Karyopharm shares tank af­ter FDA in­sid­ers slam their case on the ef­fi­ca­cy of a can­cer drug with “sig­nif­i­cant tox­i­c­i­ty”

Karyopharm’s at­tempt to gain an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proved for se­linex­or as a treat­ment for drug-re­sis­tant cas­es of mul­ti­ple myelo­ma is in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy. And in­vestors know it.

Their stock $KP­TI plum­met­ed 46% as an­a­lysts ab­sorbed a high­ly crit­i­cal as­sess­ment of their drug — an oral XPO1 in­hibitor — ahead of next Tues­day’s ex­pert pan­el re­view.

Giv­en the his­to­ry of the FDA with these kinds of re­views, Tues­day’s as­sess­ment will like­ly be harsh.

Bat­ting back the op­ti­mistic as­sess­ment the biotech gave se­linex­or, the in­ter­nal FDA re­view con­cludes that there’s pre­cious lit­tle ev­i­dence that the drug has any sig­nif­i­cant val­ue on its own. Just as bad, the drug has been tied to high rates of tox­i­c­i­ty and a high­er death rate when it was test­ed in a ran­dom­ized con­trolled study for acute myeloid leukemia.

“Treat­ment with se­linex­or is as­so­ci­at­ed with sig­nif­i­cant tox­i­c­i­ty,” the re­view states un­am­bigu­ous­ly. The sin­gle arm study that is be­ing used to seek ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval demon­strat­ed a 60% rate of se­ri­ous ad­verse events. Al­most 9 out of 10 pa­tients re­quired a dose mod­i­fi­ca­tion due to serous drug re­ac­tions. And a quar­ter of the pa­tients bowed out of the study.

The com­bi­na­tion drug that was used in their pro­posed piv­otal — dex­am­etha­sone — has a his­tor­i­cal re­sponse rate of 10-27% at high dos­es, says the FDA. They could see no re­sponse for the drug when used as a monother­a­py, and even as a com­bo they could see on­ly “lim­it­ed ef­fi­ca­cy.” 

As for the claimed over­all re­sponse rate of 25%, most of those were on­ly par­tial re­spons­es.

An­oth­er chal­lenge: There are 9 drugs ap­proved for treat­ing mul­ti­ple myelo­ma — 4 in the last 4 years. The im­plic­it ques­tion there is, why should the agency ap­prove this drug as num­ber 10?

Giv­en the lim­it­ed ef­fi­ca­cy and sig­nif­i­cant tox­i­c­i­ty demon­strat­ed in this pop­u­la­tion, it is un­clear whether treat­ment with se­linex­or-dex­am­etha­sone pro­vides a clin­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful ben­e­fit that out­weighs the risks of treat­ment. The lim­i­ta­tions of in­ter­pret­ing safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy from a sin­gle arm tri­al, and lack of sin­gle agent ac­tiv­i­ty of se­linex­or cou­pled with his­tor­i­cal da­ta show­ing ac­tiv­i­ty of dex­am­etha­sone in RRMM, add to the chal­lenges in in­ter­pret­ing the re­sults of the piv­otal study in sup­port of the pro­posed in­di­ca­tion.

That’s not good.

An­oth­er black eye was earned for the com­pa­ny’s at­tempt to sup­ply some re­al world ev­i­dence to back up their pitch — which the FDA es­sen­tial­ly re­ject­ed. And an­a­lysts didn’t over­look the vot­ing ques­tion: Should the agency wait for the piv­otal Phase III da­ta from the BOSTON study be­fore the drug hits the mar­ket?

It doesn’t take a ge­nius to fill in the blank on that one.

Jonathan Chang at SVB Leerink notes:

While we were ful­ly ex­pect­ing the tox­i­c­i­ties of se­linex­or to be a key dis­cus­sion point, we view ques­tion­ing the in­ter­pretabil­i­ty of se­linex­or’s ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta as a neg­a­tive sur­prise. Our MEDA­Corp KOL checks have in­di­cat­ed that ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta from the STORM study sug­gest that se­linex­or is an ac­tive drug. No­tably, some of the ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta cit­ed by the FDA for dex alone are gen­er­at­ed in an ear­li­er-line pa­tient pop­u­la­tion (our da­ta ta­bles at­tached). The draft vot­ing ques­tion for the pan­el is “Should ap­proval of se­linex­or be de­layed un­til re­sults of the ran­dom­ized phase 3 tri­al, BOSTON, are avail­able?”. Re­call the Phase III BOSTON study is eval­u­at­ing se­linex­or + Vel­cade + dex (SVd) vs. Vel­cade + dex (Vd) in re­lapsed/re­frac­to­ry mul­ti­ple myelo­ma with da­ta ex­pect­ed by YE19. Ul­ti­mate­ly, po­ten­tial de­lay of ap­proval un­til the BOSTON re­sults are avail­able would be a neg­a­tive up­date vs. our as­sump­tions.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

J&J ad­comm live blog: J&J faces ques­tions on old­er adults, asymp­to­matic in­fec­tion, long-term im­mu­ni­ty

The FDA adcom has advanced to the free-for-all question stage of the hearing, and, as they did for Moderna and Pfizer, committee members are raising questions about the lingerings surrounding the vaccine.

In J&J’s case, one of those unknowns is a group of participants who appeared to respond worse to the vaccine: Those over 60 with commodities. In that group, the vaccine was only 42% effective at stopping disease starting 28 days after vaccination.

Genen­tech plots $53M dis­cov­ery quest aimed at spark­ing a 'Holy moly' piv­ot in neu­ro R&D

Genentech has committed $53 million to back a 10-year quest aimed at going back to the drawing board to use new technology and fresh scientific insights to generate a pipeline of drugs for neurological diseases.

Roche’s big South San Francisco hub will mix it up with the scientists drawn together for the Weill Neurohub — formed in 2019 as a joint research partnership involving UCSF, Berkeley and the University of Washington — in an exploration of the field to develop new therapies for some of the toughest diseases in drug R&D: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS and autism.

Am­gen, As­traZeneca speed to­ward fil­ing next-gen an­ti­body for asth­ma af­ter un­cork­ing full late-stage da­ta

On the hunt for a novel competitor to Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent in severe asthma, Amgen and AstraZeneca posted “exciting” results from their next-gen antibody late last year. Now, the partners are showing their hands, and the results look good enough for approval.

Amgen and AstraZeneca’s tezepelumab plus standard of care cut the rate of severe asthma attacks by 56% at the one-year mark compared with SOC alone, according to full data from the Phase III NAVIGATOR study presented Friday at the virtual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting. And those significant results were consistent regardless of patients’ baseline eosinophil counts.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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