Jean-Jacques Bienaimé. BioMarin via YouTube

Bil­lions on the line: Bio­Marin bus­tles past en­thused ri­val, plan­ning to launch world’s first he­mo­phil­ia A gene ther­a­py

Bio­Marin isn’t go­ing to let a ri­val’s suc­cess over the week­end get in the way of mak­ing a bee-line to the FDA with an im­per­fect, but pre­sentable, gene ther­a­py for he­mo­phil­ia A.

On Mon­day the biotech $BM­RN re­port­ed that its talks with the FDA and the EMA con­vinced ex­ecs to make a leap for an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval with da­ta on just a hand­ful of pa­tients. And they’re hand­ing over Phase I/II and in­ter­im Phase III re­sults in Q4 to make their case.

That de­ci­sion was made de­spite a con­sid­er­able back­lash against the lat­est snap­shot of the da­ta, with wors­en­ing ef­fi­ca­cy over time and a low­er ini­tial re­sponse in their piv­otal tri­al — but ex­cel­lent bleed rates, so far. Bio­Marin says that with a break­through drug des­ig­na­tion in the USA and Eu­rope’s prime sta­tus, they have good rea­son to be­lieve they are on track to field the world’s first gene ther­a­py.

In­vestors ap­pear some­what skep­ti­cal though, with Bio­Marin shares down 2.4% in Mon­day af­ter­noon trad­ing.

Here’s the bet they’re mak­ing, out­lined in their lat­est state­ment:

Fac­tor VI­II lev­els sus­tained over a three-year pe­ri­od were suf­fi­cient to achieve strik­ing he­mo­sta­t­ic ef­fi­ca­cy. Fac­tor VI­II ex­pres­sion has en­tered a plateau phase where the rate of de­cline has sub­stan­tial­ly slowed, which could be in­dica­tive of durable, long-term ex­pres­sion.

Leerink’s Joseph Schwartz of­fers a bull­ish as­sess­ment of Bio­Marin’s gam­ble:

Based on BM­RN’s Ph.3 da­ta, the com­pa­ny met their pre-spec­i­fied cri­te­ria for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval – 8 pts achiev­ing mean fac­tor VI­II/FVI­II lev­els above 40 IU/dL. With on­ly 17 pts (out of 20 pts) eval­u­at­ed so far, it is pos­si­ble that the re­main­ing 3 could pro­vide more con­fi­dence in Val­rox al­though it is not re­quired for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval since BM­RN has al­ready met the bar. The com­pa­ny is fo­cused on get­ting Val­rox to mar­ket as soon as pos­si­ble by sub­mit­ting their fil­ing in 4Q19 based on their Ph.3 in­ter­im analy­sis and aims to com­plete GEN­Er8-1 (6E13 vg/kg) en­roll­ment in ear­ly fall 2019. As­sum­ing BM­RN could in­crease and op­ti­mize ef­fi­ca­cy — re­call, chro­mogenic mea­sures were high­er in Ph.1/2 at weeks 23-26 than Ph.3 (68 IU/dL mean/57 IU/dL me­di­an in Ph.1/2 vs 36 IU/dL mean/33 IU/dL me­di­an Ph.3) — we be­lieve that po­ten­tial stud­ies BM­RN may con­duct lat­er could fur­ther boost sales and in­crease Val­rox’s at­trac­tive­ness among he­mo­phil­ia A pts, es­pe­cial­ly as com­pet­ing pro­grams (i.e., SG­MO/PFE) ap­pear to be de­liv­er­ing com­pet­i­tive ef­fi­ca­cy.

Spark Ther­a­peu­tics $ONCE is wide­ly viewed as the run­ner up for now, while Roche strug­gles to com­plete its $4.3 bil­lion buy­out as soon as pos­si­ble. But Sang­amo/Pfiz­er gar­nered some care­ful sec­ond looks a few days ago as they post­ed bet­ter ef­fi­ca­cy and a fast re­sponse among 4 evalu­able pa­tients. That team al­so out­lined plans to make a leap for­ward on an ac­cel­er­at­ed path­way as they sought to catch up with the two fron­trun­ners.

Any stum­ble at this point could prove a set­back, but if they stay on track Sang­amo and Pfiz­er may set up a sit­u­a­tion where pa­tients can choose an im­per­fect gene ther­a­py or wait for a bet­ter one. And Bio­Marin has out­lined plans to charge in the range of $2 mil­lion to $3 mil­lion per treat­ment — with the ca­pa­bil­i­ty of earn­ing $10 bil­lion to $15 bil­lion a year — adding stick­er shock for pay­ers to the list of chal­lenges.

In­side Track: Be­hind the Scenes of a Ma­jor Biotech SPAC

Dr. David Hung and Michelle Doig are no strangers to the SPAC phenomenon. As Founder and CEO of Nuvation Bio, a biotech company tackling some of the greatest unmet needs in oncology, Dr. Hung recently took the company public in one of this year’s biggest SPAC related deals. And as Partner at Omega Funds, Doig not only led and syndicated Nuvation Bio’s Series A, but is now also President of the newly formed, Omega-sponsored, Omega Alpha SPAC (Nasdaq: OMEG; oversubscribed $138m IPO priced January 6, 2021).

