FDA gives Cel­lec­tis a green light to re­launch off-the-shelf CAR-T stud­ies — with sev­er­al strings at­tached

Two months af­ter the FDA forced Cel­lec­tis $CLLS to hit the brakes on a pair of clin­i­cal tri­als for their off-the-shelf CAR-T UCART123, reg­u­la­tors have fol­lowed up with a green light to re­sume test­ing. But they’re adding some key safe­ty mea­sures to try to re­duce any out­stand­ing risks for pa­tients in these high pro­file stud­ies.

Cel­lec­tis CEO An­dré Chouli­ka

The tri­al halt came on the death of the first pa­tient dosed with UCART123. Now in­ves­ti­ga­tors can be­gin again. But there are some ex­tra­or­di­nary strings that are now at­tached:

  •  The co­hort dose lev­el has been lim­it­ed to 6.25×104 UCART123 cells/kg.
  • En­roll­ment has to be stag­gered, with a 28-day gap be­tween en­roll­ment of 2 pa­tients in the 2 stud­ies, ev­i­dent­ly to bet­ter con­trol how many pa­tients are ex­posed to risk.
  • The cy­clophos­phamide dose of the lym­pho-de­plet­ing reg­i­men — for prep­ping pa­tients — has been reined in to 750 mg/m²/day over three days with a max­i­mum dai­ly dose of 1.33 grams of cy­clophos­phamide.
  • Reg­u­la­tors want to make sure there’s no un­con­trolled fever af­ter lym­phode­ple­tion.
  •  The next three pa­tients in each pro­to­col has to be un­der 65 years of age.

Share of Cel­lec­tis, helmed by CEO An­dré Chouli­ka, shot up 24%.

Paris-based Cel­lec­tis was forced in­to a halt back on Sep­tem­ber 4, af­ter a pa­tient died on the launch of tri­als for acute myeloid leukemia and blas­tic plas­ma­cy­toid den­drit­ic cell neo­plasm.

The last time there was a tri­al halt in CAR-T, the FDA wait­ed just days to give Juno Ther­a­peu­tics a sig­nal to get their study for JCAR015 re­launched, on­ly to see sev­er­al of the next set of pa­tients die. That first halt came with no new lim­its aside from a re­stric­tion on the treat­ment reg­i­men used to prep pa­tients for a per­son­al­ized CAR-T. The sec­ond halt led to the elim­i­na­tion of JCAR015 as a vi­able drug can­di­date.

While the first gen­er­a­tion of per­son­al­ized CAR-T drugs us­ing pa­tients’ cells has been be­set from the be­gin­ning with signs of cy­tokine re­lease syn­drome and neu­ro­tox­i­c­i­ty, reg­u­la­tors and de­vel­op­ers have grown steadi­ly more con­fi­dent of their abil­i­ty to screen pa­tients and low­er risks. Cel­lec­tis, which is us­ing a new ap­proach to de­vel­op uni­ver­sal CAR-T drugs that can at­tack liq­uid can­cers, has a whole new set of de­mands to meet as in­ves­ti­ga­tors look for the next big step for­ward in the field.

And they’ll be scru­ti­nized every step of the way back.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

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Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.