Gilead shores up hope for NASH cock­tail with a glimpse at pos­i­tive proof-of-con­cept da­ta

When Gilead con­ced­ed fail­ure in its high-pro­file Phase III study for top late-stage NASH drug selon­sert­ib, CSO John McHutchi­son point­ed dis­ap­point­ed in­vestors to a com­bi­na­tion ap­proach be­ing test­ed in a mid-stage tri­al. Those da­ta are not ready just yet, but to­day the big biotech un­veiled some ear­ly num­bers to bol­ster their case for a cock­tail.

John McHutchi­son

On dis­play to­day at the In­ter­na­tion­al Liv­er Con­gress are topline re­sults from a proof-of-con­cept study test­ing cilofex­or (non­s­teroidal far­ne­soid X re­cep­tor or FXR ag­o­nist) and fir­so­co­stat (acetyl-CoA car­boxy­lase or ACC in­hibitor). Out of 20 pa­tients who were treat­ed with the oral reg­i­men once dai­ly for 12 weeks, 74% ex­pe­ri­enced “a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline of at least 30 per­cent in he­pat­ic fat” — a hall­mark of the dis­ease.

Re­searchers al­so doc­u­ment­ed im­prove­ments in oth­er bio­mark­ers, in­clud­ing “serum ALT (me­di­an rel­a­tive re­duc­tion, -37%; p<0.001) and GGT (-32%; p<0.001), along with mark­ers of re­duced bile acid syn­the­sis.”

Cilofex­or and fir­so­co­stat are al­so part of a triplet com­bo with the ASK1 in­hibitor selon­sert­ib, at the cen­ter of the Phase II AT­LAS study that McHutchi­son high­light­ed. In gen­er­al, FXR ac­ti­va­tion is thought to fight liv­er fi­bro­sis, ACC in­hibitors block fat­ty acid syn­the­sis, while ASK1 in­hibitor al­so helps re­duce in­flam­ma­tion.

“NASH is a com­plex dis­ease with mul­ti­ple bi­o­log­i­cal path­ways that in­flu­ence its pro­gres­sion. Com­bi­na­tion ther­a­peu­tic ap­proach­es which tar­get these path­ways, are like­ly to be need­ed to ef­fec­tive­ly treat pa­tients liv­ing with NASH, par­tic­u­lar­ly those with ad­vanced fi­bro­sis who have the great­est un­met need,” said McHutchi­son in a state­ment.

Gilead took a hit when selon­sert­ib flopped in its close­ly-watched STEL­LAR-4, out­per­formed by the place­bo at the low dose, though an­a­lysts ac­knowl­edged that fi­bro­sis was a tough tar­get to tack­le.

With a flock of small­er play­ers — in­clud­ing In­ter­cept, Gen­fit, Madri­gal and NGM Bio, which is part­nered with Mer­ck — con­tend­ing for the still va­cant NASH throne, Gilead has been pick­ing up ear­ly-stage as­sets in pur­suit of a sus­tain­ing fran­chise. In fact, cilofex­or came from the buy­out of Phenex Phar­ma and you might re­mem­ber fir­so­co­stat as GS-0976, which Gilead paid Nim­bus $600 mil­lion for.

It won’t be easy. But the pull is strong: NASH, which is typ­i­cal­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with obe­si­ty and di­a­betes, is set to eclipse he­pati­tis C as the lead­ing rea­son for liv­er trans­plants by 2020.

At the con­fer­ence, Gilead al­so pre­sent­ed screen­ing da­ta in sup­port of non-in­va­sive tests to iden­ti­fy NASH pa­tients with ad­vanced fi­bro­sis. Re­duc­ing the need for the cost­ly and risky liv­er biop­sies typ­i­cal­ly need­ed for the di­ag­no­sis can pave a smoother path for pa­tients to­ward treat­ment — ul­ti­mate­ly when they get ap­proved.


Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

Nick Leschly via Getty

UP­DAT­ED: Blue­bird shares sink as an­a­lysts puz­zle out $1.8M stick­er shock and an un­ex­pect­ed de­lay

Blue­bird bio $BLUE has un­veiled its price for the new­ly ap­proved gene ther­a­py Zyn­te­glo (Lenti­Glo­bin), which came as a big sur­prise. And it wasn’t the on­ly un­ex­pect­ed twist in to­day’s sto­ry.

With some an­a­lysts bet­ting on a $900,000 price for the β-tha­lassemia treat­ment in Eu­rope, where reg­u­la­tors pro­vid­ed a con­di­tion­al ear­ly OK, blue­bird CEO Nick Leschly said Fri­day morn­ing that the pa­tients who are suc­cess­ful­ly treat­ed with their drug over 5 years will be charged twice that — $1.8 mil­lion — on the con­ti­nent. That makes this drug the sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py on the plan­et, just be­hind No­var­tis’ new­ly ap­proved Zol­gens­ma at $2.1 mil­lion, with an­a­lysts still wait­ing to see what kind of pre­mi­um can be had in the US.

Ted Love. HAVERFORD COLLEGE

Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics poised to sub­mit ap­pli­ca­tion for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval, with new piv­otal da­ta on its sick­le cell dis­ease drug

Global Blood Therapeutics is set to submit an application for accelerated approval in the second-half of this year, after unveiling fresh data from a late-stage trial that showed just over half the patients given the highest dose of its experimental sickle cell disease drug experienced a statistically significant improvement in oxygen-wielding hemoglobin, meeting the study's main goal.

