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.”

Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.


ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology


ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development


CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Video: Putting the AI in R&D — with Badhri Srini­vasan, Tony Wood, Rosana Kapeller, Hugo Ceule­mans, Saurabh Sa­ha and Shoibal Dat­ta

During BIO this year, I had a chance to moderate a panel among some of the top tech experts in biopharma on their real-world use of artificial intelligence in R&D. There’s been a lot said about the potential of AI, but I wanted to explore more about what some of the larger players are actually doing with this technology today, and how they see it advancing in the future. It was a fascinating exchange, which you can see here. The transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity. — John Carroll

UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi/treme com­bo strikes out — again — in lung can­cer. Is it time for last rites?

AstraZeneca bet big on the future of their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with the experimental CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab. But once again it’s gone down to defeat in a major Phase III study — while adding damage to the theory involving targeting cancer with a high tumor mutational burden.

Early Wednesday the pharma giant announced that their NEPTUNE study had failed, with the combination unable to beat standard chemo at overall survival in high TMB cases of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get hard data until later in the year, but the drumbeat of failures will call into question what — if any — future this combination can have left.

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Ted Ashburn. Oncorus

Cowen, Per­cep­tive lead $79.5M Se­ries B for 's­tand­out' biotech shep­herd­ing on­colyt­ic virus to clin­ic

As several Big Pharma players secure biotech partners in the oncolytic virus space for new immuno-oncology combos, Cowen and Perceptive Advisors have come out with their own bet on a startup that promises to shine.

The marquee investors are joining MPM, Deerfield, Celgene, Astellas, Arkin and UBS in backing the drug developer, Oncorus, which will now deploy the $79.5 million in Series B cash toward clinical development of its lead program. Other new investors include Surveyor Capital, Sphera Funds, IMM Investment, QUAD Investment Management, UTC Investment, SV Investment Corp and Shinhan Investment-Private Equity, the last five of which are Korean-based funds.

Fu­til­i­ty analy­sis au­gurs de­feat in piv­otal tri­al test­ing of Nu­Cana's lead drug in metasta­t­ic pan­cre­at­ic can­cer

Nearly two years after making its public debut, UK-based NuCana’s mission to make chemotherapies more potent and safer was dealt a blow, after a pivotal study testing its lead experimental drug halted enrollment in a hard-to-treat advanced form of cancer, following a futility analysis.

The drug, Acelarin, is being evaluated for use in metastatic pancreatic cancer patients who were not considered suitable for combination chemotherapy. In the late-stage ACELARATE study — which compared the experimental drug against the chemotherapy gemcitabine — 200 patients had been enrolled by the sponsor, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, before an analysis from an independent safety and data monitoring panel suggested the study’s main goal would not be met.

UP­DAT­ED: Pay­back? An­a­lysts say Sarep­ta was blind­sided by an FDA re­jec­tion dri­ven by reg­u­la­to­ry re­venge

In one of the least anticipated moves of the year, the FDA has rejected Sarepta’s application for an accelerated approval of its Duchenne MD drug golodirsen after fretting over safety issues.

In a statement that arrived after the bell on Monday, Sarepta explained the CRL, saying:

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Levi Garraway. Broad Institute via Youtube

Roche raids Eli Lil­ly for its next chief med­ical of­fi­cer as San­dra Horn­ing plans to step down

We found out Monday morning where Levi Garraway was headed after he left Eli Lilly as head of oncology R&D a few days ago. Roche named Garraway as their new chief medical officer, replacing Sandra Horning, who they say is retiring from the company.

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FDA de­ci­sion on Ver­tex's CF triple will come just ahead of planned CEO shake­up

Vertex has clinched a priority review for the all-important cystic fibrosis triple that will blaze the trail for treating a large group of patients unhelped by its current drugs.

FDA regulators have set a PDUFA date of March 19, 2020, just a year after the Boston biotech posted positive Phase III results showing that people with two F508del mutations experienced statistically significant improvements in lung function after a 4-week regimen of VX-445, tezacaftor and ivacaftor. After reviewing 24-week data among patients with one F508del mutation and one minimal function mutation — and thoroughly comparing the VX-445 triple with another combo featuring VX-659 on scores like safety, drug-drug interactions, and photosensitivity — Vertex ultimately went with VX-445.