J&J-part­nered MeiraGTx aims at Bio­gen with new eye gene ther­a­py da­ta

Sev­er­al months af­ter Bio­gen tout­ed the first proof-of-con­cept da­ta from its $800 mil­lion eye gene ther­a­py, MeiraGTx and J&J are out with their own ear­ly da­ta for a ri­val treat­ment.

In a small Phase I/II tri­al for their gene ther­a­py for the de­gen­er­a­tive eye dis­ease x-linked re­tini­tis pig­men­tosa, MeiraGTx found that the 7 pa­tients in the two low­est dose co­horts saw their vi­sion im­prove on mul­ti­ple mea­sures for 6 months. The study will pro­vide the ba­sis for the New York biotech to move in­to a piv­otal Phase III for the gene ther­a­py that J&J paid $100 mil­lion to get in on last year.

Jim List

“It’s re­al­ly ex­cit­ing da­ta,” Jim List, Janssen’s glob­al ther­a­peu­tic head for car­dio­vas­cu­lar and meta­bol­ic dis­ease, told End­points News. “This shows the po­ten­tial of the ther­a­py to have an im­prove­ment in vi­sion from this treat­ment, but al­so for this to slow or halt the pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease, and that would be amaz­ing.”

The re­tini­tis pro­gram is MeiraGTx’s lead pro­gram and one of two ma­jor gene ther­a­py plays for the dis­or­der, which is gen­er­al­ly di­ag­nosed in ado­les­cence and caus­es slow de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in vi­sion for years af­ter. Bio­gen spent $877 mil­lion last year to ac­quire Night­star Ther­a­peu­tics and their gene ther­a­py pro­gram.

In Jan­u­ary, Bio­gen pub­lished a sim­i­lar set of Phase I/II da­ta for Night­star’s treat­ment in Na­ture Med­i­cine, al­so show­ing that the drug was safe and that a sub­set of pa­tients saw im­prove­ment that was sus­tained over 3 to 6 months.

Like Bio­gen, MeiraGTx al­so found though that a sub­set of pa­tients ex­pe­ri­enced an in­flam­ma­to­ry re­sponse. Al­though that re­sponse was quick­ly re­solved with oral steroids, it ap­peared to in­ter­fere with the ef­fec­tive­ness of the drug. Pa­tients on the high­est dose of MeiraGTx’s tri­al did not see a strong im­prove­ment, and the biotech will con­duct their Phase III with the low and in­ter­me­di­ate dose.

The 4 pa­tients on the in­ter­me­di­ate dose arms saw a reti­nal sen­si­tiv­i­ty in­crease of 1.02 db, and an in­crease of cen­tral vi­su­al field pro­gres­sion rate at 1.26 db/year. Cen­tral vi­su­al field pro­gres­sion rate im­proved 1.10 db/year for the low dos­es. For the high dose, both of those num­bers were neg­a­tive.

Michel Michaelides

Michel Michaelides, lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor and MeiraGTx’s sci­en­tif­ic founder, said that Bio­gen did not look at some of the core mea­sures of vi­sion that they did. He al­so point­ed to the dif­fer­ence in im­prove­ments be­tween eyes. On­ly one of each pa­tients’ eyes re­ceived ther­a­py – but cau­tioned that cross-tri­al com­par­isons were in­her­ent­ly fraught.

“I’m not sure they have such a clear dis­par­i­ty be­tween treat­ed and un­treat­ed,” he said.

Michaelides al­so said pa­tients re­port­ed im­proved vi­sion, greater clar­i­ty, greater ease track­ing signs and read­ing on a com­put­er. There’s no place­bo-con­trol for those met­rics yet and that will have to wait for Phase II. Still, Michaelides said the ear­li­er tri­als have al­ready start­ed chang­ing sci­en­tists’ goals.

“It wasn’t long ago where the am­bi­tion for de­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases was to slow halt pro­gres­sion, and what we’re show­ing here is im­prove­ment,” he said. “That’s huge for pa­tients.”

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

Pssst: That big Bio­haven Alzheimer's study? It was a bust. Even the sub­group analy­sis ex­ecs tout­ed was a flop

You know it’s bad when a biopharma player plucks out a subgroup analysis for a positive take — even though it was way off the statistical mark for success, like everything else.

So it was for Biohaven $BHVN on MLK Monday, as the biotech reported on the holiday that their Phase II/III Alzheimer’s study for troriluzole flunked both co-primary endpoints as well as a key biomarker analysis.

