Im­munomedics must en­dure an­oth­er de­lay as FDA re­jects can­cer drug cit­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sues

We all like to root for the un­der­dog. Fol­low­ing an arid spell stretch­ing over three decades that in 2017 led to the ouster of Im­munomedics founder/CSO and his CEO wife, the com­pa­ny (and an­a­lysts) were hope­ful the drug de­vel­op­er would fi­nal­ly win its first FDA nod for its treat­ment for a dif­fi­cult-to-treat form of breast can­cer. The man­age­ment shake­up, at the be­hest of an ac­tivist share­hold­er cam­paign, had re­ju­ve­nat­ed the com­pa­ny’s for­tunes by at­tract­ing in­vest­ment and ramp­ing up the drug’s de­vel­op­ment. But the FDA on Thurs­day hand­ed the biotech a re­jec­tion cit­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sues, adding yet an­oth­er de­lay to the reg­u­la­to­ry time­line.

The New Jer­sey-based com­pa­ny’s shares plum­met­ed about 33.5% in ear­ly Fri­day trad­ing.

The drug — called IM­MU-132 or sac­i­tuzum­ab govite­can — is an an­ti­body drug con­ju­gate (ADC) or an armed an­ti­body which is de­signed to de­liv­er a spe­cif­ic pay­load of a chemother­a­py di­rect­ly to a tu­mor, to re­duce the tox­i­c­i­ty as­so­ci­at­ed with the con­ven­tion­al ad­min­is­tra­tion of chemother­a­py. The FDA grant­ed the drug pri­or­i­ty re­view on the ba­sis of da­ta from an on­go­ing sin­gle-arm Phase II study in pa­tients with metasta­t­ic triple-neg­a­tive breast can­cer (mTNBC) who have un­der­gone pri­or ther­a­py. Sac­i­tuzum­ab govite­can, which is al­so be­ing test­ed in a con­fir­ma­to­ry Phase III study in mTNBC pa­tients, was ex­pect­ed to win ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval on Jan­u­ary 18. An­a­lysts had sug­gest­ed avail­able mid-stage drug da­ta in­di­cat­ed it was a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment over stan­dard-of-care and had as­signed it peak sales ex­pec­ta­tions of $1 bil­lion and more.

Michael Pehl

In its last up­date in De­cem­ber, Im­munomedics re­port­ed da­ta from the 108-pa­tient mid-stage study — as as­sessed by in­de­pen­dent re­view — demon­strat­ed the drug in­duced par­tial or com­plete tu­mor shrink­age in 34% of pa­tients, with a me­di­an du­ra­tion of re­sponse of about 9 months.

To be sure, the com­pa­ny was not ex­pect­ing the re­jec­tion. It hired a sales force back in No­vem­ber in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the Jan­u­ary ap­proval and told an­a­lysts in De­cem­ber that man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sues the US health reg­u­la­tor had flagged in Au­gust had been since ad­dressed.

In a De­cem­ber 20 note, Jef­feries an­a­lysts said that while man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sues could be a source of con­cern, they re­mained “con­fi­dent in ‘132 as the com­pa­ny be­lieves all is­sues have been re­solved and it has in­vest­ed heav­i­ly in the com­mer­cial in­fra­struc­ture pri­or to ap­proval. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, we would high­light that IM­MU has se­cured an agree­ment with Sam­sung Bi­o­log­ics as a sec­ondary man­u­fac­tur­er…pro­vid­ing risk mit­i­ga­tion if is­sues can­not be re­solved at cur­rent site.”

On Thurs­day, Im­munomedics un­der­scored the sac­i­tuzum­ab govite­can re­jec­tion had noth­ing to do with the drug’s clin­i­cal da­ta.

“The is­sues re­lat­ed to ap­prov­abil­i­ty in the CRL were ex­clu­sive­ly fo­cused on Chem­istry, Man­u­fac­tur­ing and Con­trol mat­ters and no new clin­i­cal or pre­clin­i­cal da­ta need to be gen­er­at­ed,” Im­munomedics chief Michael Pehl said in a state­ment, adding that the com­pa­ny in­tend­ed to re­quest a meet­ing with the FDA to bet­ter un­der­stand the agency’s re­quire­ments.

But with no light at the end of the gov­ern­ment shut­down tun­nel, who knows how long that will take.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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J&J ad­comm live blog: J&J faces ques­tions on old­er adults, asymp­to­matic in­fec­tion, long-term im­mu­ni­ty

The FDA adcomm has advanced to the free-for-all question stage of the hearing and, as they did for Moderna and Pfizer, committee members are raising questions about the lingering issues surrounding the vaccine.

In J&J’s case, one of those unknowns is a group of participants who appeared to respond worse to the vaccine: those over 60 with comorbidities. In that group, the vaccine was only 42% effective at stopping disease starting 28 days after vaccination.

Genen­tech plots $53M dis­cov­ery quest aimed at spark­ing a 'Holy moly' piv­ot in neu­ro R&D

Genentech has committed $53 million to back a 10-year quest aimed at going back to the drawing board to use new technology and fresh scientific insights to generate a pipeline of drugs for neurological diseases.

Roche’s big South San Francisco hub will mix it up with the scientists drawn together for the Weill Neurohub — formed in 2019 as a joint research partnership involving UCSF, Berkeley and the University of Washington — in an exploration of the field to develop new therapies for some of the toughest diseases in drug R&D: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS and autism.

Am­gen, As­traZeneca speed to­ward fil­ing next-gen an­ti­body for asth­ma af­ter un­cork­ing full late-stage da­ta

On the hunt for a novel competitor to Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent in severe asthma, Amgen and AstraZeneca posted “exciting” results from their next-gen antibody late last year. Now, the partners are showing their hands, and the results look good enough for approval.

Amgen and AstraZeneca’s tezepelumab plus standard of care cut the rate of severe asthma attacks by 56% at the one-year mark compared with SOC alone, according to full data from the Phase III NAVIGATOR study presented Friday at the virtual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting. And those significant results were consistent regardless of patients’ baseline eosinophil counts.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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