Bris­tol-My­ers part­ner In­nate con­cedes a PhII flop for I/O drug lir­ilum­ab in fight­ing AML

Mond­her Mahjoubi, In­nate Phar­ma CEO

More than five years ago Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb her­ald­ed a $465 mil­lion deal to part­ner with In­nate Phar­ma on its nat­ur­al killer cell can­cer drug lir­ilum­ab. But to­day the French biotech was forced to con­cede that its lead drug was no bet­ter than a place­bo in fight­ing acute myeloid leukemia as a monother­a­py.

Car­ry­ing out plans to han­dle de­vel­op­ment through Phase II, Mar­seilles-based In­nate ex­ecs said that lir­ilum­ab flunked a Phase II tri­al test­ing the drug as a sin­gle agent. There was no ev­i­dence that the drug was any bet­ter than place­bo in spurring a leukemia-free out­come for pa­tients in a main­te­nance set­ting.

Shares of In­nate (Eu­ronext Paris: IPH) dropped 14% on the news, which must have come as an un­wel­come sur­prise to new CEO Mond­her Mahjoubi, who re­cent­ly took the helm af­ter he was wooed from a top-lev­el job at As­traZeneca.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors had al­ready halt­ed work on one of two dos­es — the 1 mg/kg q1month group — close to two years ago af­ter the da­ta safe­ty mon­i­tor­ing board con­clud­ed that it wasn’t work­ing to pa­tients’ ad­van­tage. The fi­nal read­out came on the 0.1 mg/kg q3months group.

The drug is an an­ti­body de­signed to in­ter­fere with the in­ter­ac­tion of killer-cell im­munoglob­u­lin-like re­cep­tors on NK cells with their lig­ands, hope­ful­ly spurring a more ef­fec­tive nat­ur­al killer cell at­tack on can­cer cells. Bris­tol-My­ers saw that as a nat­ur­al com­bi­na­tion ap­proach with Op­di­vo and the two com­pa­nies launched six oth­er stud­ies for var­i­ous com­bi­na­tion ap­proach­es. Those com­bo tri­als will pro­ceed.

This is the lat­est in a se­ries of clin­i­cal set­backs for Bris­tol-My­ers’ Op­di­vo, which has been pum­meled by the swift ad­vance of Mer­ck’s Keytru­da in front­line lung can­cer. Check­point in­hibitors have been put in­to dozens of com­bi­na­tion stud­ies as de­vel­op­ers look for bet­ter re­sults in fight­ing can­cer.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­cruit­ed 150 pa­tients for the study.

Pierre Do­di­on, Chief Med­ical Of­fi­cer of In­nate Phar­ma, said:

“Al­though we knew that this set­ting was chal­leng­ing, we are dis­ap­point­ed by the re­sults of the Ef­fiKIR study and will in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther to bet­ter un­der­stand the da­ta in its en­tire­ty. How­ev­er, Ef­fikir is on­ly one of sev­en stud­ies cur­rent­ly in­ves­ti­gat­ing lir­ilum­ab. Lir­ilum­ab is test­ed in a broad and com­pre­hen­sive com­bi­na­tion pro­gram in mul­ti­ple in­di­ca­tions and we saw en­cour­ag­ing ear­ly ef­fi­ca­cy sig­nals of lir­ilum­ab in com­bi­na­tion with nivolum­ab at the 2016 SITC meet­ing. We are look­ing for­ward to the next da­ta sets as well as the next steps for the pro­gram in 2017.”

Grow­ing ac­cep­tance of ac­cel­er­at­ed path­ways for nov­el treat­ments: but does reg­u­la­to­ry ap­proval lead to com­mer­cial suc­cess?

By Mwango Kashoki, MD, MPH, Vice President-Technical, and Richard Macaulay, Senior Director, of Parexel Regulatory & Access

In recent years, we’ve seen a significant uptake in the use of regulatory options by companies looking to accelerate the journey of life-saving drugs to market. In 2018, 73% of the novel drugs approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) were designated under one or more expedited development program categories (Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, Priority Review, and Accelerated Approval).ᶦ

Sanofi out­lines big API plans as coro­n­avirus out­break re­port­ed­ly threat­ens short­age of 150 drugs

As the world becomes increasingly dependant on Asia for the ingredients of its medicines, Sanofi sees business to be done in Europe.

