FDA hands Liq­uidia and Re­vance a CRL and de­fer­ral, re­spec­tive­ly, as Covid-19 cre­ates in­spec­tion chal­lenge

Two biotechs said they got turned away by the FDA on Wednes­day, in part due to pan­dem­ic-re­lat­ed trav­el re­stric­tions.

North Car­oli­na-based Liq­uidia Tech­nolo­gies was hand­ed a CRL for its lead pul­monary ar­te­r­i­al hy­per­ten­sion drug, cit­ing the need for more CMC da­ta and on-site pre-ap­proval in­spec­tions, which the FDA hasn’t been able to con­duct due to trav­el re­stric­tions. The agency al­so de­ferred its de­ci­sion on Re­vance Ther­a­peu­tics’ BLA for its frown line treat­ment, be­cause it needs to in­spect the com­pa­ny’s north­ern Cal­i­for­nia man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty. The ac­tion, Re­vance em­pha­sized, was not a CRL.

The FDA said it’s “ac­tive­ly work­ing to de­fine an ap­proach for out­stand­ing in­spec­tions,” ac­cord­ing to Re­vance.

Neal Fowler

“With the pan­dem­ic, as you know, they’ve been very chal­lenged to do these,” Liq­uidia CMO Tushar Shah said dur­ing a call with in­vestors on Wednes­day morn­ing. “We an­tic­i­pate a lot of com­pa­nies are strug­gling, and in the best case sce­nario, we would have an­tic­i­pat­ed some­time mid-next year would have been the ear­li­est they would prob­a­bly get to in­spec­tion,” he con­tin­ued.

De­spite the set­back, Liq­uidia is still eye­ing a 2022 launch for LIQ861 — if it gets ap­proval. The tre­pros­tinil in­hala­tion pow­der was the fo­cal point of Liq­uidia’s 2018 IPO fil­ing, which priced at $11 per share, the mid­point of a $10 to $12 range. The biotech raked in $50 mil­lion, $30 to $32 mil­lion of which was tagged for LIQ861.

On Wednes­day, Liq­uidia’s $LQ­DA stock was down 6.13%,with shares pric­ing at $2.91 apiece. The biotech says the ad­di­tion­al CMC da­ta sought by the FDA per­tain to the “drug prod­uct and de­vice bio­com­pat­i­bil­i­ty,” and that the agency didn’t ask for fur­ther clin­i­cal stud­ies, or stud­ies re­lat­ed to tox­i­col­o­gy or clin­i­cal phar­ma­col­o­gy.

Liq­uidia has a tech­nol­o­gy col­lab­o­ra­tion go­ing with Glax­o­SmithK­line, which it ex­pand­ed to in­clude three ad­di­tion­al pro­grams last year. The biotech is on a mis­sion to un­seat Unit­ed Ther­a­peu­tics’ Ty­va­so and its neb­u­liz­er, which net­ted $415.6 mil­lion last year. John­son & John­son al­so en­tered the PAH space when it bought Acte­lion for $30 bil­lion back in 2017.

If Re­vance’s in­jectable Dax­i­bot­u­linum­tox­i­nA gets ap­proved, it’ll go head-to-head with Al­ler­gan’s Botox. The drug was test­ed against mod­er­ate to se­vere glabel­lar lines, more com­mon­ly known as frown lines. It met its pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary end­points in two Phase III tri­als and was shown to last for six months, ac­cord­ing to Al­ler­gan, while Botox gen­er­al­ly lasts for three to four.

Mark Fo­ley

Al­ler­gan com­ment­ed back in 2017, though, that it doesn’t be­lieve Re­vance’s da­ta “will sup­port a longer du­ra­tion claim as the on­ly com­pos­ite da­ta (2-point im­prove­ment, none or mild, and both in­ves­ti­ga­tor and pa­tient) is at 30 days not at 6 months.”

