In an­oth­er blow to MSCs de­vel­op­er, Pluris­tem ter­mi­nates a failed lead pro­gram

A tough year for mes­enchy­mal stem cell com­pa­nies just got tougher.

Pluris­tem, the NASA-al­lied Is­raeli stem cell biotech, an­nounced Mon­day that a da­ta mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee de­ter­mined the Phase III tri­al for a lead pro­gram wouldn’t meet the pri­ma­ry end­point. The com­pa­ny will aban­don the ef­fort, which had fo­cused on pre­vent­ing am­pu­ta­tions in peo­ple with crit­i­cal limb is­chemia.

They blamed a low num­ber of am­pu­ta­tions in the place­bo group, which they ar­gued made it more dif­fi­cult to prove that their stem cells were pro­vid­ing a ben­e­fit.

Pluris­tem’s stock $PSTI was cut near­ly in half on the news, falling from $11.46 to $6.60 pre-mar­ket.

The hit makes Pluris­tem the sec­ond mes­enchy­mal de­vel­op­er to take a beat­ing on the mar­ket this year, af­ter the Aus­tralia-based Mesoblast $MESO saw shares drop off in Au­gust. They had risen in an­tic­i­pa­tion of an FDA de­ci­sion on their graft-ver­sus-host-dis­ease ap­pli­ca­tion, and fell when the agency de­liv­ered a CRL.

Mesoblast re­cov­ered, though, af­ter No­var­tis bought in­to their ef­fort to ap­ply their stem cells in peo­ple with se­vere Covid-19 and oth­er pa­tients with acute res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­tress syn­drome.

Yaky Yanay

Pluris­tem has its own Covid-19 pro­gram — one of over a dozen such ef­forts in the US to use stem cells as a way of mod­u­lat­ing the over­ac­tive im­mune re­sponse in se­vere pa­tients — and CEO Yaky Yanay sought to turn at­ten­tion to it on a call with in­vestors Wednes­day morn­ing.

He not­ed that they were like­ly to com­plete en­roll­ment in the first quar­ter of 2021 and an­nounce da­ta around 60 days lat­er. He al­so point­ed to read­outs next year in mus­cle re­gen­er­a­tion fol­low­ing hip frac­ture and in pa­tients ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­com­plete hematopoi­et­ic re­cov­ery fol­low­ing hematopoi­et­ic cell trans­plan­ta­tion.

Asked, though, about their work in in­ter­mit­tent clau­di­ca­tion, a con­di­tion that af­fects the ar­ter­ies and can progress to crit­i­cal limb is­chemia, Yanay made clear they were mov­ing on. He said that they would de­vote their ef­forts to in­di­ca­tions where they be­lieve they have the best chance of suc­ceed­ing.

But not every­one agrees that Covid is one of those in­di­ca­tions. Mes­enchy­mal stem cells, short-lived stem cells that can pass through the body safe­ly, have been in the clin­ic for two decades in a range of dis­eases, but re­searchers have strug­gled to show ben­e­fits in large, place­bo-con­trolled stud­ies

“In a way, it’s like giv­ing as­pirin for Covid,” Jeanne Lor­ing, an ear­ly stem cell pi­o­neer and a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the Scripps Re­search Cen­ter for Re­gen­er­a­tive Med­i­cine told End­points News in Sep­tem­ber. “It’s not go­ing to hurt them, but the chances of it help­ing them? It’ll be a mir­a­cle.”

So­cial im­age: Yaky Yanay, Pluris­tem (Twit­ter)

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.

Chris Gibson (Photo By Vaughn Ridley/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)

Re­cur­sion founders gin for­tunes as IPO back­ers show­er $436M on one of the biggest boasts in AI -- based on some very small deals

In the AI drug development world, boasting often comes with the territory. Yet few can rival Recursion when it comes to claiming the lead role in what company execs like to call the industrialization of drug development, with promises of continued exponential growth in the number of drugs it has in the pipeline.

On Friday, the Salt Lake City-based biotech translated its unicorn-sized boasts into a killer IPO, pricing more than 24 million shares at the high end of its range and bringing in $436 million — with a large chunk of that promised by some deep-pocket backers.

