No­vavax shares are rout­ed af­ter its big PhI­II RSV vac­cine tri­al flops


No­vavax $NVAX says that its big Phase III study of its RSV vac­cine failed bad­ly among old­er sub­jects, flop­ping on the pri­ma­ry as well as sec­ondary out­comes and leav­ing the biotech strug­gling to ex­plain how it fell short here.

The com­pa­ny re­cruit­ed 11,856 peo­ple over the age of 60 for this study, look­ing for clear ev­i­dence to sup­port a claim that the vac­cine could sig­nif­i­cant­ly pre­vent RSV-as­so­ci­at­ed low­er res­pi­ra­to­ry tract dis­ease – the pri­ma­ry goal – or at least in­ci­dents of all symp­to­matic res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­ease due to RSV. It didn’t work.

Gre­go­ry Glenn, No­vavax

Shares of No­vavax were crushed by the news, plung­ing 83% and wip­ing out the bulk of its $2.2 bil­lion mar­ket cap.

Com­pa­ny ex­ecs spec­u­lat­ed that the fail­ure may have been re­lat­ed to a par­tic­u­lar­ly mild RSV sea­son. They al­so stressed that they don’t have any plans to drop the RSV vac­cine at this stage.

R&D chief Gre­go­ry Glenn said:

“His­tor­i­cal­ly, an­nu­al sea­son­al RSV ARD at­tack rates be­tween 3% and 7% have been ob­served in old­er adults. In our Phase 2 tri­al, we ob­served an RSV ARD at­tack rate of 4.9% and an RSV msLRTD at­tack rate of 1.8%. In con­trast, we ob­served an RSV ARD at­tack rate of 2.0% and an msLRTD at­tack rate of 0.4% in our Phase 3 tri­al.”

Glenn, though, was singing a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent tune on May 4, when he said that the RSV sea­son was play­ing out as ex­pect­ed. RSV gen­er­al­ly tracks the flu sea­son, be­gin­ning in the fall and wind­ing up by the time he had this to say on the Q1 call with an­a­lysts:

With re­spect to this year’s at­tack rate, we will con­tin­ue to close­ly mon­i­tor sev­er­al dif­fer­ent RSV sur­veil­lance sys­tems for the 2015-2016 sea­sons. Un­like in­fluen­za, the in­ten­si­ty of the an­nu­al na­tion­al RSV sea­son can be rel­a­tive­ly con­sis­tent year-in and year-out. And to­day, this RSV sea­son has re­mained con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous years. Based on da­ta pro­vide RSVAlert and CDC’s Na­tion­al Res­pi­ra­to­ry and En­teric Virus Sur­veil­lance Sys­tem, the per­cent of RSV pos­i­tive tests is gen­er­al­ly con­sis­tent with the 2014-2015 sea­son and the pri­or five years. This gives us ad­di­tion­al con­fi­dence that we will have [ph] enough events to eval­u­ate the ef­fi­ca­cy of our vac­cine in this pop­u­la­tion over this sea­son.

Gaithers­burg, MD-based No­vavax was on a roll last year with this pro­gram, pick­ing up an $89 mil­lion grant from the Gates Foun­da­tion and launch­ing a sep­a­rate Phase III at the end of the year to see if the vac­cine would work among in­fants through a ma­ter­nal vac­ci­na­tion. The biotech re­port­ed pos­i­tive Phase II da­ta in that group a year ago, along with the big grant for its nanopar­ti­cle tech.

RSV re­search goes back 60 years, but at­tempts to de­vel­op an ef­fec­tive vac­cine have been in­ef­fec­tive so far, leav­ing a big un­met med­ical need and, as yet, noth­ing to stop it.

Hal Barron, GSK

Break­ing the death spi­ral: Hal Bar­ron talks about trans­form­ing the mori­bund R&D cul­ture at GSK in a crit­i­cal year for the late-stage pipeline

Just ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Q2 update on Wednesday, science chief Hal Barron is making the rounds to talk up the pharma giant’s late-stage strategy as the top execs continue to woo back a deeply skeptical investor group while pushing through a whole new R&D culture.

And that’s not easy, Barron is quick to note. He told the Financial Times:

I think that culture, to some extent, is as hard, in fact even harder, than doing the science.

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Aca­dia is mak­ing the best of it, but their lat­est PhI­II Nu­plazid study is a bust

Acadia’s late-stage program to widen the commercial prospects for Nuplazid has hit a wall. The biotech reported that their Phase III ENHANCE trial flat failed. And while they $ACAD did their best to cherry pick positive data wherever they can be found, this is a clear setback for the biotech.

With close to 400 patients enrolled, researchers said the drug flunked the primary endpoint as an adjunctive therapy for patients with an inadequate response to antipsychotic therapy. The p-value was an ugly 0.0940 on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, which the company called out as a positive trend.

Their shares slid 12% on the news, good for a $426 million hit on a $3.7 billion market cap at close.

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Some Big Phar­mas stepped up their game on da­ta trans­paren­cy — but which flunked the test?

The nonprofit Bioethics International has come out with their latest scorecard on data transparency among the big biopharmas in the industry — flagging a few standouts while spotlighting some laggards who are continuing to underperform.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit created a new set of standards with Yale School of Medicine and Stanford Law School to evaluate the track record on trial registration, results reporting, publication and data-sharing practice.

Busy Gilead crew throws strug­gling biotech a life­line, with some cash up­front and hun­dreds of mil­lions in biobucks for HIV deal

Durect $DRRX got a badly needed shot in the arm Monday morning as Gilead’s busy BD team lined up access to its extended-release platform tech for HIV and hepatitis B.

Gilead, a leader in the HIV sector, is paying a modest $25 million in cash for the right to jump on the platform at Durect, which has been using its technology to come up with an extended-release version of bupivacaine. The FDA rejected that in 2014, but Durect has been working on a comeback.

In­tec blitzed by PhI­II flop as lead pro­gram fails to beat Mer­ck­'s stan­dard com­bo for Parkin­son’s

Intec Pharma’s $NTEC lead drug slammed into a brick wall Monday morning. The small-cap Israeli biotech reported that its lead program — coming off a platform designed to produce a safer, more effective oral drug for Parkinson’s — failed the Phase III at the primary endpoint.

Researchers at Intec, which has already seen its share price collapse over the past few months, says that its Accordion Pill-Carbidopa/Levodopa failed to prove superior to Sinemet in reducing daily ‘off’ time. 

Cel­gene racks up third Ote­zla ap­proval, heat­ing up talks about who Bris­tol-My­ers will sell to

Whoever is taking Otezla off Bristol-Myers Squibb’s hands will have one more revenue stream to boast.

The drug — a rising star in Celgene’s pipeline that generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year — is now OK’d to treat oral ulcers associated with Behçet’s disease, a common symptom for a rare inflammatory disorder. This marks the third FDA approval for the PDE4 inhibitor since 2014, when it was greenlighted for plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors.

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Apotex, though, has been a disaster ground. The manufacturer voluntarily yanked the ANDAs on 31 drugs — in late 2017 — after the FDA came across serious manufacturing deficiencies at their plants in India. A few days ago, the FDA made it official.

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