FDA ex­perts turn thumbs down on Karyopharm’s trou­bled pitch for an ac­cel­er­at­ed OK — but not all of them

The Karyopharm team $KP­TI took on a tough chal­lenge on Tues­day, try­ing to over­come an over­whelm­ing­ly crit­i­cal re­view by FDA reg­u­la­tors in win­ning over a pan­el of out­side ex­perts brought in to re­view their pitch for an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval of se­linex­or for mul­ti­ple myelo­ma.

They lost, but nev­er­the­less found con­sid­er­able sup­port for this drug among the pan­elists.

The pan­el vot­ed 8 to 5 against an ap­proval, say­ing af­fir­ma­tive­ly that the FDA should take a wait-and-see at­ti­tude un­til the ran­dom­ized piv­otal study wraps to­ward the end of the year.

Karyopharm’s stock — bat­tered last Fri­day — took an­oth­er tum­ble af­ter the bell, drop­ping 19%.

FDA rep­re­sen­ta­tives were po­lite about it, but out­lined mul­ti­ple prob­lems with the da­ta that Karyopharm pre­sent­ed: Miss­ing da­ta due to dropouts, un­ac­cept­able re­al world ev­i­dence, an ab­sence of ev­i­dence of pos­i­tive sin­gle agent ac­tiv­i­ty (there are neg­a­tive re­sults), most­ly par­tial re­spons­es and much, much more — all in­for­ma­tion that the biotech failed to spot­light in the lead-up to the NDA. In one study the FDA cit­ed, the over­all sur­vival rate was worse in the se­linex­or arm.

Then there was the tox­i­c­i­ty pro­file, with a high fre­quen­cy of treat­ment emer­gent ad­verse events among pa­tients tak­ing the drug. The agency cit­ed a 94% rate of grade 3 or grade 4 ad­verse event. 10 deaths were due to a fa­tal ad­verse event in the main sin­gle arm study used for the ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval. And 9 in 10 pa­tients re­quired a dose mod­i­fi­ca­tion, with a ma­jor­i­ty re­quir­ing 2 mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

Giv­en the lim­it­ed ef­fi­ca­cy and tox­i­c­i­ty, the FDA as­sert­ed, “it is un­clear whether the ben­e­fit out­weighs the risk.” 

That’s not some­thing you want to hear in a pan­el re­view.

Mean­while, a piv­otal tri­al is un­der­way, and if a pa­tient de­mand­ed it, there are av­enues that pa­tients could use to get the drug with­out an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval.

The FDA’s on­col­o­gy pan­el is not a tough group, on av­er­age, to win over. There’s a big ap­petite for new drugs to treat can­cer pa­tients who have failed mul­ti­ple ther­a­pies, and a low bar on safe­ty. Not get­ting past that at this stage will like­ly set the bar high­er for when Karyopharm comes back with their piv­otal da­ta — pro­vid­ed that the agency goes ahead and re­jects it, as they have clear­ly in­di­cat­ed that they plan to.

The sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of votes in Karyopharm’s fa­vor, de­spite the FDA’s po­si­tion, does un­der­score just how anx­ious many of these ex­perts are about of­fer­ing ear­ly ap­provals, even when mul­ti­ple drugs are ap­proved for the same in­di­ca­tion. The bias is in fa­vor of more op­tions, which was clear­ly on dis­play here.

Dana Far­ber’s David Har­ring­ton joined the mi­nor­i­ty in fa­vor of pro­vid­ing an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval. “The da­ta are not con­clu­sive in ei­ther di­rec­tion,” he said, but…”I think we do pa­tients some po­ten­tial ben­e­fit if this is used con­struc­tive­ly.”

Just a slight nudge in its fa­vor from reg­u­la­tors may well have been enough to win an ap­proval, de­spite the tri­al is­sues. And that once again gets back to whether the de­vel­op­ers have a close work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the agency.

The biotech’s case wasn’t good enough, though, with the ma­jor­i­ty sid­ing with the reg­u­la­tors who have the fi­nal say now. Tox­i­c­i­ty was a ma­jor is­sue with the ex­perts who sided against a quick OK.

At best, Karyopharm like­ly faces a lengthy de­lay re­fil­ing an NDA. And that is if the Phase III da­ta are pos­i­tive.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

Samit Hirawat (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Af­ter bruis­ing re­jec­tion, blue­bird and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb land ide-cel pri­or­i­ty re­view. But will it mat­ter for the CVR?

With the clock all but up, the FDA accepted and handed priority review to Bristol Myers Squibb and bluebird bio’s BCMA CAR-T, keeping a narrow window open for Celgene investors to still cash in on the $9 CVR from the $63 billion Celgene merger.

