Covid-19 roundup: Till­man Gern­gross inks deal to bring an­ti­body can­di­date to In­dia; At FDA's re­quest, mR­NA vac­cine mak­ers will ex­pand tri­als for chil­dren ages 5-11

A week af­ter it was re­port­ed that In­dia’s Covid-19 death toll could be in the mil­lions, an­ti­body leg­end Till­man Gern­gross has inked a deal to de­vel­op Ada­gio’s lead can­di­date for the treat­ment and pre­ven­tion of the virus in south­ern Asia.

Ada­gio is join­ing hands with Bio­con Bi­o­log­ics to man­u­fac­ture and com­mer­cial­ize a treat­ment based on ADG20 in In­dia and “se­lect emerg­ing mar­kets,” the com­pa­nies an­nounced on Mon­day. Un­der the agree­ment, Ada­gio will pro­vide Bio­con with ma­te­ri­als and know-how to make the ther­a­py, in­clud­ing da­ta from on­go­ing Phase II/III tri­als and (if all goes well) ac­cess to its po­ten­tial EUA pack­age.

The fi­nan­cial terms of the deal weren’t dis­closed.

Till­man Gern­gross

ADG20 is cur­rent­ly in two Phase II/III tri­als: one for the treat­ment of non-hos­pi­tal­ized Covid pa­tients, and one for the pre­ven­tion of Covid-19. Back in May, Ada­gio of­fered a first peek at ear­ly Phase I da­ta, which sug­gest­ed a sin­gle dose of­fered broad­ly neu­tral­iz­ing ac­tiv­i­ty com­pa­ra­ble to peak titers re­port­ed from the mR­NA vac­cines.

“As a com­pa­ny, it is our be­lief that the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in­dus­try has a hu­man­i­tar­i­an re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to serve pa­tients who are in need,” Ki­ran Mazum­dar-Shaw, ex­ec­u­tive chair­per­son at Bio­con, said in a state­ment. “We had looked at dozens of po­ten­tial mol­e­cules, and up­on re­view­ing the ADG20 da­ta, we were con­vinced this was a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed an­ti­body with the po­ten­tial to ad­dress not on­ly to­day’s virus and vari­ants, but fu­ture SARS-like virus­es as well.”

Ki­ran Mazum­dar-Shaw

In April, Ada­gio snagged $336 mil­lion as part of a Se­ries C round led by RA Cap­i­tal to ad­vance the an­ti­body through the STAMP tri­al for the treat­ment of high-risk, mild to mod­er­ate Covid pa­tients.

“Im­por­tant­ly, Bio­con’s ex­ten­sive man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties will en­able large scale pro­duc­tion, mak­ing this po­ten­tial­ly life-sav­ing drug broad­ly avail­able to mil­lions of peo­ple who oth­er­wise would not have ac­cess to this type of ther­a­py,” Gern­gross said. — Nicole De­Feud­is 

At FDA’s re­quest, mR­NA vac­cine mak­ers will ex­pand tri­als for chil­dren ages 5-11

In an ef­fort to track rare side ef­fects, Pfiz­er-BioN­Tech and Mod­er­na will ex­pand clin­i­cal tri­als for chil­dren to as young as 5 years old, the New York Times re­port­ed Mon­day.

The mea­sure is to de­tect side ef­fects such as heart in­flam­ma­tion prob­lems that ap­pear in vac­ci­nat­ed peo­ple un­der 30. There’s not yet a time­line for when pe­di­atric vac­cines will be­come avail­able, though at a meet­ing in Ohio last week, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden promised that emer­gency au­tho­riza­tion is com­ing soon.

Both com­pa­nies have been in­struct­ed by the FDA that the pe­di­atric stud­ies are not big enough nor broad enough to de­tect rare side ef­fects, in­clud­ing my­ocardi­tis and peri­cardi­tis, the in­flam­ma­tion of the heart mus­cle or the lin­ing around the heart.

The push comes as schools around the coun­try are set to open in the next two months.

An­oth­er 3,000 chil­dren be­tween the ages of 5 and 11 years old will join the tri­al at the FDA’s re­quest. Mod­er­na start­ed re­cruit­ing pa­tients in March, while the Times says that Pfiz­er is on a faster timetable than Mod­er­na and could be able to meet the FDA’s re­quest and still file for emer­gency use au­tho­riza­tion in chil­dren by the end of Sep­tem­ber. Pfiz­er has pre­vi­ous­ly said that it ex­pects to have re­sults for the youngest age group — 6 months to 2 years old — by Oc­to­ber or No­vem­ber. — Josh Sul­li­van

For a look at all End­points News coro­n­avirus sto­ries, check out our spe­cial news chan­nel.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

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Work taking place in the clean rooms at Vor (Credit: Vor)

Vor Bio opts to keep man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in-house for de­vel­op­ing stem cell, CAR-T ther­a­pies

While it is not uncommon for a biotech to go down the route of having the product manufactured by a contract organization, one small biotech is looking to keep its card close to its chest.

Vor Biopharma has started manufacturing operations at an in-house facility at its HQ in Cambridge, MA after beginning construction last summer.

According to the biotech, the facility aims to develop Vor’s hematopoietic stem cells (eHSCs) and CAR-T therapies for patients with blood cancers. The site will initially manufacture a clinical supply of its candidate VCAR33allo to support its IND, which is slated to be submitted in the first half of next year. It also plans to transfer the production of VOR33 to the facility. Vor is getting to work quickly as engineering runs for VCAR33allo has started this week.

Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Marcelo Bigal, Ventus Therapeutics CEO

No­vo Nordisk joins No­var­tis, Roche in NL­RP3 are­na, bet­ting $70M cash on NASH, car­diometa­bol­ic us­es

As a drug target, the NLRP3 inflammasome has drawn serious interest from Big Pharma, inspiring a series of M&A deals from Novartis and Roche on top of venture investments by others. Now Novo Nordisk is jumping on the bandwagon — and the Danish pharma giant is taking the target where it knows best.

Novo Nordisk is getting its NLRP3 inhibitors from Ventus Therapeutics, a Versant-backed startup that set out to make some of the best NLRP3 drugs out there by incorporating new insights into the structure of the target complex.

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Aim­ing for fourth nod, Sarep­ta files an­oth­er DMD gene ther­a­py to FDA; Ax­some head­ed to­ward mi­graine re­sub­mis­sion

Sarepta Therapeutics has filed the data needed for an FDA accelerated approval, which would be the biotech’s fourth if granted by the agency.

The biotech has yet to complete confirmatory trials for those first three conditional nods. The filing for its fourth Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment, disclosed Thursday, is not a surprise. Sarepta said in late-July it would do so after releasing positive results for the Roche-partnered gene therapy.