Clene Nanomed­i­cine, re­search­ing the use of gold atoms to slow ALS pro­gres­sion, nets $42.5M Se­ries D

A bio­phar­ma that us­es gold to de­vel­op treat­ments for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases just got a lit­tle bit rich­er.

Rob Ether­ing­ton

Clene Nanomed­i­cine pulled in $42.5 mil­lion in a Se­ries D fi­nanc­ing round Wednes­day, mon­ey which will go to­ward ad­vanc­ing its lead pro­gram through a Phase III plat­form tri­al in ALS and sup­port Phase II tri­als in MS, Parkin­son’s dis­ease and ALS. CEO Rob Ether­ing­ton said that by the end of 2021, Clene will know whether or not the can­di­date, called CNM-Au8, will prove ef­fec­tive.

“It will take us to the end of all these clin­i­cal end­points,” Ether­ing­ton told End­points News. “The ex­cit­ing thing for us is that one as­set could po­ten­tial­ly be in­di­cat­ed to im­prove neu­ro­log­i­cal func­tion in MS, as well as ALS, and [though] Parkin­son’s is the slow­er pro­gram, this mon­ey is go­ing to help us launch more com­plete­ly that pro­gram.”

CNM-Au8 is a liq­uid sus­pen­sion of gold nanocrys­tals that cat­alyze in­tra­cel­lu­lar bi­o­log­i­cal re­ac­tions. Such cat­alyza­tion can lead to im­prove­ment in nerve cell sur­vival, func­tion, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Chem­i­cal­ly, the “clean sur­faces” of the nanocrys­tals help nor­mal­ize ATP pro­duc­tion in cells, which is lack­ing in se­ri­ous neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases like ALS, CMO Robert Glanz­man said.

“We’re pro­vid­ing bioen­er­gy sup­port to cells,” Glanz­man said. “There’s a rea­son why we tend to get neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases as we get old­er, and that is be­cause as we age, there’s a lin­ear loss of bioen­er­getic ca­pac­i­ty with­in neu­rons … and what we’re do­ing is ac­tu­al­ly pro­vid­ing these neu­rons and oth­er cells with free en­er­gy, es­sen­tial­ly.”

In terms of vis­i­ble symp­toms, Glanz­man added that pa­tients tak­ing CNM-Au8 will see bet­ter strength, mus­cle mass and be able to speak, breathe and swal­low more eas­i­ly over a longer pe­ri­od of time.

Clene’s Phase III study comes as it was se­lect­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the first-ever plat­form tri­al for ALS, which en­rolled its first pa­tients ear­li­er this month. The tri­al com­pares three sep­a­rate treat­ments for the dis­ease, with UCB’s zilu­coplan and Bio­haven’s verdiper­stat join­ing CNM-Au8 at Har­vard-backed Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal in test­ing 480 to­tal pa­tients.

Though de­layed from a March start due to the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, the plat­form tri­al aims to ex­pe­dite the de­vel­op­ment of ther­a­pies for a dis­ease that ad­vances rapid­ly and that has few ef­fec­tive treat­ment op­tions. On­ly rilu­zole, al­so known as Ri­lutek and OK’ed in 1995, shows any mea­sur­able ef­fect on ALS pa­tients, Ether­ing­ton said.

“Rilu­zole, which func­tion­al­ly is re­al­ly the on­ly drug that most peo­ple with ALS use, was orig­i­nal­ly ap­proved to de­lay the need for tra­cheostomies to en­cour­age breath­ing for an ex­tra cou­ple months,” Ether­ing­ton said. “But it has a very mod­est ef­fect gen­er­al­ly. It is the stan­dard of care, how­ev­er, be­cause it’s the on­ly re­al­ly marked­ly rel­e­vant drug that’s been ap­proved for ALS in this coun­try. There’s a few oth­ers but most of them do very lit­tle.”

Clene has two oth­er pro­grams in the pipeline, though nei­ther have reached the clin­ic just yet. The first is a top­i­cal gel con­tain­ing sil­ver and zinc ions, with re­searchers look­ing at burn treat­ment, ac­cel­er­at­ed wound-heal­ing and as an an­ti-in­fec­tive. There’s al­so a gold-plat­inum ther­a­peu­tic be­ing stud­ied for use in on­col­o­gy, which is still in the ini­tial in vit­ro stage.

The bot­tom line for Clene though is that find­ing a treat­ment op­tion for the ex­treme­ly dif­fi­cult ALS in­di­ca­tion be­comes clos­er to re­al­i­ty, with a po­ten­tial­ly huge im­pact on the field.

“The way you and I move and can grasp things and can talk, all this fine mo­tor move­ment we take for grant­ed,” Ether­ing­ton said. “An ALS pa­tient los­es these and this is ex­act­ly what we are study­ing.”

The Price of Re­lief: Ex­plor­ing So­lu­tions to the Ris­ing Costs of On­col­o­gy Drugs

In 2020, The National Cancer Institute estimated about 1.8 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States, while the costs associated with treatment therapies continued to escalate. Given the current legislative climate on drug pricing, it’s never been more important to look at the evolution of drug pricing globally and control concerns of sustainable and affordable treatments in oncology.