The acceptance comes five months after the two companies weres slammed with a surprise refuse-to-file that threatened to foreclose the CVR entirely. Today’s acceptance sets the FDA decision date for March 27, 2021 – or precisely 4 days before the CVR deadline of March 31. Given the breakthrough designation and strong pivotal data — 81.5% response rate, 35.2% complete response rate — priority review was largely expected.

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Can a mag­net­ic cell ther­a­py re­place corneal trans­plan­ta­tion? As eight-year jour­ney leads to the clin­ic, two broth­ers un­veil bold vi­sion

Jeff Goldberg was getting acquainted with a brand new way to do corneal transplants when an even newer, even bolder idea hit him.

It was almost 10 years ago, and Goldberg was in his first faculty position at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. Scientists had developed a new way to do cornea transplants where instead of sewing a whole donor cornea — a decades-old practice — they were just engrafting the inner layer of cells.

News brief­ing: Tiny Vac­cinex's drug flops in PhII Hunt­ing­ton's tri­al, stock craters; Siol­ta nabs $30M Se­ries B to de­vel­op mi­cro­bio­me drug

Siolta Therapeutics, a microbiome company targeting allergic diseases, raked in a $30 million Series B to develop its lead candidate, STMC-103H. The drug, which has been FDA fast-tracked, is headed for proof-of-concept trials, according to the company. Its various indications include allergic asthma, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and allergy prevention.

The news comes just after the California-based biotech added a prominent biopharma veteran as an advisor: 20-year Gilead CEO John Martin. The biotech also gained Richard Shames as CMO, who came by way of Protagonist Therapeutics.

Embattled CDC director Robert Redfield (AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: CDC ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee de­lays pri­or­i­ty dis­tri­b­u­tion vote; EU re­port­ed­ly in­dem­ni­fy­ing vac­cine mak­ers

A federal committee that advises the CDC was expected to hold a vote Tuesday on a plan regarding the distribution for initial doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines. But that vote has been scrapped.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, won’t be voting until the committee members learn more about which vaccines become available first, the Wall Street Journal reported. The vote could potentially wait until a specific vaccine is authorized before recommending how to dole out the first doses.

#ES­MO20: Push­ing in­to front­line, Mer­ck and Bris­tol My­ers duke it out with new slate of GI can­cer da­ta

Having worked in parallel for years to move their respective PD-1 inhibitors up to the first-line treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb finally have the data at ESMO for a showdown.

Comparing KEYNOTE-590 and CheckMate-649, of course, comes with the usual caveats. But a side-by-side look at the overall survival numbers also offer some perspective on a new frontier for the reigning checkpoint rivals, both of whom are claiming to have achieved a first.

President Donald Trump (via AP Images)

Signs of an 'Oc­to­ber Vac­cine Sur­prise' alarm ca­reer sci­en­tists. HHS con­tin­ues to claim Azar “will de­fer com­plete­ly to the FDA"

President Donald Trump, who seems intent on announcing a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day, could legally authorize a vaccine over the objections of experts, officials at the FDA and even vaccine manufacturers, who have pledged not to release any vaccine unless it’s proved safe and effective.

In podcasts, public forums, social media and medical journals, a growing number of prominent health leaders say they fear that Trump — who has repeatedly signaled his desire for the swift approval of a vaccine and his displeasure with perceived delays at the FDA — will take matters into his own hands, running roughshod over the usual regulatory process.

#ES­MO20: Bris­tol My­ers marks Op­di­vo's sec­ond ad­ju­vant win — eye­ing a stan­dard of care gap

Moving into earlier and earlier treatment lines, Bristol Myers Squibb is reporting that adjuvant treatment with Opdivo has doubled the time that esophageal or gastroesophageal junction cancer patients stay free of disease.

With the CheckMate-577 data at ESMO, CMO Samit Hirawat said, the company believes it can change the treatment paradigm.

While a quarter to 30% of patients typically achieve a complete response following chemoradiation therapy and surgery, the rest do not, said Ronan Kelly of Baylor University Medical Center. The recurrence rate is also high within the first year, Hirawat added.

Anthony Coyle (Pfizer via Youtube)

Flag­ship's merged biotech Reper­toire nets ex-Pfiz­er CSO An­tho­ny Coyle as R&D chief

Flagship is building a big-name C-Suite at its new, $220 million merged biotech.

Repertoire Immune Medicines, which already boasts former Bioverativ chief John Cox as its CEO, announced yesterday that Anthony Coyle, the former Pfizer CSO and the founding CEO of Pandion, will join as their head of R&D.

“As we progress clinical trials for our multi-clonal T cell candidates in immuno-oncology, Tony’s deep expertise in cellular immunology and novel therapeutic development will help us achieve our vision of creating a new class of transformative medicines for patients,” Cox said in a statement.