CRI re­port tracks ex­plo­sive growth of cell ther­a­pies in the glob­al pipeline, as Chi­na re­searchers mus­cle to­ward the front

The Can­cer Re­search In­sti­tute is shin­ing a light on the ex­plo­sive growth of cell ther­a­pies in the clin­ic, spot­light­ing Chi­na’s vir­tu­al overnight suc­cess in grab­bing a lead role in the field. And they’re ask­ing the world’s can­cer drug de­vel­op­ment com­pa­nies to adopt a new ap­proach that will help the in­dus­try man­age a fi­nite num­ber of po­ten­tial tri­al pa­tients while point­ing re­searchers to the most like­ly av­enue for do­ing some­thing im­por­tant — rather than just frit­ter­ing away bad­ly need­ed re­sources.

The non­prof­it CRI re­cent­ly quan­ti­fied the pro­lif­er­a­tion of I/O agents in the clin­ic, cap­tur­ing our at­ten­tion with the news that 164 PD-1/L1 ther­a­pies were in the pipeline, look­ing to whit­tle away at the block­buster lead­ers from Mer­ck and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb. Now we learn from an up­date in Na­ture Re­views Drug Dis­cov­ery — penned by a team that in­cludes Jill O’Don­nell‐Tormey and Aiman Sha­l­abi — that they tracked down 753 cell ther­a­pies, with 375 in the clin­ic.

That fig­ure is up 87% in just 6 months, with 350 added to the pipeline around the world.

The tal­ly re­veals that “378 are in pre­clin­i­cal phase, 160 in phase I, 205 in phase II, 6 in phase II and 4 ap­proved (2 in the US, 1 in South Ko­rea and 1 in Italy),” re­ports the CRI. “In­ter­est­ing­ly, 404 of the 753 agents are chimeric anti­gen re­cep­tor (CAR) T cell ther­a­pies.”

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the US is in the clear lead here, with 344 pro­grams. But Chi­na is num­ber two, and catch­ing up fast, with 203. In a field where aca­d­e­m­ic cen­ters fre­quent­ly play a lead role in demon­strat­ing their po­ten­tial, 125 of Chi­na’s pro­grams — 62% — are in the hands of aca­d­e­mics.

Here’s a look at the glob­al play­ing field:

In the mean­time, it’s get­ting rapid­ly eas­i­er to get these ther­a­pies pro­duced for clin­i­cal tri­als vir­tu­al­ly any­where. “(W)ith the rapid ad­vance­ment of lo­cal cell pro­duc­tion tech­nolo­gies, such as Clin­i­MACS Prodi­gy (Mil­tenyi Biotec), Co­coon (Lon­za) and Bea­con (Berke­ley Lights), we an­tic­i­pate a low en­try hur­dle for lo­cal man­u­fac­ture of cells for in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al clin­i­cal use.”

There are 113 tar­gets on the radar in this field, with 73 in the clin­ic. CD19 rules the roost, for now, with BC­MA a grow­ing but still rel­a­tive­ly small seg­ment. Here’s a look at the top 30:

The boom­ing on­col­o­gy re­search field has de­liv­ered some im­por­tant gains in the last two years. But at this rate, the gold rush for ad­vanc­ing new drugs is spurring the CRI to out­line some bad­ly need­ed re­forms. Here are three:

  • They’re ask­ing the R&D ex­ecs here to shift more of their fo­cus to in­tro­duc­ing ge­net­ic con­structs in­to cells, rather than con­cen­trate on vi­ral vec­tors, where a pro­duc­tion bot­tle­neck has de­vel­oped.
  • Rather than squan­der the lim­it­ed ac­cess to pa­tient vol­un­teers on a mas­sive num­ber of new stud­ies, they want de­vel­op­ers to move to adap­tive tri­al de­signs that ac­com­mo­date mul­ti­ple drugs and tar­gets at once.
  • And with the big push on to ex­pand in­to sol­id tu­mors, CRI wants de­vel­op­ers to fo­cus on the most im­por­tant tar­gets not cur­rent­ly be­ing treat­ed well with ex­ist­ing drugs.

There’s no R&D czar in the world, though, that can de­mand dis­ci­pline in this field. Large play­ers have been re­sis­tant to be­ing told what to do as much as the small­er play­ers. And every­one wants to con­trol their own eco­nom­ics. The mar­ket is dri­ving the growth of the field, but it can’t triage how it grows — un­less in­vestors start hold­ing back funds in search of more com­mon sense.

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, oncology R&D, at EUBIO22 (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca jumps deep­er in­to cell ther­a­py 2.0 space with $320M biotech M&A

Right from the start, the execs at Neogene had some lofty goals in mind when they decided to try their hand at a cell therapy that could tackle solid tumors.

