Can CBD tem­per Parkin­son's-re­lat­ed psy­chosis? UK re­searchers will look for an­swers in PhII study

Cannabid­i­ol (CBD), the cannabi­noid com­pound found in the cannabis plant, has been tried and test­ed in pa­tients with rare forms of epilep­sy, in­spir­ing the ap­proval of GW Phar­ma’s $GW­PH land­mark plant-de­rived Epid­i­olex. Its resur­gence in re­search — and its ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence in oils, creams, and gum­my bears — is on the ba­sis that it is not ad­dic­tive, like its in­tox­i­cat­ing cousin THC, and re­tains the ther­a­peu­tic po­ten­tial for a plant that was once tout­ed as a cure-all in In­dia. Re­searchers at King’s Col­lege Lon­don have been study­ing the ef­fect of CBD on psy­chosis, and on Mon­day sig­naled they are prep­ping to be­gin a large-scale Phase II tri­al in pa­tients with Parkin­son’s-re­lat­ed psy­chosis, char­ac­ter­ized by hal­lu­ci­na­tions and delu­sions.

The re­search team, led by Pro­fes­sor Sag­nik Bhat­tacharyya from the In­sti­tute of Psy­chi­a­try, Psy­chol­o­gy & Neu­ro­science, will as­sess the safe­ty and ef­fec­tive­ness of CBD by track­ing psy­chot­ic, mo­tor and non-mo­tor symp­toms, along­side brain imag­ing.

The emer­gence of dopamine D2 re­cep­tor an­tag­o­nists in the 1950s trans­formed the treat­ment of psy­chot­ic dis­or­ders — and they per­sist as one of the main tools in the treat­ment ar­se­nal for psy­chosis. How­ev­er, tra­di­tion­al an­tipsy­chotics car­ry a litany of side ef­fects and a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of pa­tients do not de­rive ad­e­quate ben­e­fit from the class of drugs.

CBD casts a wide net be­cause it acts through en­do­cannabi­noid re­cep­tors; CB1 and CB2, as well as oth­er re­cep­tors, such as GPR18, GPR55, GPR 119, 5HT1A, and TR­PV2. This sug­gests ther­a­peu­tic val­ue in a pletho­ra of con­di­tions due to its neu­ro­pro­tec­tive and im­munomod­u­la­to­ry prop­er­ties.

Pre­clin­i­cal stud­ies sug­gest CBD may have an­tipsy­chot­ic prop­er­ties, al­though cannabis use, in gen­er­al, is as­so­ci­at­ed with an in­creased risk of de­vel­op­ing psy­chosis. Bhat­tacharyya, of King’s Col­lege Lon­don, has been un­pack­ing the ev­i­dence sup­port­ing CBD’s ben­e­fit in psy­chosis pa­tients.

In a study pub­lished last year, Bhat­tacharyya et al in­ves­ti­gat­ed the neu­rocog­ni­tive mech­a­nisms that un­der­lie the pur­port­ed ther­a­peu­tic ef­fects of CBD in psy­chosis in a small place­bo-con­trolled tri­al (n=16 par­tic­i­pants with a clin­i­cal high risk (CHR) of psy­chosis re­ceived a sin­gle oral dose of 600 mg of CBD; n=17 such par­tic­i­pants re­ceived a place­bo, and n=19 con­trol par­tic­i­pants were not giv­en any drug). Each par­tic­i­pant was then stud­ied us­ing func­tion­al mag­net­ic res­o­nance imag­ing while per­form­ing a ver­bal learn­ing task. The re­searchers found that CBD could par­tial­ly nor­mal­ize al­ter­ations in parahip­pocam­pal, stri­atal, and mid­brain func­tion as­so­ci­at­ed with the CHR state.

Now, with a $1.2 mil­lion grant from Parkin­son’s UK, Bhat­tacharyya will lead the Parkin­son’s study, sched­uled to start in ear­ly 2020. There are cur­rent­ly 145,000 peo­ple liv­ing with Parkin­son’s in the Unit­ed King­dom, and da­ta sug­gest more than half will suf­fer from psy­chosis at some point.

The tri­al will be­gin with a six-week pi­lot to as­sess the safe­ty, tol­er­a­bil­i­ty, and ef­fec­tive­ness of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal-grade CBD in pa­tients with Parkin­son’s-re­lat­ed psy­chosis.

