French biotech In­ven­ti­va's lead drug stum­bles in sys­temic scle­ro­sis study, ahead of NASH read­out

France’s In­ven­ti­va (Eu­ronext: $IVA) has suf­fered its first big set­back fol­low­ing its pub­lic list­ing in 2017. The com­pa­ny’s lead ex­per­i­men­tal drug, lan­i­fi­bra­nor, failed a mid-stage tri­al in pa­tients with a form of sys­temic scle­ro­sis (SSc) — a rare, chron­ic life-threat­en­ing dis­or­der in which the im­mune sys­tem at­tacks its own or­gans and is char­ac­ter­ized by a buildup of scar tis­sue — prompt­ing the Daix-based drug de­vel­op­er to aban­don the pro­gram for the in­di­ca­tion.

The Phase IIb tri­al eval­u­at­ed two dos­es of lan­i­fi­bra­nor (800 mg, 1200 mg) against a place­bo in 145 pa­tients with dif­fuse cu­ta­neous sys­temic scle­ro­sis, which ac­count for rough­ly 35% of the SSc pop­u­la­tion. Pa­tients were giv­en lan­i­fi­bra­nor in ei­ther two dos­es of 400mg per day or two dos­es of 600mg per day over 48 weeks in ad­di­tion to stan­dard of care, which typ­i­cal­ly in­clud­ed im­muno­sup­pres­sive ther­a­py.

Com­pared to the place­bo, nei­ther dose of the drug in­duced a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant change in the mod­i­fied Rod­nan Skin Score — a scale mea­sur­ing the evo­lu­tion of skin fi­bro­sis, which is cor­re­lat­ed with in­ter­nal scar­ring — miss­ing the main goal of the study. None of the sec­ondary end­points, in­clud­ing changes in pul­monary func­tion mea­sured via forced vi­tal ca­pac­i­ty and over­all pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease, were met, In­ven­ti­va said on Mon­day.

There are no ap­proved ther­a­pies for SSc, a dis­ease that dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly af­fects women. Ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts at H.C. Wain­wright, the dif­fuse cu­ta­neous form of the dis­ease trans­lates to an ad­dress­able mar­ket of about 23,500 pa­tients in the Eu­rope and 31,500 in the Unit­ed States.

Lan­i­fi­bra­nor is an oral small mol­e­cule de­signed to spark an­tifi­brot­ic, an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry changes by spurring three iso­forms — α, δ and γ — of PPAR (per­ox­i­some pro­lif­er­a­tor-ac­ti­vat­ed re­cep­tor), which are nu­clear re­cep­tor pro­teins that reg­u­late gene ex­pres­sion. There are oth­er PPAR ag­o­nists on the mar­ket (in­clud­ing di­a­betes drug pi­ogli­ta­zone) and in de­vel­op­ment (ex­per­i­men­tal NASH drugs such as Gen­fit’s elafi­bra­nor and CymaBay’s se­ladel­par) that tar­get on­ly one or two PPAR iso­forms for ac­ti­va­tion, but lan­i­fi­bra­nor is a pan-PPAR ag­o­nist like bezafi­brate, which In­ter­cept ac­quired last month to de­vel­op in com­bi­na­tion with its NASH con­tender obeti­cholic acid.

In­ven­ti­va is al­so test­ing lan­i­fi­bra­nor for NASH — a fat­ty liv­er dis­ease af­fect­ing mil­lions that has no ap­proved ther­a­pies — which has thus cap­ti­vat­ed a pletho­ra of drug de­vel­op­ers, in­clud­ing Gilead $GILD, In­ter­cept $ICPT and Gen­fit (Eu­ronext: $GN­FT). In­ven­ti­va’s Phase IIb tri­al for lan­i­fi­bra­nor in NASH pa­tients is ex­pect­ed to read­out in the first half of 2020.

In a note ear­li­er this month, H.C. Wain­wright an­a­lysts sug­gest­ed that pos­i­tive SSc da­ta would bode well for In­ven­ti­va’s NASH pro­gram: “(Grow­ing) clin­i­cal ev­i­dence points to a mech­a­nis­tic link be­tween fi­brot­ic NASH and cer­tain in­flam­ma­to­ry skin con­di­tions, like pso­ri­a­sis…  an­oth­er an­ti-fi­brot­ic agent in de­vel­op­ment for NASH, Galectin Ther­a­peu­tics’ GR-MD-02, has sep­a­rate­ly re­port­ed sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in pa­tients across both plaque pso­ri­a­sis and cir­rhot­ic NASH.”

Last year, In­ven­ti­va raised raised about $44 mil­lion from a group of ven­ture back­ers, in­clud­ing Paris-based Sofinno­va, af­ter go­ing pub­lic in 2017 in a $51 mil­lion IPO. The com­pa­ny, which has pro­grams part­nered with Ab­b­Vie and Boehringer In­gel­heim, was spun out of Ab­bott in 2012.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.