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.

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen shares spike as ex­ecs com­plete a de­layed pitch for their con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer's drug — the next move be­longs to the FDA

Biogen is stepping out onto the high wire today, reporting that the team working on the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab has now completed their submission to the FDA. And they want the agency to bless it with a priority review that would cut the agency’s decision-making time to a mere 6 months.

The news drove a 10% spike in Biogen’s stock $BIIB ahead of the bell.

Part of that spike can be attributed to a relief rally. Biogen execs rattled backers and a host of analysts earlier in the year when they unexpectedly delayed their filing to the third quarter. That delay provoked all manner of speculation after CEO Michel Vounatsos and R&D chief Al Sandrock failed to persuade influential observers that the pandemic and other factors had slowed the timeline for filing. Actually making the pitch at least satisfies skeptics that the FDA was not likely pushing back as Biogen was pushing in. From the start, Biogen execs claimed that they were doing everything in cooperation with the FDA, saying that regulators had signaled their interest in reviewing the submission.

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Nick Galakatos, Blackstone global head of life sciences

Nick Galakatos and the Black­stone team now have a record $4.6B to in­vest in bio­phar­ma, with a big fo­cus on push­ing com­pa­nies over the top

Nick Galakatos and his team at Blackstone Life Sciences have seen their biggest opportunities swell up in mostly established players who don’t have all the money they need to accomplish everything on the to-do list. And right now, with the industry booming, that’s a long list with some hefty needs.

The Blackstone team has neatly tied up the largest private fund ever raised in life sciences for making big dreams come true in biopharma. Late Thursday, Blackstone put out word that they had closed their highly anticipated fund with the projected $4.6 billion all in.

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Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

OWS shifts spot­light to drugs to fight Covid-19, hand­ing Re­gen­eron $450M to be­gin large scale man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US

The US government is on a spending spree. And after committing billions to vaccines defense operations are now doling out more of the big bucks through Operation Warp Speed to back a rapid flip of a drug into the market to stop Covid-19 from ravaging patients — possibly inside of 2 months.

The beneficiary this morning is Regeneron, the big biotech engaged in a frenzied race to develop an antibody cocktail called REGN-COV2 that just started a late-stage program to prove its worth in fighting the virus. BARDA and the Department of Defense are awarding Regeneron a $450 million contract to cover bulk delivery of the cocktail starting as early as late summer, with money added for fill/finish and storage activities.

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Top biotech an­a­lyst projects a gloomy out­look for Pfiz­er's JAK port­fo­lio

Many in the pharma world are hoping — better yet, expecting — JAK inhibitors to provide one of the next big boons for the industry. Few have invested as heavily in this area as Pfizer, which boasts a portfolio including Xeljanz and at least five mid-to-late stage candidates in the pipeline.

But a top Wall Street analyst is pumping the brakes on just how much good fortune is in store for the Big Pharma.

Gilead boasts of pos­i­tive remde­sivir da­ta on mor­tal­i­ty — but their analy­sis pro­vokes the skep­tics

Gilead is surging again off data that suggest its antiviral remdesivir might improve survival.

The new data come from an analysis Gilead conducted comparing the death rate and recovery time of patients in one of its remdesivir trials to a group of 800 patients “with similar baseline characteristics and disease severity” who received only standard-of-care around the same time. The result, they said, suggested that patients who received remdesivir had a 62% better chance at surviving than those who did not.

Andrew Kruegel, Kures president and co-founder (Columbia Tech Ventures via Vimeo)

Af­ter psilo­cy­bin and ke­t­a­mine, a new biotech comes along de­vel­op­ing a drug Scott Got­tlieb fought

Andrew Kruegel was six years into his chemistry work at Columbia University, when, one day in August 2016, he learned he might have only 30 days before the government made him destroy his research.

Kruegel had been studying kratom, a leaf long used in Southeast Asia as a stimulant or for pain. It had opioid-like properties, he found, but seemed to offer pain relief without the addictive potential or respiratory side effects of traditional opioids — a riddle that might help illuminate how human opioid receptors work.

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The home run count: The $100M+ mega-round boom in biotech in­spired a $7.3B feed­ing fren­zy — so far this year

Over the last 6 months there’s been a blizzard of money piling up drifts of the green stuff through the biotech landscape. And the forecast calls for more cash windfalls ahead.

Even as a global pandemic has killed more than half a million people, blighted economies and divided nations over the proper response, it’s also helped ignite an unprecedented burst of big-time investing. And not just in Covid-19 deals, as we’ve looked at before.

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Atul Deshpande, Harbour BioMed chief strategy officer & head, US operations (Harbour BioMed)

An­oth­er biotech IPO set-up? Multi­na­tion­al biotech leaps from round to round, scoop­ing up cash at a blis­ter­ing pace

A short four months after announcing a $75 million haul in Series B+ fundraising, the multinational biotech Harbour BioMed pulled in another round of investments and eclipsed the nine-digit mark in the process.

Harbour completed its Series C financing, the company announced Thursday morning, raising $102.8 million and bringing its total investment sum to over $300 million since its founding in late 2016. The biotech plans to use the money to transition early-stage candidates from the discovery phase, fund candidates already in the clinic, and prep late-stage candidates for commercialization.

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Daniel O'Day, Gilead CEO (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A new study points to $6.5B in pub­lic sup­port build­ing the sci­en­tif­ic foun­da­tion of Gilead­'s remde­sivir. Should that be re­flect­ed in the price?

By drug R&D standards, Gilead’s move to repurpose remdesivir for Covid-19 and grab an emergency use authorization was a remarkably easy, low-cost layup that required modest efficacy and a clean safety profile from just a small group of patients.

The drug OK also arrived after Gilead had paid much of the freight on getting it positioned to move fast.

In a study by Fred Ledley, director of the Center for Integration of Science and Industry at Bentley University in Waltham, MA, researchers concluded that the NIH had invested only $46.5 million in the research devoted to the drug ahead of the pandemic, a small sum compared to the more than $1 billion Gilead expected to spend getting it out this year, all on top of what it had already cost in R&D expenses.

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