FDA re­jects Am­gen’s os­teo­poro­sis drug ro­mo as ri­val Ra­dius sur­pris­es with a new CEO

Af­ter miss­ing a key sec­ondary end­point for its big os­teo­poro­sis drug ro­mosozum­ab last fall and then run­ning in­to a dis­turb­ing safe­ty is­sue two months ago, Am­gen $AMGN said Sun­day that the FDA has hand­ed the big biotech a re­jec­tion on its mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, a wide­ly an­tic­i­pat­ed set­back for the drug de­vel­op­er that will give ri­val Ra­dius a shot at es­tab­lish­ing a big lead in what had once been thought of as a horse race. And with­in hours of the CRL news from Am­gen, Ra­dius put out the word that it is mak­ing a change at the helm, with long­time CEO Bob Ward out and No­vo US pres­i­dent Jes­per Høi­land step­ping in to or­ches­trate the cam­paign for Ra­dius’ first mar­ket launch.

Jes­per Høi­land

Ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny’s state­ment, the agency says they want Am­gen to in­clude the da­ta from two late-stage stud­ies – the ARCH study as well as a Phase III in men called the BRIDGE tri­al, sig­nif­i­cant­ly de­lay­ing a come­back. That’s al­so bad news for UCB, which is part­nered with Am­gen.

BRIDGE was com­plet­ed more than a year ago. I asked a spokesper­son why the da­ta hadn’t al­ready been sup­plied to the FDA, and she said in re­ply that the ex­ec­u­tive crew at Am­gen would of­fer some added con­text dur­ing their earn­ings re­view Ju­ly 25.

In a fol­lowup on Mon­day af­ter­noon, Am­gen added: “Based on orig­i­nal dis­cus­sions with FDA, the FRAME study was suf­fi­cient for ini­tial BLA sub­mis­sion. The piv­otal 7,180-pa­tient FRAME tri­al was the first to eval­u­ate ver­te­bral frac­ture risk re­duc­tion as ear­ly as one year as a pri­ma­ry end­point.”

Ro­mo — which tar­gets the scle­rostin pro­tein — fol­lowed by Am­gen’s Pro­lia (deno­sum­ab) clear­ly vault­ed the bar in Phase III for re­duc­ing ver­te­bral frac­tures, with a hefty 75% risk re­duc­tion com­pared to a place­bo plus deno­sum­ab. In­ves­ti­ga­tors al­so were able to show a bet­ter safe­ty pro­file in its pre­sen­ta­tion at the an­nu­al con­fab of the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Bone Min­er­al Re­search. And there was an in­crease in bone min­er­al den­si­ty among the drug arm in the study.

But the drug al­so missed a key sec­ondary end­point in the piv­otal pro­gram. The drug did not sig­nif­i­cant­ly im­prove pa­tients’ risk of non-ver­te­bral frac­tures, leav­ing Ra­dius Health $RDUS with a pos­si­ble dis­tinct ad­van­tage on that score af­ter win­ning ap­proval in late April. Then in May, Am­gen pre­saged the re­jec­tion with a note spelling out a dis­turb­ing car­dio risk im­bal­ance be­tween ro­mo and Fos­amax; 2.5% for ro­mo and 1.9% for Fos­amax.

Reg­u­la­tors made it clear they want­ed to eval­u­ate the full set of da­ta in siz­ing up an ap­proval, de­rail­ing an ex­pect­ed sum­mer OK.

The board at Waltham, MA-based Ra­dius of­fered Ward a slap on the back and con­grat­u­la­tions for or­ga­niz­ing the IPO and Tym­los ap­proval. Chair­man Kurt Graves al­so made it clear that the com­pa­ny want­ed to go with an ex­pe­ri­enced hand at jump-start­ing new drug brands, giv­ing Høi­land a cheer for his work in that field at No­vo.

While both Am­gen and Ra­dius have an­gled for an ap­proval, com­mer­cial suc­cess is a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent is­sue. As The New York Times re­port­ed re­cent­ly, pa­tients are gen­er­al­ly start­ed on bis­pho­s­pho­nates like Fos­amax, which are old and cheap. But they’re al­so lim­it­ed, un­able to build bone the way For­teo and the two new drugs are de­signed to do.

Lil­ly, mean­while, has been rapid­ly jack­ing up the price of For­teo ahead of its loss of patent pro­tec­tion. The Times re­ports the whole­sale price has soared to $3,100 a month, more than three times its price in 2010. Lil­ly has been in­creas­ing the price twice a year, for six years.

Sean Harp­er

Am­gen has had its ups and downs over the past year. Parsabiv was ap­proved ear­li­er this year, but isn’t ex­pect­ed to be­come a block­buster. A Phase III CGRP mi­graine drug – now part­nered with No­var­tis – has done well, but so have oth­er ri­val ther­a­pies that have been crowd­ing in. It’s had more suc­cess in the courts, but still faces an on­go­ing le­gal brawl with Re­gen­eron and Sanofi over the PC­SK9 mar­ket, while nei­ther group has been able to gain much trac­tion with pay­ers. Go­ing back to the draw­ing board on ro­mo won’t help, but can’t be avoid­ed as the drug faces an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

“Dur­ing our in­ter­ac­tions with the FDA, we agreed that the ARCH da­ta should be con­sid­ered in the reg­u­la­to­ry re­view pri­or to the ini­tial mar­ket­ing au­tho­riza­tion and, as a re­sult, an­tic­i­pat­ed this re­quest. We look for­ward to work­ing through the re­view process with the Agency,” said Sean Harp­er, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of R&D at Am­gen. “We re­main com­mit­ted to help­ing pa­tients with os­teo­poro­sis and will use the ad­di­tion­al time to bet­ter un­der­stand the ben­e­fit:risk pro­file of Eveni­ty.”

