In­cyte's good week con­tin­ues with an en­cour­ag­ing up­date on IDO1 star epaca­do­stat

In­cyte’s com­plete re­sponse rate for a mid-stage com­bo of its IDO1 drug epaca­do­stat with check­point leg­end Keytru­da took a hit in the lat­est da­ta up­date, but the grow­ing biotech came away with a thumbs-up from an­a­lysts who have been track­ing this tri­al care­ful­ly.

Hervé Hop­penot, In­cyte

In­cyte $IN­CY is steadi­ly beef­ing up the num­bers on their big drug. Go­ing in­to ES­MO next week — where they will add a few more re­sults — re­searchers re­port­ed on 54 pa­tients evalu­able for ef­fi­ca­cy.

Leerink’s Michael Schmidt took a close look, and was com­fort­ed over­all to see some con­sis­ten­cy and con­tin­ued promise. His bot­tom line:

Ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty da­ta high­light­ed in the ab­stract in this larg­er (n=54) melanoma co­hort look very con­sis­tent rel­a­tive to ear­li­er dose-es­ca­la­tion re­sults pre­sent­ed pre­vi­ous­ly in n=19 pa­tients. Im­por­tant­ly, da­ta con­tin­ue to com­pare fa­vor­ably not on­ly to his­toric Keytru­da or Op­di­vo monother­a­py re­sults, but al­so com­pared to the com­bi­na­tion of Op­di­vo with Yer­voy in treat­ment-naïve metasta­t­ic melanoma pa­tients, which we think bodes well for the prob­a­bil­i­ty-of­suc­cess of the on­go­ing ECHO-301 Phase III tri­al, which is ex­pect­ed to read out in ear­ly 1H18.

That’s based on these re­sults, which in­clud­ed a drop in com­plete re­spons­es from 26% to 13%:

1. In all 54 ef­fi­ca­cy evalu­able pa­tients, re­ports Leerink, an ORR of 56% was achieved (8 com­plete re­spons­es [CRs] and 22 par­tial re­spons­es [PRs], n=54 pa­tients). In treat­ment-naïve pa­tients, an ORR of 56% was achieved (6 CRs and 19 PRs, n=45 pa­tients). In treat­ment-naïve pa­tients re­ceiv­ing the Phase III epaca­do­stat dose (100mg BID) an ORR of 60% was achieved (2 CRs and 16 PRs, n=30 pa­tients). This com­pares to the ORR of 58% in n=19 treat­ment-naïve pa­tients pre­sent­ed pre­vi­ous­ly at ES­MO 2016.

2. In all 54 evalu­able pa­tients, a me­di­an pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival [PFS] of 12.4 months was achieved with PFS rates at 6, 12, and 18 months of 70%, 54%, and 50%, re­spec­tive­ly. In treat­ment naïve pa­tients, me­di­an PFS had not been reached with PFS rates at 6, 12, and 18 months of 68%, 52%, and 52%, re­spec­tive­ly.

So far, so good. We’ll keep up­dat­ing these small num­bers from ECHO-202 while the piv­otal tri­al pro­gress­es to a near-term read­out.

It’s been a good week for In­cyte, which an­nounced with Eli Lil­ly yes­ter­day that the FDA is let­ting the part­ners re­sub­mit their rheuma­toid arthri­tis drug baric­i­tinib with­out the new late-stage tri­al that was in­sist­ed on ear­li­er this year. If in fact the FDA changed its mind, af­ter the ar­rival of Scott Got­tlieb as com­mis­sion­er, then the agency has shift­ed course on safe­ty. That’s a big deal for every­one.

In the mean­time, In­cyte is al­so pur­su­ing its own PD-1 pro­gram with a part­ner, look­ing to line up an in-house com­bo that could even­tu­al­ly sup­plant ag­nos­tic col­lab­o­ra­tions with Mer­ck and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.