FDA rolls out an ear­ly and his­toric OK for Spark's pi­o­neer­ing gene ther­a­py -- now let's talk price

Spark Ther­a­peu­tics CSO Kather­ine High and CEO Jeff Mar­raz­zo. Spark


Spark Ther­a­peu­tics $ONCE  has scored an his­toric FDA ap­proval of Lux­tur­na, the world’s first such AAV-de­liv­ered gene ther­a­py de­signed to cure a rare eye dis­ease trig­gered by a ge­net­ic mu­ta­tion.

The drug is OK’d for RPE65 mu­ta­tion linked reti­nal dy­s­tro­phy. The treat­ment us­es a vi­ral vec­tor to in­sert the cor­rect copy of a gene reti­nal cells need to cre­ate a pro­tein that turns light in­to elec­tric sig­nals which can re­store vi­sion lost to the dis­ease.

Scott Got­tlieb

As with the ear­li­er pi­o­neer­ing ap­proval of the world’s first CAR-T, FDA com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb did the hon­ors in rec­og­niz­ing the im­por­tance of this ap­proval. And he says the agency will make sure that the reg­u­la­to­ry path is straight and clear for the rest of the field look­ing to fol­low­ing Spark’s foot­steps.

“We’re at a turn­ing point when it comes to this nov­el form of ther­a­py and at the FDA, we’re fo­cused on es­tab­lish­ing the right pol­i­cy frame­work to cap­i­tal­ize on this sci­en­tif­ic open­ing,” Got­tlieb not­ed. “Next year, we’ll be­gin is­su­ing a suite of dis­ease-spe­cif­ic guid­ance doc­u­ments on the de­vel­op­ment of spe­cif­ic gene ther­a­py prod­ucts to lay out mod­ern and more ef­fi­cient pa­ra­me­ters — in­clud­ing new clin­i­cal mea­sures — for the eval­u­a­tion and re­view of gene ther­a­py for dif­fer­ent high-pri­or­i­ty dis­eases where the plat­form is be­ing tar­get­ed.”

“This one-time gene ther­a­py for an in­her­it­ed dis­ease rep­re­sents a first-of-its-kind break­through that may lay the ground­work for the de­vel­op­ment of gene ther­a­pies for oth­er con­di­tions that are not ad­e­quate­ly ad­dressed to­day,” said Jef­frey Mar­raz­zo, CEO at Spark Ther­a­peu­tics, in a state­ment. “We of­fer our sin­cere grat­i­tude to the pa­tients and their fam­i­lies as well as the ex­pert in­ves­ti­ga­tors who con­tin­ue to par­tic­i­pate in Lux­tur­na’s clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.”

The next big step in this process? Mar­raz­zo can tell us how much it will cost. The biotech has been hint­ing that the tick­et will come in at about $1 mil­lion, stir­ring a long run­ning de­bate over a new kind of drug de­signed to last a life­time, but proven to work for on­ly a lim­it­ed amount of time.

Peak sales es­ti­mates tend to hov­er around the $500 mil­lion a year mark.

A Spark spokesper­son said the com­pa­ny wouldn’t re­lease the drug’s price un­til Jan­u­ary, but that Lux­tur­na is ex­pect­ed to be avail­able in se­lect treat­ment cen­ters in Q1 2018.

Spark al­so has a close­ly watched he­mo­phil­ia B gene ther­a­py in the clin­ic, though its mixed da­ta from their he­mo­phil­ia A pro­gram un­der­scored how many hur­dles are left for the lead de­vel­op­ers in the field.

The ap­proval marks yet an­oth­er quick de­ci­sion for the FDA, which had a PDU­FA date for this treat­ment in mid-Jan­u­ary. The agency has been rolling out new drugs this year at a fast pace, look­ing to sur­pass 2015, when 45 new drugs were ap­proved. And the agency seems de­ter­mined to hit that goal post, if not surge past.

Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi/treme com­bo strikes out — again — in lung can­cer. Is it time for last rites?

