Big Phar­ma part­ners join ini­tia­tive to dri­ve eq­ui­ty and in­clu­sion in dig­i­tal tri­als

As dig­i­tal tri­als picked up steam amid the pan­dem­ic, some said the tech­nol­o­gy could al­so be used to ad­dress bio­phar­ma’s his­toric lack of di­ver­si­ty in the clin­ic. But if im­ple­ment­ed the wrong way, it could al­so ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem, the Dig­i­tal Med­i­cine So­ci­ety (DiMe) warns.

That’s why DiMe is look­ing to cre­ate a frame­work and re­sources for suc­cess­ful­ly run­ning dig­i­tal tri­als. And a suite of in­dus­try play­ers — in­clud­ing Am­gen and Glax­o­SmithK­line — are join­ing the new ini­tia­tive.

“We’re at a re­al­ly im­por­tant junc­ture as we think about the dig­i­ti­za­tion of health­care,” DiMe CEO Jen­nifer Gold­sack told End­points News. “What we’re com­mit­ted to, along with our part­ners, is mak­ing sure that we cap­ture this op­por­tu­ni­ty and we pro­vide re­sources not just for par­tic­i­pat­ing part­ners, but for the en­tire field that are ac­tion-ori­ent­ed and en­sure that as we go dig­i­tal, we bring more pa­tients with us.”

The ini­tia­tive is what DiMe calls a “Tour of Du­ty,” in which the or­ga­ni­za­tion spends four to six weeks ad­dress­ing a press­ing chal­lenge in the field. The goal? To emerge with re­sources for the in­dus­try, rang­ing from check­lists to new guid­ance.

Over the past cou­ple years, the pan­dem­ic has cast a harsh spot­light on bio­phar­ma’s di­ver­si­ty prob­lem. Of the 53 drugs ap­proved in 2020, Black par­tic­i­pants rep­re­sent­ed just 8% of par­tic­i­pants in the tri­als reg­u­la­tors based their de­ci­sions on. Lat­inx pa­tients rep­re­sent­ed just above 12% of par­tic­i­pants, and Asian pa­tients just above 6%.

Some have said that vir­tu­al tri­als could help bridge the gap in rep­re­sen­ta­tion — but while that may be a good op­tion for some pa­tients, it ex­cludes every­one who doesn’t have ac­cess to the tech­nol­o­gy or to broad­band.

“Now is the time to en­sure tri­al plan­ning is mind­ful of the po­ten­tial of tech­nol­o­gy as a bar­ri­er to par­tic­i­pa­tion by po­si­tion­ing dig­i­tal health tech­nolo­gies for greater trust, use, and im­pact,” said Pamela Tenaerts, CSO at dig­i­tal tri­al-fo­cused Med­able (which is al­so join­ing the ini­tia­tive), in a news re­lease.

Up­on snag­ging a $91 mil­lion Se­ries C round back in 2020, Med­able told End­points that cus­tomers us­ing its vir­tu­al tri­al plat­form re­port­ed faster pa­tient en­roll­ment and in­creased re­ten­tion rates.

“Clin­i­cal tri­als are a sig­nif­i­cant part of the process for de­vel­op­ing med­i­cines. Yet, for too long, tri­als have lacked di­ver­si­ty with un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of cer­tain groups of peo­ple across many dis­eases,”  said Pon­da Mot­sepe-Dit­shego, VP, glob­al med­ical ther­a­peu­tic area head, and leader of Am­gen’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Clin­i­cal Re­search (RISE) team, in the news re­lease. “Hav­ing the means to en­gage these pop­u­la­tions via new tech­nolo­gies helps us move to­wards a fu­ture where they are no longer un­der­rep­re­sent­ed, un­der­stud­ied, and un­der­treat­ed.”

In ad­di­tion to Am­gen, GSK and Med­able, a slate of oth­er in­dus­try play­ers have joined the ini­tia­tive, in­clud­ing Ac­cli­nate, Light­ship, Ru­bix LS, Sage Bionet­works, Savvy Co­op­er­a­tive, and THREAD Re­search.

“In or­der to say we’re go­ing to do this bet­ter than we have be­fore, we have a re­spon­si­bil­i­ty … to bring every­one to the ta­ble and to deeply un­der­stand how these new prod­ucts work in every­body,” Gold­sack said.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

BREAK­ING: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

FDA's ad­vanced ther­a­pies of­fice pro­vides more clar­i­ty on gene ther­a­py CMC con­sid­er­a­tions

As the Office of Tissue and Advanced Therapies (OTAT) transforms into the Office of Therapeutic Products (OTP), with new user fee funds and “super office” status, the department focused on cell and gene therapies also opened its doors to a town hall Thursday offering clarification on guidance and regulations for manufacturers.

Some of the major concerns from manufacturers were the CMC considerations between first-in-human studies and late-phase studies supporting a marketing approval.

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Pa­tient re­port finds con­sti­pa­tion con­di­tion not well-man­aged, open­ing door for bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion from phar­ma

Advertising for constipation treatments often uses light-hearted humor in an effort to spur open discussions about the sometimes stigmatized topic. However, that may not be enough to get people to take the condition seriously, a new patient report from Phreesia finds.

Fewer than one-fifth (17%) of patients with constipation surveyed understand the longer-term health risks of constipation such as hemorrhoids and bowel incontinence. Many are trying to manage their condition with over-the-counter medicines, but often for much longer than recommended. An equal 68% say they use home remedies or OTC meds to manage constipation. But while 90% understand that OTCs are not intended for long-term use, 50% have used an OTC constipation medicine for more than a year.

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