Chica­go biotech ar­gues blue­bird, Third Rock 'killed' its ri­val, pi­o­neer­ing tha­lassemia gene ther­a­py in law­suit

Blue­bird bio $BLUE chief Nick Leschly court­ed con­tro­ver­sy last week when he re­vealed the com­pa­ny’s be­ta tha­lassemia treat­ment will car­ry a jaw-drop­ping $1.8 mil­lion price tag over a 5 year pe­ri­od in the Unit­ed States — mak­ing it the plan­et’s sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py be­hind No­var­tis’ $NVS fresh­ly ap­proved spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy ther­a­py, Zol­gens­ma at $2.1 mil­lion. A Chica­go biotech, mean­while, has been fum­ing at the side­lines. In a law­suit filed ear­li­er this month, Er­rant Gene Ther­a­peu­tics al­leged that blue­bird and ven­ture cap­i­tal group Third Rock un­law­ful­ly prised a vi­ral vec­tor, de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing (MSK), from its grasp, and thwart­ed the de­vel­op­ment of its sem­i­nal gene ther­a­py.

Arc­turus ex­pands col­lab­o­ra­tion, adding $30M cash; Ku­ra shoots for $100M raise

→  Rare dis­ease play­er Ul­tragenyx $RARE is ex­pand­ing its al­liance with Arc­turus $ARCT, pay­ing $24 mil­lion for eq­ui­ty and an­oth­er $6 mil­lion in an up­front as the two part­ners ex­pand their col­lab­o­ra­tion to in­clude up to 12 tar­gets. “This ex­pand­ed col­lab­o­ra­tion fur­ther so­lid­i­fies our mR­NA plat­form by adding ad­di­tion­al tar­gets and ex­pand­ing our abil­i­ty to po­ten­tial­ly treat more dis­eases,” said Emil Kakkis, the CEO at Ul­tragenyx. “We are pleased with the progress of our on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion. Our most ad­vanced mR­NA pro­gram, UX053 for the treat­ment of Glyco­gen Stor­age Dis­ease Type III, is ex­pect­ed to move in­to the clin­ic next year, and we look for­ward to fur­ther build­ing up­on the ini­tial suc­cess of this part­ner­ship.”

Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Wood­ford braces po­lit­i­cal storm as UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors scru­ti­nize fund sus­pen­sion

The shock of Neil Wood­ford’s de­ci­sion to block with­drawals for his flag­ship fund is still rip­pling through the rest of his port­fo­lio — and be­yond. Un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors are now tak­ing a hard look while in­vestors con­tin­ue to flee.

In a re­sponse let­ter to an MP, the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty re­vealed that it’s opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the sus­pen­sion fol­low­ing months of en­gage­ment with Link Fund So­lu­tions, which tech­ni­cal­ly del­e­gat­ed Wood­ford’s firm to man­age its funds.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Gilead baits new al­liance with $45M up­front, div­ing in­to the busy pro­tein degra­da­tion field

Gilead is jump­ing on board the pro­tein degra­da­tion band­wag­on. And they’re turn­ing to a low-pro­file Third Rock start­up for the ex­per­tise. But if you were look­ing for a trans­for­ma­tion­al deal to kick up fresh en­thu­si­asm for Gilead, you’ll have to re­main pa­tient.

 

This one will have a long way to go be­fore they get in­to the clin­ic.

The big biotech said Wednes­day morn­ing that it is pay­ing $45 mil­lion up­front and re­serv­ing a whop­ping $2.3 bil­lion in biotech bucks if San Fran­cis­co-based Nurix can point the way to new can­cer ther­a­pies, as well as drugs for oth­er, un­spec­i­fied dis­eases.

John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

A new num­ber 1 drug? Keytru­da tapped to top the 10 biggest block­busters on the world stage by 2024

Analysts may be fretting about Keytruda’s longterm prospects as a host of rival therapies elbow their way to the market. But the folks at Evaluate Pharma are confident that last year’s $7 billion earner is headed for glory, tapping it to beat out the current #1 therapy Humira as AbbVie watches that franchise swoon over the next 5 years.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

In­vestor day prep at Mer­ck in­cludes a new strat­e­gy to pick up the pace on M&A — re­port

Mer­ck’s re­cent deals to buy up two bolt-on biotechs — Ti­los and Pelo­ton — weren’t an aber­ra­tion. In­stead, both ac­qui­si­tions mark a new strat­e­gy to beef up its dom­i­nant can­cer drug op­er­a­tions cen­tered on Keytru­da while look­ing to ad­dress grow­ing con­cerns that too many of its eggs are in the one I/O bas­ket for their PD-1 pro­gram. And Mer­ck is go­ing af­ter more small- and mid-sized buy­outs to calm those fears.

Dave Barrett, Brian Chee, Amir Nashat, Amy Schulman. Polaris

Bob Langer's first port of call — Po­laris Part­ners — maps $400M for ninth fund

Health and tech ven­ture group Po­laris Part­ners, which counts Alec­tor, Al­ny­lam and Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine as part of its port­fo­lio, is set­ting up its ninth fund, rough­ly two years af­ter it closed Po­laris VI­II with $435 mil­lion in the bank, sur­pass­ing its tar­get by $35 mil­lion.

The Boston-based firm, in an SEC fil­ing, said it in­tends to raise $400 mil­lion for the fund. Po­laris — which rou­tine­ly backs com­pa­nies mold­ed out of the work done in the lab of pro­lif­ic sci­en­tist Bob Langer of MIT  — typ­i­cal­ly in­vests ear­ly, and sticks around till com­pa­nies are in the green. Like its peers at Flag­ship and Third Rock, Po­laris is all about cham­pi­oning the lo­cal biotech scene with a steady flow of start­up cash.