The drug — a revised version of the ALS drug riluzole designed to regulate glutamate — did not “statistically differentiate” from placebo on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale 11 (ADAS-cog) and the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB).  The “hippocampal volume” assessment by MRI also failed to distinguish itself from placebo for all patients fitting the mild-to-moderate disease profile they had established for the study.

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Hal Barron, GSK R&D chief (GSK via YouTube)

Glax­o­SmithK­line's $4B bis­pe­cif­ic can­cer drug al­liance with Mer­ck KGaA hit by big set­back with a PhI­II fail­ure on NSCLC

Close to 2 years ago, GSK’s R&D team eagerly agreed to pay up to $4 billion-plus to ally itself with Merck KGaA on a mid-stage bispecific called bintrafusp alfa, which intrigued them with the combination of a TGF-β trap with the anti-PD-L1 mechanism in one fusion protein.

But today the German pharma company says that their lead study on lung cancer was a bust, as independent monitors said there was no reason to believe that the experimental drug — targeting PD-L1/TGF-Beta — could beat Keytruda.

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News brief­ing: Ve­rastem CMO ex­its two weeks af­ter join­ing com­pa­ny; Ther­mo Fish­er inks $550M M&A deal

Two weeks after joining Verastem Oncology as chief medical officer, Frank Neumann is leaving the company for another job.

Neumann had joined Verastem after leaving bluebird bio, which surprisingly split into two companies last week, one in oncology and one in rare diseases. It’s not yet clear to where Neumann is headed next, but he noted in a statement that Verastem’s data and strategy were “truly exciting.”

FDA hits the brakes on His­to­gen's knee car­ti­lage ther­a­py, ask­ing for more in­fo on man­u­fac­tur­ing process

A month after filing the IND application for its human extracellular matrix designed to regenerate knee cartilage, Histogen has hit a roadblock.

The FDA on Tuesday verbally notified the San Diego-based biotech that it was placing a clinical hold on the planned Phase I/II clinical trial of HST-003 due to pending CMC information and additional questions needed to complete their review.

Histogen had planned to test the safety and efficacy of implanting hECM within microfracture interstices and related cartilage defects to regenerate that cartilage in conjunction with a microfracture procedure. The company said in a press release that it expects to receive written notice of the clinical hold from the FDA by Feb 12.

Andrew Allen, Gritstone CEO (Gritstone via website)

Grit­stone con­tin­ues Covid-19 push with deal to de­vel­op 'self-am­pli­fy­ing RNA' vac­cines, as shares con­tin­ue bal­loon­ing

Gritstone Oncology has had a big week, and it’s only Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the biotech revealed plans to start clinical testing of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine — in tandem with NIAID — that can also target other coronaviruses, with the goal of preventing future pandemics should SARS-CoV-2 prove difficult to cure with current vaccines. Then, on Wednesday morning, Gritstone licensed lipid nanoparticle technology from Genevant Sciences to develop what it’s calling “self-amplifying RNA vaccines” against Covid-19.

Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein (AP, Images)

Poll: Should Joshua Sharf­stein or Janet Wood­cock lead the FDA from here?

It’s time for a new FDA commissioner to come on board, a rite of passage for Joe Biden’s administration that should help seal the new president’s rep on seeking out the experts to lead the government over the next 4 years.

As of now, the competition for the top job appears to have narrowed down to 2 people: The longtime CDER chief Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein, the former principal deputy at the FDA under Peggy Hamburg. Both were appointed by Barack Obama.

Bris­tol My­ers Squibb gets re­view date for Op­di­vo com­bo in gas­tric can­cer, look­ing to over­turn Keytru­da's 3-year lead

The past two months have been tough for Bristol Myers Squibb and its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo after setbacks in lung and brain cancers. But in the battle against Merck’s Keytruda, any success matters — and now Bristol could be looking at a quick approval for Opdivo in an unmatched indication.

The FDA will launch a speedy review of a combination of Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and chemotherapy to treat first-line patients with advanced or metastatic gastric cancer, gastroesophageal junction cancer or esophageal adenocarcinoma, the drugmaker said Wednesday. The agency set an action date of May 25 for the application.

Covid-19 claims an­oth­er PDU­FA vic­tim as Glax­o­SmithK­line push­es back planned PD-1 roll­out

Bristol Myers Squibb isn’t the only pharma giant that’s been standing in the FDA’s waiting line for site inspections.

GlaxoSmithKline is telling us today that their H2 2020 PDUFA deadline for the PD-1 drug dostarlimab — picked up in its Tesaro buyout — was pushed back due to a delay in the manufacturing site inspection needed for a regulatory decision. And that is forcing the company to revise its timeline.

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