The FDA ac­cept­ed Re­vance’s BLA back in Q1. Its stock $RVNC was up 4.02% on Wednes­day, sell­ing at $24.35 a share. News of the FDA’s de­fer­ral comes just over a year af­ter co-founder Dan Browne stepped down as CEO “due to mis­judg­ment in han­dling an em­ploy­ee mat­ter,” leav­ing board mem­ber Mark Fo­ley, for­mer chief of Zel­tiq Aes­thet­ics, to fill his shoes.

“We look for­ward to con­tin­ued in­ter­ac­tion with the Agency and re­main ready to sup­port FDA’s pre-ap­proval in­spec­tion as soon as pos­si­ble. We are for­tu­nate that we man­u­fac­ture our prod­uct at a sin­gle lo­ca­tion in the U.S., which should put us at an ad­van­tage com­pared to in­ter­na­tion­al man­u­fac­tur­ing lo­ca­tions once trav­el re­sumes,” Fo­ley said in a state­ment.

He lat­er added that he be­lieves Re­vance “is in an ex­cel­lent po­si­tion, both com­mer­cial­ly and fi­nan­cial­ly, to weath­er a change to the tim­ing of this po­ten­tial ap­proval.”

A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this ar­ti­cle in­cor­rect­ly at­trib­uted a quote by Liq­uidia CMO Tushar Shah to CEO Neal Fowler. 

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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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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CBO: Medicare ne­go­ti­a­tions will ham­per drug de­vel­op­ment more than pre­vi­ous­ly thought

As President Biden’s Build Back Better Act — and, with it, potentially the Democrats’ last shot at major drug pricing reforms in the foreseeable future — remains on life support, the Congressional Budget Office isn’t helping their case.

The CBO last week released a new slide deck, outlining an update to its model on how Medicare negotiations might take a bite out of new drugs making it to market. The new model estimates a 10% long-term reduction in the number of new drugs, whereas a previous CBO report from August estimated that 8% fewer new drugs will enter the market over 30 years.

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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Chamath Palihapitiya and Pablo Legorreta

Bil­lion­aires Chamath Pal­i­hapi­tiya and Pablo Legor­re­ta hatch an $825M SPAC for cell ther­a­py biotech

Three years after Royalty Pharma chief Pablo Legorreta led a group of investors to buy up a pair of biotechs and create a new startup called ProKidney, the biotech is jumping straight into an $825 million public shell created by SPAC king and tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya.

ProKidney was founded 6 years ago but really got going at the beginning of 2019 with the $62 million acquisition of inRegen, which was working on an autologous — from the patient — cell therapy for kidney disease. After extracting kidney cells from patients, researchers expand the cells in the lab and then inject them back into patients, aiming to restore the kidneys of patients suffering from CKD.

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Joshua Brumm, Dyne Therapeutics CEO

FDA or­ders DMD tri­al halt, rais­ing ques­tions about a whole class of promis­ing drugs

Dyne Therapeutics’ stock took a nasty hit this morning after the biotech put out word that the FDA had slapped a clinical hold on their top program for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. And now speculation is bouncing around Biotwitter that there could be a class effect at work here that would implicate other drug developers in the freeze.

Dyne execs didn’t have a whole lot to say about why the FDA sidelined their IND for DYNE-251 in DMD while “requesting additional clinical and non-clinical information for” the drug.

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With few re­main­ing un­ap­proved drugs, re­searchers tell FDA its Un­ap­proved Drugs Ini­tia­tive is no longer ef­fec­tive

Back in May, the FDA decided to reverse a Trump-era decision to pull the agency’s controversial Unapproved Drugs Initiative, with the FDA citing “multiple legal and factual inaccuracies.”

But now a group of researchers from Harvard, funded by Arnold Ventures, raises new questions about why the UDI program might not be necessary in its current form.

Designed in 2006 as a way for the FDA to transition old drugs from unapproved to approved products, the agency sought to better ensure that unsafe products were removed from the market.

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