Li­cens­ing As­traZeneca castoff, Bio­haven preps PhI­II ef­fort in new neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive in­di­ca­tion

Bio­haven $BHVN has added an­oth­er drug off of As­traZeneca’s shelf to its neu­rol­o­gy pipeline.

Com­ing with a pack­age of da­ta from four Phase I and three Phase IIa stud­ies, AZD3241 in­hibits myeloper­ox­i­dase, or MPO, a key dri­ver of in­flam­ma­to­ry process that’s ob­served in high lev­els in a range of brain dis­or­ders.

The biotech plans to test the drug — now re­named BHV3241 — in a Phase III tri­al as a treat­ment of mul­ti­ple sys­tem at­ro­phy, hav­ing seen pre­lim­i­nary re­sults from a small Phase IIa tri­al that showed a no­table bio­mark­er re­sponse and “nu­mer­i­cal im­prove­ments” on the Uni­fied MSA Rat­ing Scale af­ter 12 weeks of treat­ment.

Vlad Coric

That, ac­cord­ing to Bio­haven, makes the case for a po­ten­tial first-in-class treat­ment for the rare neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease that of­ten kills pa­tients af­ter five to sev­en years of tremors, slow move­ment, mus­cle rigid­i­ty and atax­ia.

“These da­ta, cou­pled with a fa­vor­able safe­ty pro­file and ev­i­dence that BHV3241 re­duced in­tra­cel­lu­lar ag­gre­gates of al­pha-synu­cle­in, sup­pressed mi­croglial ac­ti­va­tion and res­cued neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion in MSA an­i­mal mod­els, sup­port our be­lief that BHV3241 has po­ten­tial as a dis­ease-mod­i­fy­ing treat­ment in Mul­ti­ple Sys­tem At­ro­phy,” said pro­fes­sor Wern­er Poewe at Aus­tria’s Med­ical Uni­ver­si­ty Inns­bruck in a state­ment.

Wern­er Poewe

As­traZeneca is gain­ing some shares in Bio­haven in ad­di­tion to an un­spec­i­fied up­front cash pay­ment for the as­set, as well as oth­er mile­stones and up to dou­ble-dig­it roy­al­ties should the drug make it to the mar­ket. It has al­so promised not to pur­sue any of the oth­er MPO in­hibitors in its pipeline for neu­ro­log­ic dis­eases for five years as Bio­haven ex­plores oth­er po­ten­tial in­di­ca­tions for BHV3241.

This is the sec­ond as­set the UK phar­ma gi­ant has hand­ed off to the Yale spin­out, fol­low­ing a $210 mil­lion deal that in­volved an NM­DA an­tag­o­nist.

The deal adds to Bio­haven’s late-stage pipeline, which is cur­rent­ly dom­i­nat­ed by rimegepant, the CGRP mi­graine ther­a­py it in-li­censed from Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb. Ex­ecs are count­ing on rimegepant and tri­grilu­zole — a re­for­mu­la­tion of an old ALS drug called rilu­zole that’s al­so be­ing stud­ied for OCD and atax­ia — for near-term FDA ap­pli­ca­tions, putting their ini­tial fo­cus on de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety on the back­burn­er for now.

“The in-li­cens­ing of BHV3241 ex­pands Bio­haven’s port­fo­lio of in­no­v­a­tive, late-stage prod­uct can­di­dates for the treat­ment of neu­ro­log­ic and psy­chi­atric dis­ease in­di­ca­tions, “ said CEO and Yale pro­fes­sor Vlad Coric.

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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Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan [via Bloomberg/Getty]

I’m not per­fect: No­var­tis chief Vas Narasimhan al­most apol­o­gizes in the wake of a new cri­sis

Vas Narasimhan has warily stepped up with what might pass as something close to a borderline apology for the latest scandal to engulf Novartis.

But he couldn’t quite get there.

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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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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.

An MIT spin­out kills one of its ‘liv­ing ther­a­peu­tics’ af­ter flunk­ing an ear­ly-stage study — shares rout­ed

Just a few weeks after bagging $80 million in a deal to collaborate with Gingko Bioworks on its special blend of engineered bacteria used for “living therapeutics,” little Synlogic in Boston $SYBX is tossing one of its two clinical programs after watching an early-stage study go down in defeat.

Their Phase Ib/IIa study for SYNB1020 to counter the accumulation of ammonia in the body, a condition called hyperammonemia or urea cycle disorder, floundered at the interim readout, forcing the biotech to kill it and reserve its cash for pipeline therapies with greater potential.

Elan­co to buy Bay­er's an­i­mal health busi­ness for $7.6B, as deal­mak­ing gath­ers steam in the sec­tor

Last week, Elanco explicitly dodged answering questions about its rumored interest in Bayer’s animal health business in its post-earnings call. On Tuesday, the Eli Lilly spinoff disclosed it was purchasing the German drug maker’s veterinary unit in a cash-and-stock deal worth $7.6 billion. 

Elanco $ELAN has been busy on the deal-making front. In April, it laid out plans to swallow its partner, Kansas-based pet therapeutics company Aratana $PETX. A July report by Reuters suggested a potential Bayer deal was being explored, and Bloomberg last week said the deal was imminent, citing sources. 

As­traZeneca's di­a­betes drug Farx­i­ga helps pa­tients with heart dis­ease and with­out di­a­betes in land­mark tri­al

Months ago, data on J&J’s $JNJ Invokana indicated the diabetes drug conferred cardiovascular (CV) benefit in patients who do and do not have preexisting CV disease. On Tuesday, AstraZeneca’s $AZN rival treatment, Farxiga, was shown to cut the risk of CV death or the worsening of heart failure in patients with heart disease, in a landmark trial.

The treatments, in addition to Jardiance from Eli Lilly $LLY, belong to a class of diabetes drugs called sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, which work by curbing the absorption of glucose via the kidneys so that surplus glucose is excreted through urination.

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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Af­ter a posse of Wall Street an­a­lysts pre­dict a like­ly new win for Sarep­ta, we're down to the wire on a crit­i­cal FDA de­ci­sion

As Bloomberg notes, most of the Wall Street analysts that cover Sarepta $SRPT are an upbeat bunch, ready to cheer on the team when it comes to their Duchenne MD drugs, or offer explanations when an odd setback occurs — as happened recently with a safety signal that was ‘erroneously’ reported last week.

Ritu Baral Cowen
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