IDO rout: Piv­otal tri­als with Bris­tol-My­ers, Mer­ck and As­traZeneca dumped in wake of In­cyte's PhI­II im­plo­sion

The IDO R&D pipeline is in dan­ger of be­ing ex­ter­mi­nat­ed.

In the wake of a piv­otal fail­ure of In­cyte’s $IN­CY lead IDO drug epaca­do­stat, Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb $BMY be­came the third play­er forced to re­trench in that im­muno-on­col­o­gy field, drop­ping three late-stage stud­ies of a ri­val drug it bagged in a $1.25 bil­lion buy­out. But that was just the start of a rout.

In­cyte re­port­ed this morn­ing that its wide-rang­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions with Big Phar­ma play­ers are com­ing un­done. In their Q1 an­nounce­ment, echo­ing the fail­ure of ECHO-301, the com­pa­ny not­ed:

En­roll­ment will be dis­con­tin­ued in the four ad­di­tion­al piv­otal tri­als of epaca­do­stat in com­bi­na­tion with pem­brolizum­ab (Mer­ck’s Keytru­da), and in the two piv­otal tri­als of epaca­do­stat in com­bi­na­tion with nivolum­ab (Bris­tol-My­ers’ Op­di­vo); each of these stud­ies will be amend­ed to en­able pa­tients and their physi­cians to con­sid­er al­ter­na­tive ther­a­peu­tic op­tions. The piv­otal tri­al in com­bi­na­tion with dur­val­um­ab (As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi) in Stage 3 lung can­cer will not be ini­ti­at­ed.

A spokesper­son for As­traZeneca al­so tells me that there is “an­oth­er Phase II (com­bi­na­tion study) in sol­id tu­mors and we’re go­ing to stop en­roll­ment there too.” That will be all for the ECHO-203 study — epaca­do­stat plus dur­val­um­ab again. “In­cyte did present some da­ta from ECHO-203 at AACR: 15 pa­tients with pan­cre­at­ic can­cer were en­rolled across mul­ti­ple dose lev­els, no clin­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty was ob­served.”

In ad­di­tion, In­cyte said that it is “sig­nif­i­cant­ly down­siz­ing the epaca­do­stat de­vel­op­ment pro­gram,” sig­nal­ing a painful re­treat for a one-time star drug that com­mand­ed pro­jec­tions of block­buster peak sales.

Ac­cord­ing to clin­i­cal­tri­als.gov, in­ves­ti­ga­tors for the big biotech to­day ter­mi­nat­ed a Phase III study of BMS-986205 in com­bi­na­tion with Bris­tol-My­ers’ Op­di­vo for front­line head and neck can­cer. An­oth­er Phase III study for front­line Stage IV or re­cur­rent non-small cell lung can­cer us­ing BMS-986205 and Op­di­vo with or with­out chemo ver­sus chemo alone was with­drawn. And there’s a third study for melanoma that’s now ac­tive but not re­cruit­ing af­ter en­list­ing 72 pa­tients.

A spokesper­son for Bris­tol-My­ers told us Mon­day night:

Based on emerg­ing da­ta on the IDO path­way, we closed reg­is­tra­tional stud­ies of our IDO in­hibitor, BMS-986205, in melanoma, SC­CHN and NSCLC. We re­main com­mit­ted to con­tin­ued re­search of BMS-986205-based com­bi­na­tions in an in­formed and sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly ro­bust man­ner. We will con­tin­ue to eval­u­ate BMS-986205-based com­bi­na­tions in our Phase 1/2 study, CA017-003.

Sep­a­rate­ly, we are work­ing quick­ly with In­cyte to as­sess our pro­gram un­der the col­lab­o­ra­tion.

NewLink $NLNK was the first to over­haul its ap­proach on IDO fol­low­ing the In­cyte dis­as­ter.  The biotech scrapped a melanoma study that would have eval­u­at­ed in­dox­i­mod in com­bi­na­tion with check­point in­hibitors Keytru­da or Op­di­vo in 600 pa­tients. In a press re­lease, NewLink ex­plained the de­ci­sion was made “in the con­text of the fail­ure of a com­peti­tor’s tri­al of its en­zy­mat­ic IDO in­hibitor in a sim­i­lar clin­i­cal set­ting.

Bris­tol-My­ers’ de­ci­sion — first re­port­ed by Xcon­o­my — un­der­scores a grow­ing be­lief that In­cyte’s fail­ure was as much a fail­ure of the class as an in­di­vid­ual ther­a­py, po­ten­tial­ly tor­pe­do­ing a wide swath of clin­i­cal tri­als now in the pipeline.

In­cyte frankly con­ced­ed that its piv­otal fail­ure raised doubts about its en­tire ef­fort, which in­cludes a host of com­bi­na­tion stud­ies with check­point lead­ers like Mer­ck and As­traZeneca. In this case, Bris­tol-My­ers is cut­ting back on a drug that it ac­quired in a block­buster deal to ac­quire Flexus 3 years ago. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have re­peat­ed­ly tout­ed the drug as a po­ten­tial lynch­pin in im­muno-on­col­o­gy, fo­cus­ing on an en­zyme that sup­press­es the im­mune cells Op­di­vo and a whole new class of PD-1/L1 check­points are de­signed to un­leash in an at­tack on can­cer cells.

Iron­i­cal­ly, In­cyte has been pur­su­ing lit­i­ga­tion against one of its for­mer sci­en­tists, claim­ing he de­fect­ed to Flexus with IDO trade se­crets in hand, well be­fore the buy­out. Bris­tol-My­ers, though, has stead­fast­ly as­sert­ed — with some sup­port from an­a­lysts — that it had the bet­ter IDO that could leapfrog epaca­do­stat. The leap­ing in IDO, though, has stopped. At least for now.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

Sanofi, GSK tout 72% Omi­cron ef­fi­ca­cy in PhI­II tri­al of next-gen, bi­va­lent shot — with an eye to year-end roll­out

Sometimes, being late can give you an advantage.

That’s what Sanofi and GSK are trying to say as the Big Pharma partners report positive results from a late-stage trial of their next-gen bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which was designed to protect against both the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Beta variant. Specifically, against Omicron, they note, the vaccine delivered 72% efficacy in all adults and 93.2% in those previously infected.

Matt Kapusta, uniQure CEO

In trou­bled Hunt­ing­ton’s space, uniQure’s gene ther­a­py shows ear­ly promise

In randomized clinical trial data from a small number of patients, Dutch biotech uniQure shared that its gene therapy for Huntington’s disease seems to reduce the amount of the mutant protein responsible for the disease over the course of a year.

In seven patients with early-stage Huntington’s — four who got the treatment and three who got a placebo — mutant huntingtin protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid decreased by an average of just over 50% in patients who got the gene therapy compared to around a 17% drop in patients who got the placebo after a year.

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De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.