Barry Greene, Sage CEO

UP­DAT­ED: Sage's sec­ond chance at de­pres­sion hits the PhI­II pri­ma­ry, but ques­tions re­main over dura­bil­i­ty, side ef­fects

Looking to make a comeback after a big Phase III flop, Sage Therapeutics revealed data they believe could change the entire depression treatment landscape, given the vast array of failures in the field. But some results are spooking investors, sending Sage $SAGE shares down early Tuesday.

First, the primary: Sage and Biogen reported Phase III data for once-daily zuranolone Tuesday morning, saying the experimental drug hit its primary endpoint by spurring a statistically significant change from baseline in the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression total score. After 15 days, patients in the drug arm saw an average change of -14.1 points, compared to -12.3 on placebo.

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CEO Harith Rajagopalan (Fractyl)

Af­ter a decade in the type 2 di­a­betes game, Fractyl Lab­o­ra­to­ries recharges with a fresh $100M and a new name

Harith Rajagopalan compared the way type 2 diabetes is managed to sticking your fingers in a dam that’s leaking from a number of places.

You can take drugs to lower your blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure, but you’re not addressing what he says is the core issue — the metabolic abnormality that causes the disease.

“We’re so busy plugging the holes in the dam, we don’t have time to see that the whole infrastructure is at risk,” he said. “That infrastructure is a full-body systemic metabolic abnormality called metabolic syndrome, that we’re ignoring while we’re so busy trying to treat all of the individual symptoms of the condition.”

Michel Sade­lain puts his name and new cell en­gi­neer­ing tech be­hind 'ag­nos­tic' CAR-T start­up chas­ing epi­ge­net­ic anti­gens

It felt natural for Alain Maiore and Sebastian Amigorena to bring in Michel Sadelain as a co-founder of Mnemo Therapeutics. A CAR-T pioneer, Sadelain had been involved as an advisor since the early days — enthusiastic about Amigorena’s work in a genetic knockout that could enhance T cell memory and a new class of potential targets he’s discovered — and could introduce some well-known technologies to the toolbox. So they got the initial cash from Sofinnova Partners to plant roots in Paris and New York in early 2019; within a few months, they began to see more clearly just what the antigen discovery platform might unlock.

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Bio­gen sig­nals a big PhI­II fail­ure as the lead gene ther­a­py in their $800M Night­star buy­out goes down in flames

That $800 million buyout of Nightstar has turned into a bust for Biogen as the lead therapy in the deal failed a pivotal study, signaling a severe setback for the biotech’s ambitions in gene therapies.

The big biotech put out the word after the market closed on Monday that the gene therapy they picked up in the deal for a degenerative blindness called choroideremia failed the Phase III study, just a month after their #2 drug in the deal also flopped in a mid-stage study.

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Hal Barron, GSK R&D chief (Endpoints News)

Hal Bar­ron gam­bles $625M cash on high-wire TIG­IT act, throw­ing Glax­o­SmithK­line in­to heat­ed race and com­plet­ing next-gen I/O trin­i­ty

Count Hal Barron and GlaxoSmithKline in for the TIGIT fight.

The stakes are as high as the risks: While a growing pack of Big Pharma rivals is lending credence to the hypothesis that TIGIT will be the next big immune checkpoint and cancer drug target, the first clinical trials have shown response rates that can be described as modest at best. But Barron’s bet is on the whole “axis” that the receptor sits on, with an eye on testing its new anti-TIGIT antibody not just in combo with PD-1 but also in triplets.

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Alexander Vos, VectorY CEO

Start­ing fresh in man­u­fac­tur­ing, For­bion start­up re­fu­els to steer next-gen gene ther­a­py ap­proach for ALS, Alzheimer's in­to clin­ic

Forbion laid out its case for a next-generation gene therapy approach when it took the wraps off VectorY Therapeutics and its vectorized antibody tech in February. Now, the Dutch VC has tapped an experienced hand at cell and gene therapy manufacturing to steer the ship — and pulled a marquee syndicate for a €31 million ($37.6 million) seed round.

Alexander Vos, the new CEO, is a venture partner at BioGeneration Ventures and jumps immediately from VarmX, a BGV portfolio company developing an anticoagulant. But before that, he had led Dutch CDMO PharmaCell for eight years until it was bought out by Lonza.

Lynn Fitch, Mississippi Attorney General (Rogelio V. Solis/AP Images)

Mis­sis­sip­pi sues Eli Lil­ly, Sanofi and No­vo over in­sulin prices as in­ter­change­able biosim­i­lars may ar­rive soon

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch last week sued the top three insulin manufacturers, which collectively cover almost the entire US insulin market, alleging that they’ve colluded to raise their prices in lockstep, and in some cases by more than 1,000% for drugs that are decades old.

“Because of Manufacturer Defendants’ collusive price increases, nearly a century after the discovery of insulin, diabetes medications have become unaffordable for many diabetics,” the lawsuit says.

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Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO

Ex­sci­en­tia spends Soft­Bank's cash in bid to edge out AI ri­vals

Exscientia is sprinting to win the great AI biotech race.

The UK company, having long labored on small discovery deals with large pharmas, raised up to $525 million in a Series D led by the infamous Japanese conglomerate SoftBank in April and followed it up less than a month later with a Bristol Myers Squibb deal that paid $50 million cash and $1.2 billion in milestones.

Now, the Oxford spinout is splurging on a shiny new tool. On Monday they announced they purchased the three-year-old molecule-screening biotech Allcyte, a longtime collaborator, for $60.6 million in cash and stock.

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