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UP­DAT­ED: New Kaiser analy­sis shows how lim­it­ing price ne­go­ti­a­tions to tar­get­ed drugs may bet­ter fo­cus up­com­ing leg­is­la­tion

As Congress considers whether to adopt sweeping new legislation to lower prescription drug prices across the board, the Kaiser Family Foundation is out with a new report on Monday showing how a more targeted approach on a subset of drugs might be a more efficient way to save government funds.

“This analysis shows that Medicare Part D and Part B spending is highly concentrated among a relatively small share of covered drugs, mainly those without generic or biosimilar competitors,” wrote Juliette Cubanski, deputy director of the program on Medicare policy at KFF, and Tricia Neuman, SVP of KFF. “Focusing drug price negotiation or reference pricing on a subset of drugs that account for a disproportionate share of spending would be an efficient use of administrative resources, though it would also leave some potential savings on the table.”

FDA lays the ham­mer on Emer­gen­t's Bal­ti­more plant af­ter J&J de­ba­cle, halt­ing all pro­duc­tion in un­usu­al move

Emergent BioSolutions has had a tough month: First, the CDMO ruined 15 million doses of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine in March and then suffered the ignominy of the FDA seizing the reins. Now, as the agency receives a full accounting of the site’s problems, Emergent has slammed the brakes on all production at the FDA’s behest.

Emergent will cease manufacturing at its Baltimore plant until the FDA’s inspection and remediation of any findings is complete, the company said in a statement. Emergent will also quarantine existing materials that have already been manufactured. That stoppage started on Friday, four days after the initiation of the FDA’s inspection.

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Ovid cuts its loss­es on con­tro­ver­sial An­gel­man syn­drome drug, mak­ing its crush­ing de­vel­op­ment halt per­ma­nent

After a turbulent couple of years, Ovid is officially doing away with a program it had once championed in the face of heavy analyst skepticism.

Ovid has discontinued development of OV101, or gaboxadol, in Angelman syndrome and will not pursue further clinical trials for Fragile X syndrome, the company announced Monday morning. The news comes after Ovid had previously paused development in Angelman when the compound flunked a Phase III trial in December.

FDA slaps a hold on Mof­fitt’s next-gen CAR-T as reg­u­la­tors de­mand an­oth­er de­lay on clin­i­cal work — shares crater

Close to a year-and-a-half after tapping the brakes on one of its preclinical programs to do some added genetic engineering work on their next-gen CAR-T, Anixa $ANIX Therapeutics says the regulatory light is flashing red on their IND.

The San Jose, CA-based biotech — which changed its name from ITUS in 2018 — explained in late 2019 that they were taking a knee for at least a year so that researchers could go back and amp up the expression of follicle stimulating hormone on T cells to improve targeting of the FSH receptor on a specific set of ovarian cells. That required new vector engineering work by their partners at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Tillman Gerngross (Adagio)

Till­man Gern­gross' Covid-19 an­ti­body moon­shot scores $336M with the help of new ace CFO. Is an IPO next?

Less than a year into its existence, serial biotech entrepreneur Tillman Gerngross’ antibody play Adagio has raced ahead into a pivotal trial for its lead drug for Covid-19 on the back of some very promising preclinical data. Now, crossover investors led by Peter Kolchinsky at RA are rolling up the Brinks truck — and that could spell an IPO in the offing for Adagio.

Adagio has bagged $336 million as part of a Series C round led by RA Capital to advance lead single-shot antibody ADG20 through a pivotal Phase I/II/III trial for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 patients at high risk of infection, the biotech said Monday.

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When is a drug re­al­ly a de­vice? Court knocks down FDA ap­peal in try­ing to sort that grey area

It’s always a surprise when a court has to step in to tell the FDA that it erred in performing one of its main duties: classifying whether a medical product is drug or a device.

But that’s what the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia did on Friday, making clear to the world’s top drug regulator that Genus Medical Technologies’ contrast agent barium sulfate (also known as Vanilla SilQ) should not be considered a drug, as the FDA had said, but a medical device.

Q1: A flood of in­vestor cash drove biotech's num­bers to new record highs, and the tor­rent of cash is mov­ing up­stream fast

If you thought biotech was booming last year, wait until you get a load of the numbers from Q1 2021.

On virtually every level, with one exception, the money engine was working around the clock in the first 3 months of this year. Venture capital has reached such a fever peak that the average B round now weighs in at an average mega-weight value of $100 million. The money flow is also finding its way to the mouth of the R&D river, where discovery work now merits the big bucks instead of cautionary seed funds.

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