The French drugmaker said it’s creating the world’s second largest active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) manufacturer by spinning out its six current sites into a standalone company: Brindisi (Italy), Frankfurt Chemistry (Germany), Haverhill (UK), St Aubin les Elbeuf (France), Újpest (Hungary) and Vertolaye (France). They have mapped out €1 billion in expected sales by 2022 and 3,100 employees for the new operations headquartered in France.

Mickey Kertesz, KidsandArtOrg via YouTube

Soft­Bank's newest, $165M biotech in­vest­ment looks for in­fec­tious traces in the blood

SoftBank has found its newest biotech investment.

The Japanese bank has invested $165 million into Karius, a company that uses blood tests to diagnose infectious diseases, as part of its new Vision Fund 2. The full scope of the new fund has yet to be announced, but the first and newly-beleaguered Vision Fund poured $100 billion into technology companies, including the biotechs Vir Biotechnology and Roivant and the sequencing company 10x Genomics.

UP­DAT­ED: NGM Bio takes leap for­ward in crowd­ed NASH field

South San Francisco-based NGM Bio may have underwhelmed with its interim analysis of a key cohort from a mid-stage NASH study last fall — but stellar topline data unveiled on Monday showed the compound induced significant signs of antifibrotic activity, NASH resolution and liver fat reduction, sending the company’s stock soaring.

There are an estimated 50+ companies focused on developing drugs for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, a common liver disease that has long flummoxed researchers. The first wave of NASH drug developers struggled with efficacy as well as safety — and companies big and small have crashed and burned.

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Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (Shutterstock)

FDA grants ‘break­through’ sta­tus to an­tibi­ot­ic al­ter­na­tive as Con­tra­Fect rush­es to join fight against su­per­bug

An experimental drug that promises to be the first anti-infective agent to prove superior to vancomycin — an antibiotic approved in 1958 — has notched the FDA’s “breakthrough” status.

ContraFect said the designation was based on Phase II data in which exebacase was tested against a superbug known as methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, or MRSA. In a subgroup analysis, the clinical responder rate at day 14 was 42.8% higher than that among those treated with standard of care, the company said (p=0.010).

Zhong Nanshan, CGTN via YouTube

Har­vard joins coro­n­avirus fight with $115 mil­lion and a high-pro­file Chi­nese part­ner

For two months, as the novel coronavirus swelled from a few early cases tied to a Wuhan market to a global epidemic, most of the world’s focus and dollars have flowed toward emergency initiatives: building vaccines at a record pace, plucking experimental antivirals out of freezers to see what sticks and immunizing mice for new antibodies.

Now a new and well-funded collaboration between Harvard and a top Chinese research institute will play the long game. In a 5-year, $115 million initiative backed by China Evergrande Group, researchers from the Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health will study the virus in an effort to develop therapies against infections by the novel coronavirus, known as SARS–CoV-2, and to prevent new ones.

No­var­tis gets a boost in block­buster mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis race with Roche

In the first step of what’s likely to be a long and uphill battle for the drugmaker, the FDA has accepted Novartis’s BLA submission for a new multiple sclerosis drug and given it priority review. The PDUFA date for the potential blockbuster drug is in June.

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Juergen Horn

An­i­mal health vet Juer­gen Horn makes new an­ti­body play for pets, rak­ing $15M in Se­ries A haul

Zoetis forked over $85 million in 2017 to acquire Nexvet Biopharma and its pipeline of monoclonal antibodies. Juergen Horn, Nexvet’s former chief product development officer, has now secured $15 million for his own biologic company for animals: Invetx.

Buoyed by emerging advances in gene therapies for humans, scientists have started looking at harnessing the technology for animals setting up companies such as Penn-partnered Scout Bio and George Church-founded Rejuvenate Bio. But akin to Nexvet, Invetx is working on leveraging the time-tested science of monoclonal antibodies to treat chronic diseases that afflict man’s best friend.

As coro­n­avirus out­break reach­es 'tip­ping point,' GSK lends ad­ju­vant tech to Chi­nese part­ner armed with pre­clin­i­cal vac­cine

As the coronavirus originating out of Wuhan spreads to South Korea, Italy and Iran, stoking already intense fears of a pandemic, GlaxoSmithKline has found another pair of trusted hands to place its adjuvant system. China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals will add the adjuvant to its preclinical, protein-based vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2.

Clover, which is based in the inland city of Chengdu, boasts of a platform dubbed Trimer-Tag that produces covalently-trimerized fusion proteins. Its candidate, COVID-19 S-Trimer, resembles the viral spike (S)-protein found in the virus.