EMA and FDA his­tor­i­cal­ly agree on just about every new drug ap­proval, but is that slow­ly chang­ing?

The EMA and FDA con­cur more than 90% of the time in their de­ci­sions to ap­prove new drugs, ac­cord­ing to a new study from EMA and FDA of­fi­cials that looked at 107 ap­pli­ca­tions from 2014 to 2016.

In just eight of the 107 ap­pli­ca­tions, the FDA ini­tial­ly de­clined to ap­prove a new drug or bi­o­log­ic while the EMA ap­proved it, al­though in all eight of those cas­es, the FDA end­ed up ap­prov­ing that drug or bi­o­log­ic. And in one case (Take­da’s Nin­laro (ix­a­zomib) for mul­ti­ple myelo­ma), the FDA ap­proved the treat­ment and the EMA ini­tial­ly did not, but lat­er did.

“Over­all, tak­ing ac­count of the re­sub­mit­ted and re­ex­am­ined ap­pli­ca­tions, the EMA and the FDA had fi­nal dis­cor­dant mar­ket­ing au­tho­riza­tion de­ci­sions for two drugs: cori­fol­litropin al­fa and ataluren,” the study notes, as both were ap­proved by the EMA and not the FDA.

More re­cent­ly, how­ev­er, the EMA’s Com­mit­tee for Med­i­c­i­nal Prod­ucts for Hu­man Use (CHMP) adopt­ed neg­a­tive opin­ions for two drugs in 2018 that were ap­proved by FDA in 2017, and one sick­le cell drug in 2019 that was al­so pre­vi­ous­ly ap­proved by FDA. In ad­di­tion, CHMP raised ques­tions about Mit­subishi Tan­abe Phar­ma’s treat­ment for amy­otroph­ic lat­er­al scle­ro­sis, which with­drew its ap­pli­ca­tion this year, and which was ap­proved by FDA in 2017.

“Di­ver­gence in ap­proval de­ci­sions, type of ap­proval, and ap­proved in­di­ca­tion were pri­mar­i­ly due to dif­fer­ences in agen­cies’ con­clu­sions about ef­fi­ca­cy based on re­view of the same da­ta or dif­fer­ing clin­i­cal da­ta sub­mit­ted to sup­port the ap­pli­ca­tion,” the study pub­lished in Clin­i­cal Phar­ma­col­o­gy & Ther­a­peu­tics found.

In the more re­cent case of the sick­le cell drug, the FDA said its ap­proval was based on a tri­al show­ing that pa­tients treat­ed with En­dari (glu­t­a­mine) ex­pe­ri­enced few­er hos­pi­tal vis­its for sick­le cell crises, on av­er­age, when com­pared to place­bo. But the EMA’s CHMP said it “con­sid­ered that the main study did not show that [glu­t­a­mine] was ef­fec­tive at re­duc­ing the num­ber of sick­le cell crises or hos­pi­tal vis­its.”

The study al­so notes how the FDA more com­mon­ly grant­ed ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­provals (12/25 in on­col­o­gy and 5/8 in hema­tol­ogy) than the EMA grant­ed con­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing au­tho­riza­tion or au­tho­riza­tion un­der ex­cep­tion­al cir­cum­stances (7/25 in on­col­o­gy and 2/8 in hema­tol­ogy).

But sub­mis­sions in these ar­eas of­ten oc­curred lat­er to the EMA than the FDA, and of­ten in­clud­ed ad­di­tion­al clin­i­cal tri­als or more ma­ture da­ta from the same clin­i­cal tri­al than were sub­mit­ted to the FDA. “In those in­stances, the EMA was more like­ly than the FDA to grant stan­dard ap­proval (where­as the FDA is­sued ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval) or a broad­er in­di­ca­tion,” the study said.

