Genen­tech dou­bles down on its PhI­II Alzheimer’s cam­paign for crenezum­ab

An­drea Pfeifer

Roche’s big biotech group Genen­tech is dou­bling down on one of the most promi­nent drugs in late-stage de­vel­op­ment for Alzheimer’s. The com­pa­ny is launch­ing a sec­ond Phase III study of crenezum­ab, ac­cord­ing to its part­ners at AC Im­mune $ACIU, in search of pos­i­tive da­ta in a field lit­tered with the wreck­age of ear­li­er clin­i­cal crash­es.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors for the CREAD2 study will now set out to re­cruit 750 pa­tients with pro­dro­mal or mild Alzheimer’s to test the drug, an­oth­er an­ti-amy­loid be­ta drug de­signed to sweep out tox­ic for­ma­tions that are be­lieved by many to cause the mem­o­ry-wast­ing ill­ness.

CREAD2 will start with all the hall­marks ex­pect­ed in an Alzheimer’s study. It failed a mid-stage pro­gram, but in­ves­ti­ga­tors were able to track a dis­tinct im­pact on cog­ni­tive and func­tion­al scores for pa­tients di­ag­nosed with the ear­li­est stages of this dis­ease. Re­turn­ing to Phase III proved to be a dis­as­trous mis­take for Eli Lil­ly’s solanezum­ab, a three time los­er. But AC Im­mune has been able to win over be­liev­ers that this time a piv­otal ef­fort can suc­ceed.

Jef­feries’ Pe­ter Welford not­ed that the launch of the sec­ond Phase III can now con­form to cur­rent FDA rules de­mand­ing two Phase III stud­ies for an ap­proval. And he out­lined the pro-crenezum­ab ar­gu­ment in a note this morn­ing, com­par­ing Roche’s drug with Lil­ly’s solanezum­ab.

(1) So­la tar­gets Abe­ta monomers on­ly, where­as crenezum­ab al­so tar­gets sol­u­ble Abe­ta oligomers, be­lieved by many to be the most neu­ro­tox­ic, in­hibits Abe­ta ag­gre­ga­tion and pro­motes dis­ag­gre­ga­tion of Abe­ta plaques; (2) The so­la study en­rolled mild AD pa­tients (base­line MMSE 20-26) some of whom may al­ready be too ad­vanced, with “treat­ment” pos­si­bly need­ed years be­fore clin­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions ap­pear as pre­ven­tion. The crenezum­ab Phase III stud­ies are en­rolling milder AD pa­tients, with base­line MMSE 22+ and CDR-GS 0.5 or 1.0. We note that Lil­ly has now al­so aban­doned an on­go­ing tri­al in pro­dro­mal AD; (3) Un­like oth­er promi­nent Abe­ta an­ti­bod­ies such as ad­u­canum­ab and so­la that have an IgG1 back­bone, crenezum­ab con­tains an IgG4 back­bone. Im­por­tant­ly, this IgG4 back­bone re­sults in clear­ance of Abe­ta with­out in­duc­ing an in­flam­ma­to­ry re­sponse, en­abling use of high­er dos­es and a bet­ter side ef­fect pro­file. High­er dos­es should re­sult in in­creased brain ex­po­sure and there­fore po­ten­tial­ly greater ef­fi­ca­cy.

Com­pa­nies in the field can re­ly on bet­ter di­ag­nos­tics to ac­tu­al­ly re­cruit the right pa­tients. But af­ter 15 years of de­feat and dis­as­ter in Alzheimer’s R&D, you can al­so ex­pect to see plen­ty of skep­ti­cism for a drug that al­ready failed hu­man stud­ies.

The litany of set­backs in­cludes Mer­ck’s re­cent de­ci­sion to scut­tle a Phase III study for the in­dus­try-lead­ing BACE drug. But any com­pa­ny which does man­age to get a drug across the fin­ish line can look for­ward to ma­jor sales. Mil­lions of Alzheimer’s pa­tients around the world are des­per­ate for some kind of dis­ease mod­i­fy­ing ther­a­py.

Jef­feries es­ti­mates peak sales for a crenezum­ab at $4.4 bil­lion in 2028, and oth­er an­a­lysts would stretch that fig­ure much high­er.

An­drea Pfeifer, the CEO of AC Im­mune, had this to say:

Giv­en the re­cent dis­ap­point­ing re­sults of oth­er ther­a­pies, all of us in the Alzheimer’s com­mu­ni­ty need to re­dou­ble our ef­forts to com­bat one of so­ci­ety’s biggest chal­lenges. We re­main con­fi­dent about the po­ten­tial of crenezum­ab giv­en it is dis­tinct from oth­er be­ta amy­loid an­ti­bod­ies, pre­dom­i­nant­ly block­ing oligomers in the brain, and has a clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment pro­gram that is us­ing high­er dos­ing and tar­get­ing ear­li­er stages of Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

JP Gabriel, Ocugen

JP Gabriel watched from the bleach­ers as the pan­dem­ic raged. Now head of sup­ply chain at Ocu­gen, he's ready to bat

The world was in the middle of the most pressing public health risk his generation had ever seen, and JP Gabriel felt like he was sitting on the sidelines. As a VP of biologics and mRNA manufacturing at Ultragenyx, Gabriel watched from the sidelines as players like Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna used mRNA tech to chase their own Covid-19 vaccines.

This month, Gabriel got the chance to get his hands dirty against the pandemic — but it won’t be with mRNA.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 107,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­a­tors to NIH: Do more to pro­tect US bio­med­ical re­search from for­eign in­flu­ence

Although Thursday’s Senate health committee hearing was focused on how foreign countries and adversaries might be trying to steal or negatively influence biomedical research in the US, the only country mentioned by the senators and expert witnesses was China.

Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made clear in her opening remarks that the US cannot “let the few instances of bad actors” overshadow the hard work of the many immigrant researchers in the US, many of which have won Nobel prizes for their work. But she also said, “There is more the NIH can be doing here.”

Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.

FDA of­fers scathing re­view of Emer­gent plan­t's san­i­tary con­di­tions, em­ploy­ee train­ing af­ter halt­ing pro­duc­tion

The FDA wrapped up its inspection of Emergent’s troubled vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore on Tuesday, after halting production there on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the agency already released a series of scathing observations on the cross contamination, sanitary issues and lack of staff training that caused the contract manufacturer to dispose of millions of AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine doses.

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Covid-19 man­u­fac­tur­ing roundup: Mary­land looks to grow biotech ca­pac­i­ty with $400M check; Rus­sia lands sec­ond Sput­nik V part­ner this week

A Maryland real estate project has added three new biotech-focused manufacturing and research buildings to an office park to keep up with demand created by the pandemic, the Washington Business Journal reported.

The Milestone Business Park — located off of I-270 in Germantown, MD — will see the new buildings and a total of 532,000 square feet as the campus rebrands to Milestone Innovation Park.

Jenny Rooke (Genoa Ventures)

Ear­ly Zymer­gen in­vestor Jen­ny Rooke re­flects on 'chimeras' in biotech, what it takes to spot a $500M gem

When Jenny Rooke first heard of Zymergen back in 2014, she knew she was looking at something different and exciting. The Emeryville, CA biotech held the promise of blending biology and technology to solve a huge unmet need for cost-effective chemicals — of all things — and a stellar founding team to boot.

But back then, West Coast venture capitalists didn’t see in Zymergen the one thing they were looking for in a winning biotech: therapeutic potential. Rooke, however, saw an opportunity and made her bets. Seven years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 107,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.