Bil­lion­aire-backed Chi-Med de­clares PhI­II suc­cess for pi­o­neer­ing can­cer drug in Chi­na, seek­ing quick OK

Chris­t­ian Hogg

Hutchi­son Chi­na MediTech has turned an im­por­tant cor­ner, scor­ing pos­i­tive over­all sur­vival and pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival in a Phase III study of fruquin­tinib, its lead on­col­o­gy drug, in colon can­cer. The top-line suc­cess — da­ta will come out this sum­mer at AS­CO — puts Chi-Med on a di­rect path with its part­ners at Eli Lil­ly to an NDA fil­ing with Chi­nese reg­u­la­tors in a few months.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­cruit­ed 416 pa­tients with lo­cal­ly ad­vanced or metasta­t­ic colon can­cer who had failed at least two chemother­a­pies for this study. The pa­tients were then divvied be­tween the drug arm and a group treat­ed with place­bo plus best stan­dard of care.

“It’s a re­mark­ably se­lec­tive VEG­FR in­hibitor,” Chi-Med CEO Chris­t­ian Hogg tells me. “We’ve al­ways had con­fi­dence in shut­ting down that tar­get…We have al­ways been su­per con­fi­dent that fruquin­tinib is as clean as you’re go­ing to get.”

Chi-Med’s stock $HCM surged 11% on the news.

Hogg start­ed out as CEO of the com­pa­ny when it launched 17 years ago. He was the first staffer and fruquin­tinib came out of its labs with the back­ing of bil­lion­aire Li Ka-shing. Now Chi-Med, domi­ciled in Hong Kong for tax rea­sons, list­ed in Lon­don and on Nas­daq (with a $1.55 bil­lion mar­ket cap}, has 330 sci­en­tists and staff in Shang­hai. And, if the da­ta hold up, Hogg ex­pects Chi­nese reg­u­la­tors could well come through with an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval.

“There has nev­er been a main­stream on­col­o­gy drug — I’m talk­ing syn­thet­ic med­i­cine, small mol­e­cules or an­ti­bod­ies — but nev­er a main­stream on­col­o­gy drug cre­at­ed in Chi­na by a Chi­nese com­pa­ny tak­en to a pos­i­tive read­out,” he tells me in a phone in­ter­view from his of­fice in Shang­hai.

And he doesn’t plan for it to be the last. While Chi-Med is set­ting up a bridg­ing study in the US for fruquin­tinib, re­searchers are ad­vanc­ing a late-stage pro­gram for non-small cell lung can­cer. Out­side of Chi­na, Hogg ex­pects to fo­cus con­sid­er­ably on com­bi­na­tion stud­ies for his lead drug.

Chi-Med has eight drugs in 30 clin­i­cal stud­ies around the world, says the CEO, with a fol­low-up pro­gram that could pro­vide piv­otal da­ta fair­ly soon for savoli­tinib, part­nered with As­traZeneca. That in­cludes four Phase III stud­ies now un­der­way and 4 more get­ting ready to launch.

Eli Lil­ly has played a key role, ink­ing an $86.5 mil­lion deal in 2013 for fruquin­tinib and pay­ing 70% of the clin­i­cal tri­al costs. Lil­ly has com­mer­cial­iza­tion rights in Chi­na, and has win­dows com­ing up that could al­low it to grab an op­tion on glob­al rights.

Chi­na, says Hogg, has 30% of the world’s can­cer pa­tients and is set to be­come the world’s sec­ond largest phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals mar­ket. And reg­u­la­tors, he says, are keen to ad­vance new drugs in­to the mar­ket.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” says Hogg. “It will on­ly get big­ger and bet­ter.”

Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

UP­DAT­ED: Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time Monday morning the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation of a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month. In a followup call, Dunsire also noted that the company will likely need 200 to 250 reps for this marketing task on both sides of the Atlantic. And analysts were quick to note that the dealmaking at Lundbeck isn’t done, with another $2 billion to $3 billion available for more deals to beef up the pipeline.

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Tower Bridge in London [Shutterstock]

#UK­BIO19: Join GSK’s Hal Bar­ron and a group of top biotech ex­ecs for our 2nd an­nu­al biotech sum­mit in Lon­don

Over the past 10 years I’ve made a point of getting to know the Golden Triangle and the special role the UK biopharma industry plays there in drug development. The concentration of world class research institutes, some of the most accomplished scientists I’ve ever seen at work and a rising tide of global investment cash leaves an impression that there’s much, much more to come as biotech hubs are birthed and nurtured.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Ac­celeron drops a de­vel­op­ment pro­gram as #2 drug fails to spark func­tion­al ben­e­fits in pa­tients with a rare neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ail­ment

Acceleron is scrapping a muscular dystrophy development program underway for its number 2 drug in the pipeline after pouring over some failed mid-stage secondary data.

Gone is the ACE-083 project in patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Their drug hit the primary endpoint on building muscle but flopped on key secondaries for functional improvements in patients, which execs felt was vital to the drug’s success.

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb has a new board po­si­tion to add to the re­sume — and this one is fo­cused on a fa­vorite sub­ject

Scott Gottlieb has another position to add to his lengthy roster of boards and advisory roles in the wake of his departure from the helm of the FDA.

He’ll be joining the advisory board of FasterCures, a think tank which former junk bond king Michael Milken set up to help drive more drugs to the market, looking to accelerate drug R&D. That’s a subject close to the heart of Gottlieb, who blazed a trail at the FDA focused on hustling up the process. That helped endear him to the industry, making him one of the most popular commissioners in FDA history.

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Karyopharm lines up $150 mil­lion cash in­jec­tion to back con­tro­ver­sial drug launch

Karyopharm has entered into a royalty agreement worth up to $150 million to back the launch of their multiple myeloma drug — recently approved by the FDA over the objections of a majority of the agency’s outside experts.

The deal with HealthCare Royalty Partners, worth $75 million now and $75 million once certain regulatory and commercial milestones have been reached, will fund the commercialization of Karyopharm’s oral SINE compound Xpovio (selinexor) for patients with multiple myeloma who have already had at least four prior therapies. The money will help Karyopharm as it markets its newly approved drug and pushes through clinical trials testing the drug on refractory multiple myeloma patients with one to three therapies and patients with treatment-resistant diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. It will give Karyopharm a cushion through mid-2021.

Af­ter a run of CT­LA-4 com­bo fail­ures, sci­en­tists spot­light a way to make it work — in se­lect pa­tients

CTLA-4/PD-(L)1 combinations have been one of the El Dorados of oncology, its promise forever behind that next hill but apparently unattainable after a series of pivotal clinical failures. But researchers at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Technical University of Munich think they may know how to fix what’s wrong and boost the drive to next-gen cancer combos.

In a preclinical animal research program, researchers found that within a cell, checkpoints rely on a specific molecule — RNA-sensing molecule RIG-I — to work. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it has already been identified as a target for boosting immune responses and was subject to at least one Phase I/II trial. Pfizer in December allied itself with Kineta with $15 million upfront and $505 million in potential milestones to develop RIG-I immunotherapies, and three years ago Merck purchased German upstart Rigontec for $137 million upfront and over $400 million in potential milestones for the same purpose.

Pur­due Phar­ma files for bank­rupt­cy as first step in $10B opi­oid set­tle­ment

It’s settled. Purdue Pharma has filed for bankruptcy as part of a deal that would see the OxyContin maker hand over $10 billion in cash and other contributions to mitigate the opioid crisis — without acknowledging any wrongdoing in the protracted epidemic that’s resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The announcement came two weeks after news of a proposed settlement surfaced and largely confirm what’s already been reported.

Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.