The study al­so found the EMA had a high­er rate of first-cy­cle ap­provals than the FDA, and the re­searchers “ob­served re­mark­able sim­i­lar­i­ty in the ba­sic sci­en­tif­ic and da­ta in­ter­pre­ta­tion is­sues raised by the FDA and the EMA dur­ing re­views of the same ap­pli­ca­tions. Specif­i­cal­ly, most of the FDA’s sec­ond cy­cle ap­provals (i.e., ap­provals af­ter re­sub­mis­sion of the ap­pli­ca­tions) were based on sub­mis­sion by the spon­sor of the same ad­di­tion­al da­ta that EMA had re­ceived dur­ing its ini­tial re­view ei­ther from the start or fol­low­ing re­quest af­ter clock‐stops.”

In their dis­cus­sion of the re­sults, the study au­thors al­so note the study’s lim­i­ta­tions, such as on­ly us­ing two years’ worth of da­ta. But over­all, the two agen­cies are com­mu­ni­cat­ing and work­ing to­geth­er more close­ly than in years past.

“The high rate of con­ver­gence in the au­tho­ri­sa­tion of new med­i­cines at EMA and the FDA is the re­sult of ex­pand­ed in­vest­ment in di­a­logue and co­op­er­a­tion since 2003 and has fos­tered align­ment be­tween the EU and the US with re­spect to de­ci­sions on mar­ket­ing au­tho­ri­sa­tions, while both agen­cies eval­u­ate ap­pli­ca­tions in­de­pen­dent­ly of each oth­er,” said Zaide Frias, head of the EMA’s hu­man med­i­cines eval­u­a­tion di­vi­sion.

So­cial im­age: Shut­ter­stock, AP


RAPS: First pub­lished in Reg­u­la­to­ry Fo­cus™ by the Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs Pro­fes­sion­als So­ci­ety, the largest glob­al or­ga­ni­za­tion of and for those in­volved with the reg­u­la­tion of health­care prod­ucts. Click here for more in­for­ma­tion.

ZS Per­spec­tive: 3 Pre­dic­tions on the Fu­ture of Cell & Gene Ther­a­pies

The field of cell and gene therapies (C&GTs) has seen a renaissance, with first generation commercial therapies such as Kymriah, Yescarta, and Luxturna laying the groundwork for an incoming wave of potentially transformative C&GTs that aim to address diverse disease areas. With this renaissance comes several potential opportunities, of which we discuss three predictions below.

Allogenic Natural Killer (NK) Cells have the potential to displace current Cell Therapies in oncology if proven durable.

Despite being early in development, Allogenic NKs are proving to be an attractive new treatment paradigm in oncology. The question of durability of response with allogenic therapies is still an unknown. Fate Therapeutics’ recent phase 1 data for FT516 showed relatively quicker relapses vs already approved autologous CAR-Ts. However, other manufacturers, like Allogene for their allogenic CAR-T therapy ALLO-501A, are exploring novel lymphodepletion approaches to improve persistence of allogenic cells. Nevertheless, allogenic NKs demonstrate a strong value proposition relative to their T cell counterparts due to comparable response rates (so far) combined with the added advantage of a significantly safer AE profile. Specifically, little to no risk of graft versus host disease (GvHD), cytotoxic release syndrome (CRS), and neurotoxicity (NT) have been seen so far with allogenic NK cells (Fig. 1). In addition, being able to harness an allogenic cell source gives way to operational advantages as “off-the-shelf” products provide improved turnaround time (TAT), scalability, and potentially reduced cost. NKs are currently in development for a variety of overlapping hematological indications with chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-Ts) today, and the question remains to what extent they will disrupt the current cell therapy landscape. Click for more details.

Graphic: Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

What kind of biotech start­up wins a $3B syn­di­cate, woos a gallery of mar­quee sci­en­tists and re­cruits GSK's Hal Bar­ron as CEO in a stun­ner? Let Rick Klaus­ner ex­plain

It started with a question about a lifetime’s dream on a walk with tech investor Yuri Milner.

At the beginning of the great pandemic, former NCI chief and inveterate biotech entrepreneur Rick Klausner and the Facebook billionaire would traipse Los Altos Hills in Silicon Valley Saturday mornings and talk about ideas.

Milner’s question on one of those mornings on foot: “What do you want to do?”

