FDA or­ders a rare re­treat on Am­i­cus’ mi­gala­s­tat, drop­ping PhI­II de­mand and sig­nal­ing a ma­jor shift for drug de­vel­op­ers

Megan Crow­ley is rec­og­nized by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing his first ad­dress to a joint ses­sion of Con­gress on Feb­ru­ary 28, 2017. At 15 months old, Crow­ley was di­ag­nosed with Pompe Dis­ease and not ex­pect­ed to live more than a few short years. AP Im­ages


Am­i­cus Ther­a­peu­tics $FOLD an­nounced ear­ly Tues­day that the FDA has dropped its de­mand for a new Phase III study of its Fab­ry dis­ease drug mi­gala­s­tat af­ter it was stiff-armed by un­sat­is­fied reg­u­la­tors last fall — then un­der a dif­fer­ent ad­min­is­tra­tion with a dif­fer­ent FDA com­mis­sion­er.

In­stead of pur­su­ing a new and ex­pen­sive late-stage study, Am­i­cus CEO John Crow­ley tells me the com­pa­ny has the green light to file again with the da­ta at hand. And based on dis­cus­sions with the FDA, he adds, the com­pa­ny is shoot­ing to file in the 4th quar­ter, with an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval that could ar­rive in 2018, po­ten­tial­ly slic­ing years off the process.

“These are the days it’s good to be a biotech CEO,” says Crow­ley, who has been on a roller coast­er ride at the FDA over the past year af­ter be­ing forced to walk back his own plans last No­vem­ber.

John Crow­ley

There is no guar­an­tee of an ap­proval here, but the agency’s sud­den volte-face clear­ly sig­nals a new tone that vast­ly im­proves the biotech’s shot at an OK — at least in so far as we hear it from Crow­ley. And that could have a ma­jor in­flu­ence on oth­er de­vel­op­ers tack­ling the same task.

In­vestors cheered on the sud­den change in for­tunes at Am­i­cus, bid­ding up shares by 43% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing Tues­day.

Crow­ley has nev­er made a se­cret of the fact that he felt the drug — ap­proved in Eu­rope last year — was ready to go in the US af­ter it com­plet­ed the piv­otal pro­gram. The FDA, though, re­ject­ed his ap­pli­ca­tion, say­ing reg­u­la­tors want­ed more safe­ty da­ta than the Eu­ro­peans need­ed.

That re­jec­tion be­came a cause cele­bre of sorts in DC, as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump turned to Crow­ley’s daugh­ter, Megan, who suf­fers from Pompe dis­ease, and called out the FDA for the “slow and bur­den­some” process in­volved in new drug ap­provals dur­ing an ad­dress to Con­gress.

“Our slow and bur­den­some ap­proval process at the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion keeps too many ad­vances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reach­ing those in need,” Trump said at the time. “If we slash the re­straints, not just at the FDA, but across our gov­ern­ment, then we will be blessed with far more mir­a­cles like Megan.”

Crow­ley picked up on that change in think­ing at the White House in a blog post at the time in which he said: “The FDA’s reg­u­la­tion of the or­phan de­vel­op­ment process is be­com­ing less flex­i­ble, less ef­fi­cient and less pa­tient-cen­tered.”

I asked Crow­ley what had changed be­tween the set­back last fall and the new, soft green light that the FDA has switched to.

First and fore­most, Crow­ley hit the theme that the com­pa­ny had made a con­vinc­ing case with what was avail­able. That in­cludes new da­ta and analy­sis that was made pos­si­ble af­ter the re­jec­tion. The com­pa­ny start­ed from the be­gin­ning to mar­shal the ev­i­dence need­ed to meet the agency’s gold stan­dard for an OK. That, he says, was ab­solute­ly key, ul­ti­mate­ly win­ning the day.

In ad­di­tion, he says there’s al­so a new frame­work for drug re­views that’s been gath­er­ing steam at the agency.

“I do think, can­did­ly, that there is an emerg­ing frame­work in rare dis­eases,” he says, point­ing to new ap­provals for Bio­marin on Bat­ten dis­ease as well as a nov­el la­bel ex­ten­sion for Ver­tex based on their in vit­ro as­say.

Scott Got­tlieb ap­pears be­fore a US Sen­ate sub­com­mit­tee, June 20, 2017 AP Im­ages

You can bet, though, that there will be plen­ty of sen­ti­ment sug­gest­ing that a change of ad­min­is­tra­tions and a new FDA com­mis­sion­er in Scott Got­tlieb made a telling dif­fer­ence for an abrupt about-face that is ex­tra­or­di­nar­i­ly rare to see at the FDA.

What­ev­er the cause, though, in­stead of prepar­ing to gath­er new da­ta that wouldn’t be avail­able un­til 2019, Crow­ley is back to mak­ing launch plans in the US. That will prob­a­bly re­quire a com­mer­cial group of about 50, he says, com­pared to the 80 need­ed to ad­dress a more com­plex and chal­leng­ing pay­er en­vi­ron­ment in Eu­rope.

Biotech has large­ly cheered on new FDA com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb af­ter he won con­fir­ma­tion by the Sen­ate. He promised to turn to new tech­nolo­gies to help ac­cel­er­ate new ap­provals, but vowed to stick with the in­dus­try gold stan­dard that has gov­erned reg­u­la­tors thoughts on safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy date.

So did the FDA just soft­en its stan­dards or wake up to the fact that the drug should nev­er have been re­ject­ed in the first place?