Its founders have helped hone a new approach that would pack in multiple neoantigen targets to create a personalized TCR treatment that would not just make the leap from blood to solid tumors, but do it with durability. And they managed to make their way rapidly to the clinic, unveiling their first Phase I program for advanced tumors just last May.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi and DN­Di aim to elim­i­nate sleep­ing sick­ness in Africa with promis­ing Ph II/III re­sults for new drug

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Sanofi today said that their potential sleeping sickness treatment saw success rates of up to 95% from a Phase II/III study investigating the safety and efficacy of single-dose acoziborole.

The potentially transformative treatment for sleeping sickness would mainly be targeted at African countries, according to data published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal. The clinical trial was led by DNDi and its partners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Guinea, with the authors noting:

Ei­sai’s ex­pand­ed Alzheimer’s da­ta leave open ques­tions about safe­ty and clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Researchers still have key questions about Eisai’s investigational Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab following the publication of more Phase III data in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday night.

In the paper, which was released in conjunction with presentations at an Alzheimer’s conference, trial investigators write that a definition of clinical meaningfulness “has not been established.” And the relative lack of new information, following topline data unveiled in September, left experts asking for more — setting up a potential showdown to precisely define how big a difference the drug makes in patients’ lives.

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Digital render of CPI's Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Glasgow, Scotland (Image: uk-cpi.com)

CPI opens the doors to a new $100M+ man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Scot­land

A manufacturing site that has received interest and investments from large pharma companies and the UK government is opening its doors in Scotland.

The manufacturer CPI (Centre for Process Innovation) has opened a new £88 million ($105 million) “Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre” in Glasgow, Scotland, to accelerate the development of manufacturing tech and solve longstanding challenges in medicine development and manufacturing.

Pro­tect­ing its megablock­buster, Janssen chal­lenges Am­gen's Ste­lara biosim­i­lar ahead of planned 2023 launch

Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen on Wednesday sued Amgen over the company’s proposed biosimilar to its megablockbuster Stelara (ustekinumab), after Amgen said it was ready to launch next May or as soon as the FDA signs off on it.

If Amgen carries through with that plan, Janssen told the Delaware district court that the Thousand Oaks, CA-based company will infringe on at least two Janssen patents.

Lex­i­con slams FDA over hear­ing de­nial fol­low­ing a CRL for its SGLT2 in­hibitor can­di­date

Lexicon Pharmaceutical is not giving up on its Type I diabetes candidate, despite FDA’s repeated rejections. This week the company laid out is argument again for a hearing on sotagliflozin in response to the FDA’s most recent denial.

The issue goes back to March 2019 when the FDA made very clear to Lexicon and its now departed partner Sanofi that it would not approve their application for a potential Type I diabetes drug because it does not appear to be safe.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

Twit­ter dis­ar­ray con­tin­ues as phar­ma ad­ver­tis­ers ex­tend paus­es and look around for op­tions, but keep tweet­ing

Pharma advertisers on Twitter are done — at least for now. Ad spending among the previous top spenders flattened even further last week, according to the latest data from ad tracker Pathmatics, amid ongoing turmoil after billionaire boss Elon Musk’s takeover now one month ago.

Among 18 top advertisers tracked for Endpoints News, only two are spending: GSK and Bayer. GSK spending for the full week through Sunday was minimal at just under $1,900. Meanwhile, German drugmaker Bayer remains the industry outlier upping its spending to $499,000 last week from $480,000 the previous week. Bayer’s spending also marks a big increase from a month ago and before the Musk takeover, when it spent $16,000 per week.

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Vi­a­tris with­draws ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for top­i­cal an­timi­cro­bial 24 years lat­er

After 24 years without confirming clinical benefit, the FDA announced Tuesday morning that Viatris (formed via Mylan and Pfizer’s Upjohn) has decided to withdraw a topical antimicrobial agent, Sulfamylon (mafenide acetate), after the company said conducting a confirmatory study was not feasible.

Sulfamylon first won FDA’s accelerated nod in 1998 as a topical burn treatment, with the FDA noting that last December, Mylan told the agency that it wasn’t running the trial.

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Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (ddp images/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech bets on dif­fi­cult STING field via small mol­e­cule pact with a Pol­ish biotech

BioNTech is beefing up its relatively thin small molecule pipeline by adding weight to a clinically difficult corner of oncology R&D: STING agonists. To do so, BioNTech is teaming up with a 15-year-old Polish biotech and doling out €40 million, about $41.5 million, to start.

The deal is broken into two parts: First, BioNTech obtains an exclusive global license to develop and market Ryvu Therapeutics’ STING agonist portfolio as small molecules, whether alone or in combination with other agents.

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