Rac­ing past a wound­ed Juno, Kite aims to file lead CAR-T for OK by end of 2016

With Juno Ther­a­peu­tics se­ri­ous­ly de­layed by a brief but painful clin­i­cal hold by the FDA, ri­val Kite Phar­ma out­lined plans to­day to shoot for an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval af­ter it gath­ers the first round of da­ta on 50 pa­tients from its piv­otal study of a ri­val CAR-T, due in just a few months. And com­pa­ny ex­ec­u­tives say their man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions will be ready to start pro­duc­ing this ther­a­py in com­mer­cial quan­ti­ties be­fore the end of this year.

If suc­cess­ful, Kite could be the first to the mar­ket, es­pe­cial­ly if the FDA opts to act quick­ly for one of its ‘break­through’ ther­a­pies, which pro­vides for a swift re­view. Juno has al­ready said that it won’t be able to reach the mar­ket be­fore 2018. And No­var­tis has yet to de­tail what kind of time­line it is look­ing at.

Their SEC fil­ing in­cludes this state­ment:

“We have com­plet­ed en­roll­ment of all 72 pa­tients in the DL­B­CL (dif­fuse large B cell lym­phoma) co­hort and 20 pa­tients in the PM­B­CL (pri­ma­ry me­di­asti­nal B cell lym­phoma) and TFL (trans­formed fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma) co­hort in ZU­MA-1. We plan to open an ad­di­tion­al co­hort in ZU­MA-1 to al­low us to con­tin­ue to dose pa­tients with KTE-C19 in the Unit­ed States and to ex­pand the clin­i­cal tri­al to Eu­rope. We plan to re­port ZU­MA-1 top-line da­ta from the first 50 DL­B­CL pa­tients with at least three-months of fol­low-up by the end of the third quar­ter of 2016. If we be­lieve the da­ta are com­pelling, we plan to dis­cuss with the FDA the fil­ing of a Bi­o­log­ics Li­cense Ap­pli­ca­tion, or BLA, for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval of KTE-C19 as a treat­ment for pa­tients with re­frac­to­ry DL­B­CL, PM­B­CL and TFL. Sub­ject to the in­ter­im re­sults and dis­cus­sions with the FDA, we plan to sub­mit the BLA at the end of 2016. If ap­proved, we plan to com­mer­cial­ly launch KTE-C19 in 2017.  We plan to re­port da­ta from ZU­MA-2 and the Phase 2 por­tions of ZU­MA-3 and ZU­MA-4 in 2017. If we be­lieve the da­ta are com­pelling, we plan to pur­sue FDA ap­proval for these ad­di­tion­al in­di­ca­tions.”

The race be­tween Kite and Juno for a pi­o­neer­ing FDA OK has be­come one of the most close­ly fol­lowed ri­val­ries in R&D. Both had been shoot­ing for a 2017 launch. But just days ago Juno ac­knowl­edged in its quar­ter­ly re­view that a 6-day hold on JCAR015 would post­pone any com­mer­cial ef­fort un­til 2018.

An ag­gres­sive Kite is clear­ly tak­ing ad­van­tage of every an­gle it can think of. CAR-T ther­a­pies re­ly on cells ex­tract­ed from pa­tients which are then reengi­neered to in­clude a chimeric anti­gen re­cep­tor that can hunt down can­cer cells.

Juno has said that its prob­lems with JCAR015 were trig­gered by the ad­di­tion of flu­dara­bine to the reg­i­men used to prep pa­tients to bet­ter re­spond to their drug. The biotech fin­gered flu­dara­bine for the deaths of four pa­tients, which spurred the hold. No­tably, while Juno was grap­pling with the FDA, Kite put out an an­nounce­ment that it was stay­ing on track with its lead pro­gram.

Kite CEO Arie Bellde­grun

In a call with an­a­lysts Mon­day evening, Kite CEO Arie Bellde­grun al­so said that while in­ves­ti­ga­tors are us­ing flu­dara­bine in their pre­con­di­tion­ing reg­i­men, they have yet to see any of the un­usu­al­ly lethal ad­verse events with neu­ro­tox­i­c­i­ty that tripped up Juno. “I have to say that ad­verse event pro­file has been very much on par with what we have been pre­dict­ing based on the ear­li­er stud­ies,” the CEO told an­a­lysts.

Less than two months ago, Kite held a rib­bon cut­ting cer­e­mo­ny for its new man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty, a 43,500-square-foot plant that will be used to make its per­son­al­ized KTE-C19.

“Our com­mer­cial fa­cil­i­ty will have the ca­pac­i­ty to pro­duce up to 5,000 pa­tient ther­a­pies per year and we ex­pect it to be op­er­a­tional in pro­duc­ing clin­i­cal ma­te­ri­als by year-end,” not­ed Bellde­grun. “Over­all, we have con­tin­u­ous­ly been op­ti­miz­ing key as­pect of our man­u­fac­tur­ing, sup­ply chain, and qual­i­ty con­trol and pos­sess a pro­pri­etary process that dra­mat­i­cal­ly re­duces the time to ap­prox­i­mate­ly 14 days for when a pa­tients ma­te­r­i­al are shift to our fa­cil­i­ty to when the en­gi­neered T-cells are re­leased to the pa­tient. This is one of the fastest rates in the in­dus­try.”

