FDA re­jects Ac­er's rare dis­ease drug, asks for new tri­al — shares crater

Ac­er Ther­a­peu­tics’ bid to re­pur­pose celipro­lol — a be­ta-block­er on the mar­ket for hy­per­ten­sion — as a treat­ment for a rare, in­her­it­ed con­nec­tive tis­sue dis­or­der has hit a se­vere set­back. The New­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny on Tues­day said the FDA re­ject­ed the drug and has asked for an­oth­er clin­i­cal tri­al.

The com­pa­ny’s shares $AC­ER cratered near­ly 77% to $4.47 in Tues­day morn­ing trad­ing.

Chris Schelling LinkedIn

The drug, brand­ed as Ed­si­vo, is un­der de­vel­op­ment for vas­cu­lar Ehlers-Dan­los syn­drome (vEDS) — a rare dis­or­der caused by mu­ta­tions large­ly in the COL3A1 gene, which caus­es ar­te­r­i­al dis­sec­tions and rup­tures that can lead to an ear­ly death. It is es­ti­mat­ed to af­fect be­tween 1 in 50,000 and 1 in 200,000 peo­ple, and there are no treat­ments ap­proved to treat it.

The com­pa­ny sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion to mar­ket the drug based on a small, 54-pa­tient study — the Be­ta-Block­ers in Ehlers-Dan­los Syn­drome Treat­ment (BBEST) —  which was de­signed to show the drug could pre­vent ar­te­r­i­al dis­sec­tions and rup­tures in vEDS pa­tients. The tri­al test­ed the drug against a place­bo and was stopped ear­ly as celipro­lol was work­ing well; pa­tients giv­en the drug, com­pared with no treat­ment, saw a re­duc­tion in ar­te­r­i­al events, such as rup­ture or dis­sec­tion, by three­fold. How­ev­er, the study was un­der­pow­ered. Re­searchers ac­knowl­edged that they did not “reach our tar­get num­ber of pa­tients”.

In April, Paris vEDS Pa­tient Reg­istry Da­ta was pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Car­di­ol­o­gy. It “de­scribed the long-term out­come of 144 COL3A1+ vEDS pa­tients, most of whom (~90%) were treat­ed with celipro­lol and mon­i­tored for up to 20 yrs (me­di­an 5.3 yrs). Key da­ta high­lights in­clude low­er rates of mor­tal­i­ty and ar­te­r­i­al com­pli­ca­tions in this pa­tient group than that ex­pect­ed from the nat­ur­al his­to­ry of the dis­ease. Celipro­lol-treat­ed pa­tients had an 80.7% sur­vival rate at ~11 yrs vs 48.5% for those not treat­ed,” Need­ham’s Serge Be­langer wrote in a note.

Be­langer was op­ti­mistic the drug would win ap­proval, and es­ti­mat­ed a tar­get mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ty be­tween $200 mil­lion and $400 mil­lion, based on ex­pect­ed Ed­si­vo an­nu­al pric­ing of $100,000-$200,00 per pa­tient.

On Tues­day, Ac­er chief Chris Schelling said the com­pa­ny is ex­pect­ed to re­spond to the FDA in the third quar­ter.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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J&J ad­comm live blog: J&J work­ing on vac­cine for vari­ants, tri­al sched­uled for sum­mer

This week, Moderna announced it would begin testing a modified version of their mRNA vaccine to tackle the vaccine-resistant B1.351 variant that popped up in South Africa. Pfizer said it would test giving people an extra boost of its original vaccine to accomplish the same.

J&J revealed at the adcomm that they, too, have been working on a modified vaccine to tackle emerging variants.

The company didn’t reveal much detail, including how they modified the vaccine or if they were targeting the same B 1.351 variant, but Johan van Hoof said they would begin testing a new construct in the summer. The FDA has said they would allow modified vaccines for variants to be authorized after quick immunological studies that track whether the vaccine elicits antibodies against the new variant.

Genen­tech plots $53M dis­cov­ery quest aimed at spark­ing a 'Holy moly' piv­ot in neu­ro R&D

Genentech has committed $53 million to back a 10-year quest aimed at going back to the drawing board to use new technology and fresh scientific insights to generate a pipeline of drugs for neurological diseases.

Roche’s big South San Francisco hub will mix it up with the scientists drawn together for the Weill Neurohub — formed in 2019 as a joint research partnership involving UCSF, Berkeley and the University of Washington — in an exploration of the field to develop new therapies for some of the toughest diseases in drug R&D: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS and autism.

Am­gen, As­traZeneca speed to­ward fil­ing next-gen an­ti­body for asth­ma af­ter un­cork­ing full late-stage da­ta

On the hunt for a novel competitor to Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent in severe asthma, Amgen and AstraZeneca posted “exciting” results from their next-gen antibody late last year. Now, the partners are showing their hands, and the results look good enough for approval.

Amgen and AstraZeneca’s tezepelumab plus standard of care cut the rate of severe asthma attacks by 56% at the one-year mark compared with SOC alone, according to full data from the Phase III NAVIGATOR study presented Friday at the virtual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting. And those significant results were consistent regardless of patients’ baseline eosinophil counts.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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