of financial conflicts to help beef up the committee. And regulators went on to specify the safety, efficacy and CMC input they’re looking for on EUAs, before they move on to the full BLA approval process.

All of this has already been spelled out to the developers. But the devil is in the details, and it’s clear from the first round of posted responses that some of the top players — including J&J and Pfizer — would like some adjustments and added feedback. And on Thursday, the experts can offer their own thoughts on shaping the first OKs.

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A new chap­ter in the de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal tri­al ap­proach

Despite the promised decentralized trial revolution, we haven’t yet moved the needle in a significant way, although we are seeing far bolder commitments to this as we continue to experience the pandemic restrictions for some time to come. The vision of grandeur is one thing, but operationalizing and execution are another and recognising that change, particularly mid-flight on studies, is worthy of thorough evaluation and consideration in order to achieve success. Here we will discuss one of the critical building blocks of a Decentralized and Remote Trial strategy: TeleConsent; more than paper under glass, it is a paradigm change and key digital enabler.

UP­DAT­ED: CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics gets a snap­shot of off-the-shelf CAR-T suc­cess in B-cell ma­lig­nan­cies — marred by the death of a pa­tient

Just days after scientific founder Emmanuelle Charpentier shared the Nobel prize for her work on CRISPR/Cas9, CRISPR Therapeutics $CRSP is showing off a snapshot of success in their early-stage study for an off-the-shelf CAR-T approach to CD19+ B cell malignancies — a snapshot marred by the death of a patient who had been given a high dose of the treatment.

Using their gene editing tech, researchers for CRISPR engineered cells from healthy donors into an attack vehicle aimed at cancer, something that has been achieved with great success using patients’ own cells — the autologous approach. But autologous CAR-T is hampered by the more complex vein-to-vein requirement that delays treatment, and now CRISPR Therapeutics along with other players like Allogene are determined to replace the pioneers with CAR-T 2.0.

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RBC's Bri­an Abra­hams holds a mock ad­comm on Bio­gen's iffy ad­u­canum­ab da­ta — and most of these ex­perts don't see a path to an ap­proval

As catalysts go, few loom larger than the aducanumab adcomm slated for Nov. 6.

With its big franchise under assault, Biogen is betting the ranch that its mixed late-stage Alzheimer’s data can squeak past the experts and regulators and get onto the market. And the topic — after a decade of Alzheimer’s R&D disasters in what still represents the El Dorado of drug markets — remains in the center ring of discussions around late-stage pipeline prospects.

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David Hung (file photo)

Mas­ter deal­mak­er David Hung re­tools a SPAC deal in­to a fi­nanc­ing mus­cle ve­hi­cle that leaves his can­cer start­up with $850M and a place on Wall Street

It’s only right that one of the industry’s top dealmakers just completed one of the biggest SPAC-related deals in the pipeline.

David Hung, of Medivation fame, has completed a back flip into the market, merging with EcoR1 Capital’s SPAC Panacea and landing neatly on Wall Street with an $NUVB stock ticker after filling out the blank check in his name. In addition to the $144 million held in the SPAC — provided none of the investors opt out — Hung is getting ahold of $500 million more being chipped in by a slate of institutional investors who feel that Hung could have the keys to another Medivation-style success.

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Years af­ter a ma­jor tri­al set­back, No­var­tis switch­es gears with SMA drug. This time they're try­ing it for Hunt­ing­ton's

Four years after a Phase I/II setback in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Novartis is hoping its drug branaplam will find more success in a new neurological indication: Huntington’s disease.

The decision was announced a year after the head of research, Jay Bradner, said he did not see a “big opportunity” in SMA, according to Reuters. Novartis says it has preclinical data showing that branaplam reduces levels of mutant huntingtin protein, and SMA data showing patients on the drug had reductions in huntingtin mRNA. The FDA gave branaplam their orphan drug designation, and Novartis plans to move forth with a Phase IIb trial next year.

Glax­o­SmithK­line's vac­cines group aims for a first as it kicks off PhI­II RSV stud­ies

One of GlaxoSmithKline’s big projects at its global vaccine R&D center in Rockville, MD is set to enter Phase III after passing early-stage tests with flying colors.

Eyeing the wide-open respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) space, GSK is pushing two different vaccine candidates: GSK3888550A is designed to confer protection to infants via maternal immunization, while GSK3844766A is meant for the elderly.

Pur­due Phar­ma signs guilty plea, preps $8B+ set­tle­ment on Oxy con­tro­ver­sy — re­port; Flag­ship brings in a comms chief

Purdue Pharma may soon be signing off on a guilty plea and an $8 billion-plus settlement to wrap up its controversial role distributing OxyContin.

The AP has the breaking story this morning.

Purdue filed for bankruptcy last year, along with Insys and followed by Mallinckrodt, as it navigated its way through a blizzard of litigation surrounding Oxy, which triggered an epidemic of abuse around the country.