Lat­est news on Pfiz­er's $3B+ JAK1 win; Pacts over M&A at #JPM22; 2021 by the num­bers; Bio­gen's Aduhelm reck­on­ing; The sto­ry of sotro­vimab; 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.

For those of you who attended #JPM22 in any shape or form, we hope you had a fruitful time. Regardless of how you spent the past hectic week, may your weekend be just what you need it to be.

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Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, Oncology R&D

Can­cer pow­er­house As­traZeneca rolls the dice on a $75M cash bet on a buzzy up­start in the on­col­o­gy field

After establishing itself in the front ranks of cancer drug developers and marketers, AstraZeneca is putting its scientific shoulder — and a significant amount of cash — behind the wheel of a brash new upstart in the biotech world.

The pharma giant trumpeted news this morning that it is handing over $75 million upfront to ally itself with Scorpion Therapeutics, one of those biotechs that was newly birthed by some top scientific, venture and executive talent and bequeathed with a fortune by way of a bankroll to advance an only hazily explained drug platform. And they are still very much in the discovery and preclinical phase.

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A $3B+ peak sales win? Pfiz­er thinks so, as FDA of­fers a tardy green light to its JAK1 drug abroc­i­tinib

Back in the fall of 2020, newly crowned Pfizer chief Albert Bourla confidently put their JAK1 inhibitor abrocitinib at the top of the list of blockbuster drugs in the late-stage pipeline with a $3 billion-plus peak sales estimate.

Since then it’s been subjected to serious criticism for the safety warnings associated with the class, held back by a cautious FDA and questioned when researchers rolled out a top-line boast that their heavyweight contender had beaten the champ in the field of atopic dermatitis — Dupixent — in a head-to-head study.

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Robert Califf, FDA commissioner nominee (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Rob Califf ad­vances as Biden's FDA nom­i­nee, with a close com­mit­tee vote

Rob Califf’s second confirmation process as FDA commissioner is already much more difficult than his near unanimous confirmation under the Obama administration.

The Senate Health Committee on Thursday voted 13-8 in favor of advancing Califf’s nomination to a full Senate vote. Several Democrats voted against Califf, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Maggie Hassan. Several other Democrats who aren’t on the committee, like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, also said Thursday that they would not vote for Califf. Markey, Hassan and Manchin all previously expressed reservations about the prospect of Janet Woodcock as an FDA commissioner nominee too.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard)

Bio­gen vows to fight CM­S' draft cov­er­age de­ci­sion for Aduhelm be­fore April fi­nal­iza­tion

Biogen executives made clear in an investor call Thursday they are not preparing to run a new CMS-approved clinical trial for their controversial Alzheimer’s drug anytime soon.

As requested in a draft national coverage decision from CMS earlier this week, Biogen and other anti-amyloid drugs will need to show “a meaningful improvement in health outcomes” for Alzheimer’s patients in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to get paid for their drugs, rather than just the reduction in amyloid plaques that won Aduhelm its accelerated approval in June.

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CRO own­er pleads guilty to ob­struct­ing FDA in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to fal­si­fied clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta

The co-owner of a Florida-based clinical research site pleaded guilty to lying to an FDA investigator during a 2017 inspection, revealing that she falsely portrayed part of a GlaxoSmithKline pediatric asthma study as legitimate, when in fact she knew that certain data had been falsified, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Three other employees — Yvelice Villaman Bencosme, Lisett Raventos and Maytee Lledo — previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced in connection with falsifying data associated with the trial at the CRO Unlimited Medical Research.

‘Skin­ny la­bels’ on gener­ics can save pa­tients mon­ey, re­search shows, but re­cent court de­ci­sions cloud fu­ture

New research shows how generic drug companies can successfully market a limited number of approved indications for a brand name drug, prior to coming to market for all of the indications. But several recent court decisions have created a layer of uncertainty around these so-called “skinny” labels.

While courts have generally allowed generic manufacturers to use their statutorily permitted skinny-label approvals, last summer, a federal circuit court found that Teva Pharmaceuticals was liable for inducing prescribers and patients to infringe GlaxoSmithKline’s patents through advertising and marketing practices that suggested Teva’s generic, with its skinny label, could be employed for the patented uses.

A patient in Alaska receiving an antibody infusion to prevent Covid hospitalizations in September. All but one of these treatments has been rendered useless by Omicron (Rick Bowmer/AP Images)

How a tiny Swiss lab and two old blood sam­ples cre­at­ed one of the on­ly ef­fec­tive drugs against Omi­cron (and why we have so lit­tle of it)

Exactly a decade before a novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Davide Corti — a newly-minted immunologist with frameless glasses and a quick laugh — walked into a cramped lab on the top floor of an office building two hours outside Zurich. He had only enough money for two technicians and the ceiling was so low in parts that short stature was a job requirement, but Corti believed it’d be enough to test an idea he thought could change medicine.

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