AstraZeneca bet big on the future of their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with the experimental CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab. But once again it’s gone down to defeat in a major Phase III study — while adding damage to the theory involving targeting cancer with a high tumor mutational burden.

Early Wednesday the pharma giant announced that their NEPTUNE study had failed, with the combination unable to beat standard chemo at overall survival in high TMB cases of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get hard data until later in the year, but the drumbeat of failures will call into question what — if any — future this combination can have left.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.


ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology


ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development


CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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UP­DAT­ED: Pay­back? An­a­lysts say Sarep­ta was blind­sided by an FDA re­jec­tion dri­ven by reg­u­la­to­ry re­venge

In one of the least anticipated moves of the year, the FDA has rejected Sarepta’s application for an accelerated approval of its Duchenne MD drug golodirsen after fretting over safety issues.

In a statement that arrived after the bell on Monday, Sarepta explained the CRL, saying:

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Levi Garraway. Broad Institute via Youtube

Roche raids Eli Lil­ly for its next chief med­ical of­fi­cer as San­dra Horn­ing plans to step down

We found out Monday morning where Levi Garraway was headed after he left Eli Lilly as head of oncology R&D a few days ago. Roche named Garraway as their new chief medical officer, replacing Sandra Horning, who they say is retiring from the company.

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Af­ter a posse of Wall Street an­a­lysts pre­dict a like­ly new win for Sarep­ta, we're down to the wire on a crit­i­cal FDA de­ci­sion

As Bloomberg notes, most of the Wall Street analysts that cover Sarepta $SRPT are an upbeat bunch, ready to cheer on the team when it comes to their Duchenne MD drugs, or offer explanations when an odd setback occurs — as happened recently with a safety signal that was ‘erroneously’ reported last week.

Ritu Baral Cowen
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FDA de­ci­sion on Ver­tex's CF triple will come just ahead of planned CEO shake­up

Vertex has clinched a priority review for the all-important cystic fibrosis triple that will blaze the trail for treating a large group of patients unhelped by its current drugs.

FDA regulators have set a PDUFA date of March 19, 2020, just a year after the Boston biotech posted positive Phase III results showing that people with two F508del mutations experienced statistically significant improvements in lung function after a 4-week regimen of VX-445, tezacaftor and ivacaftor. After reviewing 24-week data among patients with one F508del mutation and one minimal function mutation — and thoroughly comparing the VX-445 triple with another combo featuring VX-659 on scores like safety, drug-drug interactions, and photosensitivity — Vertex ultimately went with VX-445.

An MIT spin­out kills one of its ‘liv­ing ther­a­peu­tics’ af­ter flunk­ing an ear­ly-stage study — shares rout­ed

Just a few weeks after bagging $80 million in a deal to collaborate with Gingko Bioworks on its special blend of engineered bacteria used for “living therapeutics,” little Synlogic in Boston $SYBX is tossing one of its two clinical programs after watching an early-stage study go down in defeat.

Their Phase Ib/IIa study for SYNB1020 to counter the accumulation of ammonia in the body, a condition called hyperammonemia or urea cycle disorder, floundered at the interim readout, forcing the biotech to kill it and reserve its cash for pipeline therapies with greater potential.

Elan­co to buy Bay­er's an­i­mal health busi­ness for $7.6B, as deal­mak­ing gath­ers steam in the sec­tor

Last week, Elanco explicitly dodged answering questions about its rumored interest in Bayer’s animal health business in its post-earnings call. On Tuesday, the Eli Lilly spinoff disclosed it was purchasing the German drug maker’s veterinary unit in a cash-and-stock deal worth $7.6 billion. 

Elanco $ELAN has been busy on the deal-making front. In April, it laid out plans to swallow its partner, Kansas-based pet therapeutics company Aratana $PETX. A July report by Reuters suggested a potential Bayer deal was being explored, and Bloomberg last week said the deal was imminent, citing sources.