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Pfiz­er's big block­buster Xel­janz flunks its post-mar­ket­ing safe­ty study, re­new­ing harsh ques­tions for JAK class

When the FDA approved Pfizer’s JAK inhibitor Xeljanz for rheumatoid arthritis in 2012, they slapped on a black box warning for a laundry list of adverse events and required the New York drugmaker to run a long-term safety study.

That study has since become a consistent headache for Pfizer and their blockbuster molecule. Last year, Pfizer dropped the entire high dose cohort after an independent monitoring board found more patients died in that group than in the low dose arm or a control arm of patients who received one of two TNF inhibitors, Enbrel or Humira.

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Covid-19 roundup: EU and As­traZeneca trade blows over slow­downs; Un­usu­al unions pop up to test an­ti­bod­ies, vac­cines

After coming under fire for manufacturing delays last week, AstraZeneca’s feud with the European Union has spilled into the open.

The bloc accused the pharma giant on Wednesday of pulling out of a meeting to discuss cuts to its vaccine supplies, the AP reported. AstraZeneca denied the reports, saying it still planned on attending the discussion.

Early Wednesday, an EU Commission spokeswoman said that “the representative of AstraZeneca had announced this morning, had informed us this morning that their participation is not confirmed, is not happening.” But an AstraZeneca spokesperson later called the reports “not accurate.”

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Adeno-associated virus-1 illustration; the use of AAVs resurrected the gene therapy field, but companies are now testing the limits of a 20-year-old technology (File photo, Shutterstock)

Af­ter 3 deaths rock the field, gene ther­a­py re­searchers con­tem­plate AAV's fu­ture

Nicole Paulk was scrolling through her phone in bed early one morning in June when an email from a colleague jolted her awake. It was an article: Two patients in an Audentes gene therapy trial had died, grinding the study to a halt.

Paulk, who runs a gene therapy lab at the University of California, San Francisco, had planned to spend the day listening to talks at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, which was taking place that week. Instead, she skipped the conference, canceled every work call on her calendar and began phoning colleagues across academia and industry, trying to figure out what happened and why. All the while, a single name hung in the back of her head.

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Jackie Fouse, Agios CEO

Agios scores its sec­ond pos­i­tive round of da­ta for its lead pipeline drug — but that won't an­swer the stub­born ques­tions that sur­round this pro­gram

Agios $AGIO bet the farm on its PKR activator drug mitapivat when it recently decided to sell off its pioneering cancer drug Tibsovo and go back to being a development-stage company — for what CEO Jackie Fouse hoped would be a short stretch before they got back into commercialization.

On Tuesday evening, the bellwether biotech flashed more positive topline data — this time from a small group of patients in a single-arm study. And the executive team plans to package this with its earlier positive results from a controlled study to make its case for a quick OK.

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George Yancopoulos (L) and Len Schleifer (Regeneron)

Re­gen­eron touts pos­i­tive pre­lim­i­nary im­pact of its Covid an­ti­body cock­tail, pre­vent­ing symp­to­matic in­fec­tions in high-risk group

Regeneron flipped its cards on an interim analysis of the data being collected for its Covid-19 antibody cocktail used as a safeguard against exposure to the virus. And the results are distinctly positive.

The big biotech reported Tuesday morning that their casirivimab and imdevimab combo prevented any symptomatic infections from occurring in a group of 186 people exposed to the virus through a family connection, while the placebo arm saw 8 of 223 people experience symptomatic infection. Symptomatic combined with asymptomatic infections occurred in 23 people among the 223 placebo patients compared to 10 of the 186 subjects in the cocktail arm.

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Pascal Soriot, AP

As­traZeneca CEO Pas­cal So­ri­ot sev­ers an un­usu­al board con­nec­tion, steer­ing clear of con­flicts while re­tain­ing im­por­tant al­liances

CSL Behring chief Paul Perreault scored an unusual coup last summer when he added AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot to the board, via Zoom. It’s rare, to say the least, to see a Big Pharma CEO take any board post in an industry where interests can simultaneously connect and collide on multiple levels of operations.

The tie set the stage for an important manufacturing connection. The Australian pharma giant agreed to supply the country with 10s of millions of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, once it passes regulatory muster.

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As­traZeneca scores new goal on the pipeline front, adding its first AI-gen­er­at­ed tar­get to the port­fo­lio

As more and more biopharmas develop artificial intelligence platforms, the drug discovery process is being reshaped to fit new goals on cutting down the prodigious amount of time, energy and money that go into a drug program. Now one of the most ambitious players in the drive to improve on ROI, AstraZeneca, is marking a milestone on that front by adding the first target generated by AI to its portfolio.

Mer­ck scraps Covid-19 vac­cine pro­grams af­ter they fail to mea­sure up on ef­fi­ca­cy in an­oth­er ma­jor set­back in the glob­al fight

After turning up late to the vaccine development game in the global fight against Covid-19, Merck is now making a quick exit.

The pharma giant is reporting this morning that it’s decided to drop development of 2 vaccines — V590 and V591 — after taking a look at Phase I data that simply don’t measure up to either the natural immune response seen in people exposed to the virus or the vaccines already on or near the market.

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