Let’s start the dis­cus­sion.

Op­ti­miz­ing Cell and Gene Ther­a­py De­vel­op­ment and Pro­duc­tion: How Tech­nol­o­gy Providers Like Corn­ing Life Sci­ences are Spurring In­no­va­tion

Remarkable advances in cell and gene therapy over the last decade offer unprecedented therapeutic promise and bring new hope for many patients facing diseases once thought incurable. However, for cell and gene therapies to reach their full potential, researchers, manufacturers, life science companies, and academics will need to work together to solve the significant challenges facing the industry.

Amid mon­key­pox fears, biotechs spring to ac­tion; Mod­er­na’s CFO trou­ble; Cuts, cuts every­where; Craft­ing the right pro­teins; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

It’s always a bittersweet moment saying goodbye, but as Josh Sullivan goes off to new adventures we are grateful for the way he’s built up the Endpoints Manufacturing section — which the rest of the team will now carry forward. If you’re not already, this may be a good time to sign up for your weekly dose of drug manufacturing news. Thank you for reading and wish you a restful weekend.

Bay­er sounds re­treat from a $670 mil­lion CAR-T pact in the wake of a pa­tient death

Two months after Atara Biotherapeutics hit the hold button on its lead CAR-T 2.0 therapy following a patient death, putting the company under the watchful eye of the FDA, its Big Pharma partners at Bayer are bowing out of a $670 million global alliance. And the move is forcing a revamp of Atara’s pipeline plans, even as research execs vow to continue work on the two drugs allied with Bayer 18 months ago, which delivered a $60 million cash upfront.

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Sanofi and Re­gen­eron clear the fin­ish line in an in­flam­ma­to­ry esoph­a­gus dis­ease, leav­ing Take­da in the dust

With atopic dermatitis rivals breathing down Dupixent’s neck, Sanofi and Regeneron on Friday secured a first win in new territory in what Sanofi’s head of immunology and inflammation Naimish Patel called the fastest approval he’s ever seen.

The FDA approved Dupixent on Friday to treat patients 12 years and older with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an inflammatory condition that causes swelling and scarring of the esophagus. The approval came just a couple months after regulators granted Dupixent priority review, and months ahead of its PDUFA date on Aug. 3.

Fu­ji­film con­tin­ues its biotech build­ing spree with new fa­cil­i­ty in Chi­na

A Japanese conglomerate is making a big play in China with the opening of a new facility, as it continues to expand.

Fujifilm Irvine Scientific has opened its new Innovation and Collaboration Center in Suzhou New District, China, an area in Jiangsu province specifically designated for technological and industrial development.

According to Fujifilm, the 12,000-square-foot site will be responsible for the company’s cell culture media optimization, analysis and design services. Cell culture media itself often requires customization of formulas and protocols to achieve the desired quantity and quality of therapeutic desired. Fujifilm Irvine Scientific is offering these services from its headquarters in California and Japan to its customers globally, as well as in China now.

Try­ing to shake up the Parkin­son's par­a­digm, Ab­b­Vie sub­mits NDA for con­tin­u­ous, 24-hour in­fu­sion ther­a­py

AbbVie is approaching the FDA with a new therapy to potentially treat Parkinson’s disease, using prodrugs of two medications commonly used for the condition.

The Big Pharma submitted its NDA for ABBV-951, a solution of levodopa and carbidopa prodrugs being evaluated in advanced Parkinson’s patients who don’t respond well to oral therapy, AbbVie announced Friday morning. Researchers are hoping a positive Phase III study that reads out in late October will help move things along quickly at the agency.

Rob Etherington, Clene CEO

Mary­land of­fers loan to Clene de­spite ALS tri­al bumps

Even after Utah-based Clene failed to hit its primary endpoints for its ALS drug last year, the state of Maryland is putting its money at least behind Clene’s manufacturing facility.

The Maryland Board of Public Works has finalized a $3 million, 60-month loan facility with Clene Nanomedicine. The loan was provided by the state’s Neighborhood BusinessWorks program within the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Armon Sharei, SQZ founder and CEO

SQZ's out­side-the-box man­u­fac­tur­ing method slash­es pro­duc­tion time in ear­ly in study

At ASCO 2021 in June of last year, SQZ Biotech showcased a glimpse of its unorthodox cell therapy manufacturing tech. And on Wednesday, the Watertown, MA, company announced that its first-generation system showed comparable or better performance than a conventional clean-room-based manufacturing process.

The study was non-clinical. Clinical trials are expected by the first half of 2023.

SQZ’s device opens up a temporary window by cell-squeezing to deliver cargoes into cells. Its average processing time was less than six hours per batch, which is more than half the time than conventional methods. The company is planning to use the technology in its first red blood cell derived program for celiac disease. That IND is set to be submitted in the first half of 2023, the company said.

Bobby Sheng, Bora Pharmaceuticals CEO

With new ac­qui­si­tion, Bo­ra to ven­ture in­to bi­o­log­ics

Last week, Taiwan-based CDMO Bora Pharmaceuticals announced that it acquired Eden Biologics. Now, it says that purchase has helped established Bora Biologics, expanding into the biopharmaceutical market.

The acquisition of the company’s assets, which are located in the Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park in Taiwan, is helping Bora build its presence in the biopharma world by expanding production capacity of cell lines for the production of protein drugs. It will also improve the quality control and inspection specifications, as well as cell bank generation. The facility has four 500-liter bioreactors that have been approved by European and Taiwanese regulators.