CBD will be de­liv­ered oral­ly in cap­sules at a dose of up to 1,000 mg/day — in a bid to find an op­ti­mum dose. In the sec­ond tranche of the study, 120 pa­tients will be re­cruit­ed to a 12-week dou­ble-blind, place­bo-con­trolled study.

Re­cent­ly, there was one an­tipsy­chot­ic ap­proved for Parkin­son’s dis­ease psy­chosis, which is de­signed to work by in­ter­act­ing with 5HT2A re­cep­tors and to a less­er ex­tent 5HT2C re­cep­tors — in­stead of tar­get­ing the over­pro­duc­tion of dopamine.

Aca­dia’s $ACAD Nu­plazid was ap­proved in 2016, al­though an in­de­pen­dent pan­el to the FDA sug­gest­ed its ef­fi­ca­cy was not as ro­bust as it would have liked. It was al­so ap­proved with a black box warn­ing — which most an­tipsy­chotics car­ry — high­light­ing the high­er risk of death as­so­ci­at­ed with its use in the el­der­ly.

Nu­plazid, which gen­er­at­ed sales of about $146 mil­lion in the first half of this year, gained no­to­ri­ety af­ter a se­ries of re­ports sug­gest­ed its mak­er had mis­rep­re­sent­ed the dan­gers of us­ing the drug and em­ployed ques­tion­able tac­tics to mar­ket it, prompt­ing an FDA re­view, which even­tu­al­ly reaf­firmed the drug’s safe­ty pro­file.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.

FDA de­lays de­ci­sion on No­var­tis’ po­ten­tial block­buster MS drug, wip­ing away pri­or­i­ty re­view

So much for a speedy review.

In February, Novartis announced that an application for their much-touted multiple sclerosis drug ofatumumab had been accepted and, with the drug company cashing in on one of their priority review vouchers, the agency was due for a decision by June.

But with June less than 48 hours old, Novartis announced the agency has extended their review, pushing back the timeline for approval or rejection to September. The Swiss pharma filed the application in December, meaning their new schedule will be nearly in line with the standard 10-month window period had they not used the priority voucher.

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A low-pro­file biotech bests Re­gen­eron in high-pro­file patent suit

For nearly a decade now, the low-profile Cambridge biotech Kymab has been battling in US, UK, Japanese and Australian courts with the biotech behemoth Regeneron.

Regeneron has turned itself into a $70 billion company off of a platform of transgenically humanized mice they can use to make antibodies for anything from Ebola to colorectal cancer. The technology took decades and billions to build, 20 years from the company’s founding to the first approved drug. And the company guards and touts it zealously, breaking their production process down into various branded components — Velocimmune, Velocigene, Velocimouse and four other Velocis — and sometimes suing would-be copycats. In 2014, most notably, they sued two Pfizer-backed entities for patent infringement.

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Covid-19 roundup: BAR­DA sup­ports Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed with big $628M con­tract to ser­vice Amer­i­ca's vac­cine pro­duc­tion needs

Another BARDA contract designed to service America’s Covid-19 vaccine needs has been deployed.

The White House-led initiative designed to bankroll development to bring a vaccine to the American public by this fall — Operation Warp Speed — has via BARDA handed a meaty contract to the maker of an FDA-licensed anthrax vaccine to open up its manufacturing apparatus to shore up production of Covid-19 vaccines.

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Bull­ish biotech mar­ket pro­pels Pli­ant to $144M IPO — as No­var­tis pro­vides a $10M boost

After pharma partner Novartis boosted its IPO with a $10 million private placement, Pliant Therapeutics has wrapped its journey to the Nasdaq on a high note.

Pliant had penciled in a $86 million raise back in May. But as has become the norm in recent months, that initial number has turned out to be a mere placeholder, making way for the final haul of $144 million.

The South San Francisco biotech did so by pricing at $16, the high end of the range, while bringing the number of shares offered up to 9 million.

Cameron Durrant, Humanigen CEO (Columbia University Technology Ventures via YouTube)

Cameron Dur­rant hus­tled his way from the OTC side­lines right in­to the Covid-19 drug race. Death or glo­ry lies straight ahead

Over the past few months, Covid-19 has gone from being a monolithic threat to one of the biggest overnight boons the biopharma industry has ever seen. And amid all the furor over Moderna’s swelling stock price, plenty of chatter over what new drugs and vaccines will cost and investors’ uninhibited zeal for all things related to pandemic products, it’s been one little biotech’s golden ticket back from the land of the living dead.

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