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News­mak­ers at #EHA19: Re­gen­eron, Ar­Qule track progress on re­sponse rates

Re­gen­eron’s close­ly-watched bis­pe­cif­ic con­tin­ues to ring up high re­sponse rates

Re­gen­eron’s high-pro­file bis­pe­cif­ic REGN1979 is back in the spot­light at the Eu­ro­pean Hema­tol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion sci­en­tif­ic con­fab. And while the stel­lar num­bers we saw at ASH have erod­ed some­what as more blood can­cer pa­tients are eval­u­at­ed, the re­sponse rates for this CD3/CD20 drug re­main high.

A to­tal of 13 out of 14 fol­lic­u­lar lym­phomas re­spond­ed to the drug, a 93% ORR, down from 100% at the last read­out. In 10 out of 14, there was a com­plete re­sponse. In dif­fuse large B-cell lym­phoma the re­sponse rate was 57% among pa­tients treat­ed at the 80 mg to 160 mg dose range. They were all com­plete re­spons­es. And 2 of these Cars were for pa­tients who had failed CAR-T ther­a­py.

Savara shares are crushed as PhI­II tri­al flunks pri­ma­ry, key sec­on­daries — but they can’t stop be­liev­ing

In­vestors are in no mood to hear biotechs tout the suc­cess of a “key” sec­ondary end­point when the piv­otal Phase III flunks the pri­ma­ry goal. Just ask Savara. 

The Texas biotech $SVRA went look­ing for a sil­ver lin­ing as com­pa­ny ex­ecs blunt­ly con­ced­ed that Mol­gradex, an in­haled for­mu­la­tion of re­com­bi­nant hu­man gran­u­lo­cyte-macrophage colony-stim­u­lat­ing fac­tor (GM-CSF), failed to spur sig­nif­i­cant­ly im­proved treat­ment out­comes for pa­tients with a rare res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­ease called au­toim­mune pul­monary alve­o­lar pro­teinosis, or aPAP.

Neil Woodford, Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Un­der siege, in­vest­ment man­ag­er Wood­ford faces an­oth­er in­vest­ment shock

Em­bat­tled UK fund man­ag­er Neil Wood­ford — who has con­tro­ver­sial­ly blocked in­vestors from pulling out from his flag­ship fund to stem the blood­let­ting, af­ter a slew of dis­ap­point­ed in­vestors fled fol­low­ing a se­ries of sour bets — is now pay­ing the price for his ac­tions via an in­vestor ex­o­dus on an­oth­er fund.

Har­g­reaves Lans­down, which has in the past sold and pro­mot­ed the Wood­ford funds via its re­tail in­vest­ment plat­form, has re­port­ed­ly with­drawn £45 mil­lion — its en­tire po­si­tion — from the in­vest­ment man­ag­er’s In­come Fo­cus Fund.

Search­ing for the next block­buster to fol­low Darza­lex, J&J finds a $150M an­ti-CD38 drug from part­ner Gen­mab

Now that J&J and Genmab have thrust Darzalex onto the regulatory orbit for first-line use in multiple myeloma, the partners are lining up a deal for a next-gen follow-on to the leading CD38 drug.


Janssen — J&J’s biotech unit — has its eyes on HexaBody-CD38, a preclinical compound generated on Genmab’s tech platform designed to make drugs more potent via hexamerization.


Genmab is footing the bill on studies in multiple myeloma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; once it completes clinical proof of concept, Janssen has the option to license the drug for a $150 million exercise fee. There’s also $125 million worth of milestones in play.

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NASH con­tender CymaBay runs in­to trou­ble as mid-stage da­ta dis­ap­point

A snap­shot of neg­a­tive da­ta from an on­go­ing 52-week mid-stage NASH study eval­u­at­ing CymaBay Ther­a­peu­tics’ lead drug has trig­gered alarm, af­ter the ex­per­i­men­tal liv­er drug, se­ladel­par, per­formed worse than a place­bo at a three-month read­out.

Sur­prised and aghast, in­vestors of the San Fran­cis­co-based biotech wast­ed lit­tle time in reg­is­ter­ing their dis­ap­point­ment. The com­pa­ny’s shares $CBAY plum­met­ed about 44.5% to $6.16 in ear­ly Tues­day trad­ing.

Gene ther­a­pies seize the top of the list of the most ex­pen­sive drugs on the plan­et — and that trend has just be­gun

Anyone looking for a few simple reasons why the gene therapy field has caught fire with the pharma giants need only look at the new list of the 10 most expensive therapies from GoodRx.

Two recently approved gene therapies sit atop this list, with Novartis’ Zolgensma crowned the king of the priciest drugs at $2.1 million. Right below is Luxturna, the $850,000 pioneer from Spark, which Roche is pushing hard to acquire as it adds a gene therapy group to the global mix.

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As an­oth­er an­tibi­otics biotech sinks in­to a cri­sis, warn­ings of a sec­tor ‘col­lapse’

Another antibiotics company is scrambling to survive today, forcing the company’s founding CEO to exit in a reorganization that eliminates its research capabilities as the survivors look to improve on minuscule sales of their newly approved treatment. And the news — on top of an alarming series of failures — spurred at least one figure in the field to warn of a looming collapse of the antimicrobial resistance research field.

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