FDA re­jects Kala's dry eye drug; Trou­bled In­sys finds a buy­er (of some as­sets) in Hik­ma

Kala Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, one of the pletho­ra of biotechs that trace their roots to the pro­lif­ic lab at MIT led by Bob Langer, on Thurs­day dis­closed that its ex­per­i­men­tal drug for short-term dry eye re­lief did not pass muster with the FDA. Last year, the com­pa­ny post­ed mixed da­ta from two stud­ies — STRIDE 1 and STRIDE 2. Kala $KALA is now bank­ing on the on­go­ing STRIDE 3 study to re­verse its for­tunes. It ex­pects STRIDE 3 to read out by the end of the year, and to re­sub­mit its mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion the first half of 2020.

While dis­ap­point­ing, the CRL is not com­plete­ly un­ex­pect­ed, COO Todd Baze­more said. The com­pa­ny had ini­ti­at­ed STRIDE 3 last year at the ad­vice of the FDA, and is con­fi­dent that they have now got­ten the in­clu­sion/ex­clu­sion cri­te­ria right by screen­ing out pa­tients with un­sta­ble symp­toms. Once they have the da­ta, he added, they can re­file an NDA un­der a type 2 sub­mis­sion, which en­tails a 6-month in­stead of 12-month re­view.

Point­ing to No­var­tis‘ re­cent $5.3 bil­lion pur­chase of Shire’s Xi­idra — whose ap­proval process in­spired Kala to take its chances the first time — Baze­more em­pha­sized the po­ten­tial of KPI-121: “There’s so few prod­ucts in this cat­e­go­ry, it’s a huge un­tapped cat­e­go­ry in which on­ly about a mil­lion and a half of the 30 mil­lion pa­tients are cur­rent­ly be­ing treat­ed with a pre­scrip­tion prod­uct.”

→ Em­bat­tled In­sys, en­gulfed in lit­i­ga­tion and fi­nan­cial­ly starved, has found a buy­er for its unit-dose nasal and sub­lin­gual spray man­u­fac­tur­ing equip­ment, as well as two pipeline prod­ucts — nalox­one nasal spray and ep­i­neph­rine nasal spray — in UK-based Hik­ma. “Hik­ma is the largest sup­pli­er of gener­ic nasal sprays in the US and we have been look­ing for ways to build up­on our strong man­u­fac­tur­ing plat­form and ex­pand our prod­uct port­fo­lio,” said Hik­ma’s pres­i­dent of gener­ics Bri­an Hoff­mann in a state­ment.

→ Los An­ge­les biotech BioVie, which in April post­ed pos­i­tive da­ta from a small study test­ing its in­fu­sion ther­a­py for se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tion of ad­vanced liv­er cir­rho­sis, on Thurs­day amend­ed the terms of its im­pend­ing IPO. The com­pa­ny now plans to raise $15 mil­lion by of­fer­ing 1.3 mil­lion shares for $11.44/share, the as-con­vert­ed last close of its shares on the over-the-counter mar­ket. The com­pa­ny, which plans to list un­der the sym­bol BIVI, had pre­vi­ous­ly filed to of­fer 1.3 mil­lion priced at $11.88/share.

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos (via Getty Images)

With ad­u­canum­ab caught on a cliff, Bio­gen’s Michel Vounatsos bets bil­lions on an­oth­er high-risk neu­ro play

With its FDA pitch on the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab hanging perilously close to disaster, Biogen is rolling the dice on a $3.1 billion deal that brings in commercial rights to one of the other spotlight neuro drugs in late-stage development — after it already failed its first Phase III.

The big biotech has turned to Sage Therapeutics for its latest deal, close to a year after the crushing failure of Sage-217, now dubbed zuranolone, in the MOUNTAIN study.

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Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter Ko­dak de­ba­cle, US lends $1.1B to a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny and their big Covid-19, mR­NA plans

In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

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News brief­ing: FDA re­quests new tri­al for Reata's Friedre­ich's atax­ia pro­gram; J&J's Trem­fya picks up ex­pand­ed la­bel in Eu­rope

Three months after Reata Pharmaceuticals suggested its Friedreich’s ataxia program omaveloxolone could be delayed, the company revealed that is indeed going to be the case.

Reata $RETA shares took a nosedive Wednesday after the biotech revealed that the FDA said supplemental data for its pivotal trial did not strengthen the case for approval. As a result, the drug is likely to need another study before the FDA takes up the case.

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UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

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Covid-19 roundup: Eu­rope pur­chas­es 80M dos­es of Mod­er­na's vac­cine; CO­V­AXX se­cures $2.8B in emerg­ing mar­ket pre-or­ders

With the announcement of its vaccine efficacy data last week, Moderna is starting to line up customers for its Covid-19 mRNA jabs.

The Massachusetts-based biotech announced Wednesday it has agreed to sell an initial round of 80 million doses to the European Commission, with the option to double the amount to 160 million. Once the member states rubber stamp the approval, the deal will be finalized.

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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.

News brief­ing: Gilead part­ner Gala­pa­gos sells off CRO for $37M; Polyphor bags $3.3M from CF Foun­da­tion

Close Gilead ally Galapagos is selling off one of its contract research organizations to a Polish pharma company.

Galapagos has agreed to sell 100% of the outstanding shares in the CRO Fidelta to Selvita, in a deal worth roughly $37 million expected to close in the first week of January. The acquisition is expected to nearly double Selvita’s revenues, the company says, as well as expand its drug discovery efforts.

The ad­u­canum­ab co­nun­drum: The PhI­II failed a clear reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dard, but no one is cer­tain what that means any­more at the FDA

Eighteen days ago, virtually all of the outside experts on an FDA adcomm got together to mug the agency’s Billy Dunn and the Biogen team when they presented their upbeat assessment on aducanumab. But here we are, more than 2 weeks later, and the ongoing debate over that Alzheimer’s drug’s fate continues unabated.

Instead of simply ruling out any chance of an approval, the logical conclusion based on what we heard during that session, a series of questionable approvals that preceded the controversy over the agency’s recent EUA decisions has come back to haunt the FDA, where the power of precedent is leaving an opening some experts believe can still be exploited by the big biotech.

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John Maraganore, Alnylam CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Al­ny­lam gets the green light from the FDA for drug #3 — and CEO John Maraganore is ready to roll

Score another early win at the FDA for Alnylam.

The FDA put out word today that the agency has approved its third drug, lumasiran, for primary hyperoxaluria type 1, better known as PH1. The news comes just 4 days after the European Commission took the lead in offering a green light.

An ultra rare genetic condition, Alnylam CEO John Maraganore says there are only some 1,000 to 1,700 patients in the US and Europe at any particular point. The patients, mostly kids, suffer from an overproduction of oxalate in the liver that spurs the development of kidney stones, right through to end stage kidney disease.

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