Prep­ping for a rapid-fire launch, Kite Phar­ma gets a pass from FDA on axi-cel pan­el re­view

The FDA has ev­i­dent­ly learned all it wants at this point from its out­side on­col­o­gy ex­perts on CAR-T. Kite Phar­ma’s close­ly-watched CAR-T drug axi-cel is get­ting a pass on an ad­comm meet­ing, which may sig­nal a quick thumbs up from reg­u­la­tors.

Kite $KITE ex­ecs think so, say­ing to­day that they will be ful­ly launch-ready by Sep­tem­ber in case an ear­ly OK comes through. And that bull­ish stance earned a 7% boost to its share price to­day.

David Chang, Kite

In a Q2 call with an­a­lysts Tues­day morn­ing, Kite R&D chief David Chang told an­a­lysts the FDA had no­ti­fied the biotech that reg­u­la­tors will not be or­ga­niz­ing a pan­el re­view with out­side ex­perts for axi-cel. No­var­tis was first up in Ju­ly, gain­ing unan­i­mous back­ing for CTL019 from an FDA pan­el in the lead­up to an ear­ly-Oc­to­ber PDU­FA date.

No­var­tis had been seen as the clear front-run­ner in the race to get on the mar­ket first, but with the FDA fin­ish line blur­ring, they may now both launch al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly.

“We are ex­treme­ly en­cour­aged by the re­cent ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee meet­ing” for No­var­tis, Chang said, which he sees as a like­ly har­bin­ger for Kite. “The FDA has in­formed us that they will not sched­ule an ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee meet­ing” for axi-cel. This fol­lows an FDA in­spec­tion of its man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty and its treat­ment cen­ters in the lead-up to an ac­cel­er­at­ed re­view and fi­nal de­ci­sion.

Kite faces a No­vem­ber 29 dead­line for its mar­ket­ing de­ci­sion from the FDA, but the com­pa­ny says it’s ready to start mak­ing the per­son­al­ized ther­a­py and start ship­ping al­most im­me­di­ate­ly.

These pi­o­neer­ing CAR-T drugs of­fer a prover­bial game-chang­ing ap­proach in treat­ing blood can­cers. T cells are ex­tract­ed from pa­tients and armed with chimeric anti­gen re­cep­tors, turn­ing them in­to can­cer fight­ers that are pumped in­to a po­tent mix that is then in­fused in­to the pa­tient.

To say that Kite has been an­tic­i­pat­ing the launch for sev­er­al years now is an un­der­state­ment. Axi-cel is wide­ly viewed as a block­buster in the mak­ing, and Kite has been build­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions and a com­mer­cial group with plans to hit the ground run­ning, hit­ting a vein-to-vein turn­around time on this ther­a­py of 17 days. In the mean­time, its R&D group to­day sig­naled that they have filed for an IND to start Phase I work on KITE-585, its next-gen ap­proach that tar­gets BC­MA.

“With the an­tic­i­pat­ed events on the hori­zon for the re­main­der of 2017,” said CEO Arie Bellde­grun, “the po­ten­tial for CAR-T to be­come one of the most pow­er­ful an­ti-can­cer agents for cer­tain pa­tients may fi­nal­ly be re­al­ized.”

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing the val­ue of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine

By Natasha Cowan, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Latitude Health.
Many stakeholders are confused by novel precision medicines, including patients and healthcare professionals. So, how can industry help them to navigate this complexity?

Precision medicine represents a new paradigm in healthcare. It embodies the shift from treating many patients with the same therapy, to having the tools to identify the best treatment for every patient.

(Image: Associated Press)

Amarin emerges from an ex­pert pan­el re­view with a clear en­dorse­ment for Vas­cepa and high odds of suc­cess when the FDA weighs in for­mal­ly

Several FDA experts who gathered Thursday to consider the landmark approval of Vascepa to reduce cardio events in an at-risk population voiced their unease about various aspects of the efficacy and safety data, or ultimately the population it should be used to treat. But the overwhelming belief that the data pointed to the drug’s benefit and clearly outweighed risks carried the day for Amarin.