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Executive Director of the EMA Emer Cooke (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment signs off on strength­en­ing drug reg­u­la­tor's abil­i­ty to tack­le short­ages

The European Parliament on Thursday endorsed a plan to increase the powers of the European Medicines Agency, which will be better equipped to monitor and mitigate shortages of drugs and medical devices.

By a vote of 655 to 31, parliament signed off on a provisional agreement reached with the European Council from last October, in which the EMA will create two shortage steering groups (one for drugs, the other for devices), a new European Shortages Monitoring Platform to facilitate data collection and increase transparency, and on funding for the work of the steering groups, task force, working parties and expert panels that are to be established.

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FDA+ roundup: FDA's neu­ro­science deputy de­parts amid on­go­ing Aduhelm in­ves­ti­ga­tions; Califf on the ropes?

Amid increased scrutiny into the close ties between FDA and Biogen prior to the controversial accelerated approval of Aduhelm, the deputy director of the FDA’s office of neuroscience has called it quits after more than two decades at the agency.

Eric Bastings will now take over as VP of development strategy at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, the company said Wednesday, where he will provide senior clinical and regulatory leadership in support of Ionis’ pipeline.

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Hal Barron, Endpoints UKBIO20 (Jeff Rumans)

'Al­tos was re­al­ly a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­ni­ty': Hal Bar­ron re­flects on his big move

By all accounts, Hal Barron had one of the best jobs in Big Pharma R&D. He made more than $11 million in 2020, once again reaping more than his boss, Emma Walmsley, who always championed him at every opportunity. And he oversaw a global R&D effort that struck a variety of big-dollar deals for oncology, neurodegeneration and more.

Sure, the critics never let up about what they saw as a rather uninspiring late-stage pipeline, where the rubber hits the road in the Big Pharma world’s hunt for the next big near-term blockbuster, but the in-house reviews were stellar. And Barron was firmly focused on bringing up the success rate in clinical trials, holding out for the big rewards of moving the dial from an average 10% success rate to 20%.

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Troy Wilson, Kura CEO

FDA lifts par­tial hold on Ku­ra's Phase Ib AML pro­gram as biotech re­dou­bles mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts

Kura Oncology is clear to resume studies for its early-stage leukemia program after the FDA lifted a clinical hold Thursday afternoon.

Regulators had placed the hold on a Phase Ib study of KO-539, an experimental oral treatment for some genetic subsets of acute myeloid leukemia last November after a patient died while taking the drug. Kura expects to begin enrolling patients again imminently, CEO Troy Wilson told Endpoints News.

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

Califf on ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­provals: Com­pa­nies need to do more work be­fore FDA says OK

As he awaits a tight Senate vote, Rob Califf, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next FDA commissioner, is signaling where the agency may move on accelerated approvals if he takes over at FDA.

Building off comments from his Senate confirmation hearing, in which Califf said that he’s “a fan of accelerated approval” but the US needs a better system to evaluate these drugs once they’re on the market, the nominee raised questions about how well the current structure serves patients.

Sec­ondary patents prove to be key in biosim­i­lar block­ing strate­gies, re­searchers find

While the US biosimilars industry has generally been a disappointment since its inception, with FDA approving 33 biosimilars since 2015, just a fraction of those have immediately followed their approvals with launches. And more than a handful of biosimilars for two of the biggest blockbusters of all time — AbbVie’s Humira and Amgen’s Enbrel — remain approved by FDA but still have not launched because of legal settlements.

Hal Barron (GSK via YouTube)

GSK R&D chief Hal Bar­ron jumps ship to run a $3B biotech start­up, Tony Wood tapped to re­place him

In a stunning switch, GlaxoSmithKline put out word early Wednesday that R&D chief Hal Barron is exiting the company after 4 years — a relatively brief run for the man chosen by CEO Emma Walmsley in late 2017 to turn around the slow-footed pharma giant.

Barron is being replaced by Tony Wood, a close associate of Barron’s who’s taking one of the top jobs in Big Pharma R&D. He’ll be closer to home, though, for GSK. Barron has been running a UK and Philadelphia-based research organization from his perch in San Francisco.

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