Roger Tung, Concert Pharmaceuticals CEO (Concert)

Con­cert gets BTD for alope­cia drug, set­ting up a late-stage show­down with gi­ant ri­val Pfiz­er

Con­cert Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals’ path to de­vel­op­ing a drug that treats alope­cia area­ta has been bumpy, but the phar­ma com­pa­ny scored a win Wednes­day.

The FDA grant­ed Con­cert a Break­through Ther­a­py Des­ig­na­tion (BTD) for its oral Janus ki­nase in­hibitor, named CTP-543, paving the way for a Phase III study of the drug to be­gin in the fourth quar­ter of 2020. The news fol­lows pos­i­tive Phase II re­sults from last Sep­tem­ber, which saw the drug meet its pri­ma­ry end­point in both 8 mg and 12 mg twice-dai­ly dos­es.

The news spurred a 14% spike in the biotech’s share $CNCE price.

There are cur­rent­ly no drugs on the mar­ket to treat alope­cia area­ta and Con­cert, whose drug blocks JAK1 and JAK2, has been com­pet­ing with Pfiz­er to see who can reach shelves first. CTP-543 is go­ing up against PF-06651600, which in­hibits JAK3, and PF-06700841, which tar­gets TYK2 and JAK1.

Though the FDA has of­fi­cial­ly en­dorsed CTP-543’s po­ten­tial with the BTD, the drug’s suc­cess is far from guar­an­teed.

JAK in­hibitors, which can al­so be used to treat rheuma­toid arthri­tis and ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis, have come un­der heavy scruti­ny in re­cent years. Both the FDA and EMA have slapped warn­ings on and re­strict­ed larg­er dos­es of such in­hibitors made by Pfiz­er (Xel­janz) and Ab­b­Vie (Rin­voq) af­ter ob­serv­ing high­er rates of blood clots and death. Pfiz­er end­ed up drop­ping its high­er-dose treat­ment of Xel­janz al­to­geth­er, and Eli Lil­ly avoid­ed sell­ing high dos­es of its Olu­mi­ant drug as it be­came avail­able.

Con­cert it­self ran in­to some trou­ble a few years ago when the FDA placed a clin­i­cal hold on the Phase IIa study for CTP-543, even though the agency did not men­tion safe­ty con­cerns in its no­tice. Af­ter quick­ly fix­ing the is­sue, the Phase IIa study was com­plet­ed in late 2018, but showed Con­cert’s in­hibitors, de­spite hit­ting their main goals, did not stim­u­late hair growth as quick­ly as Pfiz­er’s in da­ta re­leased in late 2018. The fi­nal da­ta, re­leased the next year, showed the drug to be more com­pet­i­tive and sug­gest­ed it might even out­per­form Pfiz­er.

Pfiz­er is al­so re­search­ing JAK in­hibitors in teens and young adults, test­ing their ef­fi­ca­cy in treat­ments for atopic der­mati­tis. Al­though these stud­ies hit their pri­ma­ry goals, they too re­port­ed high­er rates of side ef­fects than the place­bo.

Alope­cia area­ta is an au­toim­mune dis­ease that af­fects around 700,000 peo­ple in the Unit­ed States. The dis­ease tricks the im­mune sys­tem in­to at­tack­ing a body’s own hair fol­li­cles, re­sult­ing in par­tial or com­plete loss of hair. Though the scalp is the most com­mon­ly af­fect­ed area, hair loss can oc­cur on any part of the body.

Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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Sean Nolan and RA Session II

Less than 3 months af­ter launch, the AveX­is crew’s Taysha rais­es $95M Se­ries B. Is an IPO next?

The old AveXis team is moving quickly in Dallas.

Three months ago, they launched Taysha with $30 million in Series A funding and a pipeline of gene therapies out of UT Southwestern. Now, they’ve announced an oversubscribed $95 million Series B. And the biotech is declining all interview requests on the news, the kind of broad silence that can indicate an IPO is in the pipeline.

Biotechs, including those relatively fresh off launch, have been going public at a frenzy since the pandemic began. Investors have showed a willingness to put upwards of $200 million to companies that have yet to bring a drug into the clinic. Still, if Taysha were to go public in the near future, it would be perhaps the shortest path from launch to IPO in recent biotech memory.

UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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RA, No­var­tis back Gen­tiBio's seed round, plans to launch de­vel­op­ment of En­gTreg ther­a­pies

Boston, MA-based startup GentiBio landed a $20 million seed fund from three investors to dive into engineered regulatory T cell (EngTreg) development.

Marquee investors OrbiMed, Novartis Venture Fund and RA Capital Management have backed GentiBio’s mission to develop EngTregs for the treatment of autoimmune, alloimmune, autoinflammatory, and allergic diseases. Unlike other companies studying treatments using a patient’s own Tregs, GentiBio plans to make use of CD4+ immune cells, found in the blood.

Paul Laikind, ViaCyte CEO

Stem cell play­er Vi­a­Cyte ex­pands col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gore to de­vel­op sub­cu­ta­neous di­a­betes treat­ment

Longtime stem cell player ViaCyte has teamed up with a materials science company in an effort to solve immunosuppression challenges and advance its type 1 diabetes treatments.

Expanding on an existing collaboration, ViaCyte and W.L. Gore have agreed to combine the biotech’s PEC-Encap candidate with a Gore-produced membrane in what they hope will eliminate the need for immunosuppressive drugs. Such treatments have created foreign body responses in the past, and stamping these reactions out is the main goal, ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind said.

My­ovant lands a fresh $200M loan as FDA mar­ket­ing de­ci­sion looms; Amarin goes it alone in Eu­rope

Myovant is getting ready to roll out its commercial operations to back relugolix, now under FDA review for prostate cancer.

The startup has added a fresh $200 million in support from Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, which controls a majority of the stock $MYOV. Sumitomo is handing the cash over as a loan, bringing its total to $600 million. Myovant — which is gearing up for a showdown with AbbVie — has also filed an NDA to sell relugolix for uterine fibroids and recently posted positive late-stage data for endometriosis.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Mod­er­na CEO Stéphane Ban­cel out­lines a prospec­tive moth­er­lode of Covid-19 vac­cine rev­enue — will a back­lash fol­low?

Moderna shows no sign of slowing down, or turning charitable when it comes to pricing supplies of its Covid-19 vaccine.

One of the leaders in the Phase III race to get a Covid-19 vaccine across the finish line in record time, Moderna says it’s on track to complete enrollment in one of the most avidly watched studies in the world next month. And the biotech has already banked some $400 million in deposits for vaccine supply as it works through negotiations with countries around the world — as CEO Stéphane Bancel sets out to hire a commercial team.

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J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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Covid-19 roundup: J&J and BAR­DA agree to $1 bil­lion for 100 mil­lion dos­es; Plas­ma re­duces mor­tal­i­ty by 50% — re­ports

J&J has become the latest vaccine developer to agree to supply BARDA with doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, signing an agreement that will give the government 100 million doses in exchange for $1 billion in funding.

The agreement, similar to those signed by Novavax, Sanofi and AstraZeneca-Oxford, provides funding not only for individual doses but to help J&J ramp up manufacturing. Pfizer, by contrast, received $1.95 billion for the doses alone. Still, if one looked at each agreement as purchase amounts, J&J’s deal would be $10 per dose, slotting in between Novavax’s $16 per dose and AstraZeneca’s $4 per dose.

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