The panel voted unanimously (16 to 0) to support the company’s positive data presentation — backing an OK for expanding the label to include reducing cardio risk. The vote points Amarin $AMRN down a short path to a formal decision by the FDA, with the odds heavily in its favor. Chances are the rest of the questions about the future of this drug will be hashed out in the label’s small print.

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What does $62B buy you these days? A lot, says Take­da ex­ecs as the phar­ma play­er promis­es a block­buster R&D fu­ture

First comes the $62 billion buyout. Then comes the asset auction and reorganization to pay down debt. Now comes the detailed pledge of a bigger, brighter future in drug development.

That’s where Takeda finds itself on R&D day today, about 11 months after closing on their Shire acquisition. R&D chief Andy Plump is joining CEO Christophe Weber and other top members of the team to outline a new set of priorities in the greatly expanded pipeline at Takeda, which has jumped into the top ranks of the world’s pharma giants in the wake of the Shire deal.

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BeiGene CEO John Oyler at an Endpoints event in Shanghai, October 2018 (Credit: Endpoints News/PharmCube)

UP­DAT­ED: Chi­na's BeiGene scores first-ever FDA ap­proval — but can they carve up J&J's block­buster fran­chise?

Weeks after Amgen took a $2.7 billion stake in BeiGene, the Beijing-based biotech has secured its first-ever FDA approval for zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor, months ahead of schedule.

BeiGene’s drug, branded as Brukinsa, has secured accelerated approval for adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) — a typically aggressive, rare, form of blood cancer — who have received at least one prior therapy.

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Spe­cial re­port: Twen­ty ex­tra­or­di­nary women in bio­phar­ma R&D who worked their way to the top

What differentiates a woman leader in biopharma R&D from a man?

Not much, except there are fewer of them in senior posts. Data suggest women are not more risk-averse, family-oriented or less confident than their male counterparts — indeed the differences between the two sexes are negligible. But a glance at the top R&D positions in Big Pharma leaves little doubt that upward migration in the executive ranks of biopharma R&D is tough.

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GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala scores in rare blood dis­or­der study

GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug Nucala, which received a resounding FDA rejection for use in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) last year, has shown promise in a rare blood disorder.

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Mer­ck buys a fledg­ling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech spawned by an old GSK dis­cov­ery al­liance. What’s up with that?

Avalon Ventures chief Jay Lichter has a well-known yen for drug development programs picked up in academia. And what he found in Haoxing Xu’s lab at the University of Michigan pricked his interest enough to launch one of his umbrella biotechs in San Diego.

Xu’s work laid the foundation for Avalon to launch Calporta, which has been working on finding small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for lysosomal storage disorders. And that pathway, they believe, points to new approaches on major market neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

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Carson Block. Muddy Waters via YouTube

Shorts ga­lore: Mud­dy Wa­ters sees slide for Pep­tiDream, tweets con­cerns about Fi­bro­Gen's new da­ta

The short seller Muddy Waters is taking aim at Japan’s most profitable biotech, projecting a slide for a company that has skyrocketed over the last four years. Meanwhile, the firm tweeted out an analysis accusing FibroGen of manipulating data to obscure safety concerns in their latest reveal, although some investors seem satisfied by the biotech’s explanation.

Muddy Waters shorted PeptiDream, a Japanese biotech-for-hire that leveraged its peptide library into partnerships with some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, a 50% profit margin and $6 billion valuation. The firm noted that despite its esteem, PeptiDream has failed to bring a drug to market 13 years after its 2006 launch (although this is not especially rare for biotech).

Pin­cer move­ment: Cal­i­for­nia biotech gets $35M to suf­fo­cate can­cer in co­or­di­nat­ed at­tack

Having served in Afghanistan, the navy veteran leading California-based EpicentRx wants to leave no patient behind with his arsenal of anti-cancer drugs. On Thursday, the company was given a $35 million boost to further its mission.

The injection of funds will be used to shepherd its late-stage CD47 drug, RRx-001, to the FDA for marketing, and its oncolytic virus program into the clinic.

RRx-001, engineered as an agent that makes tumor cells more sensitive to therapy, is in a Phase III trial in combination with chemotherapy for use in third-line and beyond small cell lung cancer (SCLC). The drug has been granted orphan drug designation from FDA for SCLC, neuroendocrine cancer and glioblastoma.