Lit­tle vTv once again cir­cles sub­group num­ber, strug­gling to find some­thing good to say about failed Alzheimer's drug

The biotech vTv raised $117 mil­lion from their 2015 IPO $VTVT based on a pitch that they could take a failed Alzheimer’s drug from Pfiz­er and fol­low a trail of pos­i­tive sub­set da­ta to a big win. That didn’t work, with Phase A of the piv­otal pro­gram fail­ing both co-pri­ma­ry end­points re­cent­ly.

In fact, the drug arm once again did worse than a place­bo group.

Steve Hol­combe

But now they’ve had a chance to do some post hoc analy­sis of the first round of Phase III da­ta, and they’re back to spot­light­ing a pos­i­tive batch of da­ta for a sub­pop­u­la­tion.

So here it is. In a state­ment out Wednes­day night, vTv says that a group of pa­tients with a con­cen­tra­tion of the drug azeli­ragon un­der a bar of 7.5 ng/mL hit a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant score for ADAS-cog, p=0.02. It failed on an­oth­er score — CDR-sb — with a p-val­ue of 0.06. And they want to re­vise their sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis plan for the FDA.

The sub­group in­clud­ed 48 of the 400 pa­tients in the study, which was di­vid­ed be­tween the drug and a place­bo. 

The biotech’s shares — which were crushed on the ini­tial Phase III fail­ure — bounced high­er in pre-mar­ket trad­ing Thurs­day. Whether they can sus­tain that with ad­di­tion­al sub­group analy­sis re­mains to be seen, but vTv is once again go­ing down a path that has led to the de­struc­tion of bil­lions of dol­lars of in­vestors’ cash on a wide range of drug stud­ies.

The com­pa­ny de­signed the 18-month Phase III pro­gram based on da­ta that the small 5 mg dose of the drug per­formed well in Pfiz­er’s study, where the 20 mg failed. And just like about every­thing else in the Alzheimer’s pipeline, that strat­e­gy has proved to be a re­peat los­er.

In­vestors in the field keep buy­ing in­to the idea that ac­quir­ing shares in an Alzheimer’s stock is just like buy­ing lot­tery tick­ets — ul­tra high risk with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of ul­tra high re­wards. But with no win­ners in more than a decade, that ar­gu­ment has been wear­ing thin.

This biotech, though, is still de­ter­mined to keep rolling the dice.

“We are en­cour­aged by the pos­i­tive im­prove­ments in cog­ni­tive and func­tion­al out­comes rel­a­tive to place­bo based up­on low azeli­ragon con­cen­tra­tion lev­els,” said vTv CEO Steve Hol­combe in a state­ment. “With this un­der­stand­ing, we are con­tin­u­ing to an­a­lyze the da­ta and then plan to ex­am­ine the rel­e­vant pop­u­la­tion prospec­tive­ly in the Part B study and an­nounce re­sults in June.”

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn at the White House (AP Images)

Un­der fire, FDA to is­sue stricter guid­ance for Covid-19 vac­cine EUA this week — re­port

The FDA has been insisting for months that a Covid-19 vaccine had to be at least 50% effective – a measure of transparency meant to shore public trust in the agency and in a vaccine that had been brought forward at record speed and record political pressure. But now, with concerns of a Trump-driven authorization arriving before the election, the agency may be raising the bar.

The FDA is set to release new guidance that would raise safety and efficacy requirements for a vaccine EUA above earlier guidance and above the criteria used for convalescent plasma or hydroxychloroquine, The Washington Post reported. Experts say this significantly lowers the odds of an approval before the election on November 3, which Trump has promised despite vocal concerns from public health officials, and could help shore up public trust in the agency and any eventual vaccine.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

Vas Narasimhan (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Still held down by clin­i­cal hold, No­var­tis' Zol­gens­ma falls fur­ther be­hind Bio­gen and Roche as FDA asks for a new piv­otal study

Last October, the FDA slowed down Novartis’ quest to extend its gene therapy to older spinal muscular atrophy patients by slapping a partial hold on intrathecal administration. Almost a year later, the hold is still there, and regulators are adding another hurdle required for regulatory submission: a new pivotal confirmatory study.

The new requirement — which departs significantly from Novartis’ prior expectations — will likely stretch the path to registration beyond 2021, when analysts were expecting a BLA submission. That could mean more time for Biogen to reap Spinraza revenues and Roche to ramp up sales of Evrysdi in the absence of a rival.

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Scoop: ARCH’s Bob Nelsen is back­ing an mR­NA up­start that promis­es to up­end the en­tire man­u­fac­tur­ing side of the glob­al busi­ness

For the past 2 years, serial entrepreneur Igor Khandros relied on a small network of friends and close insiders to supply the first millions he needed to fund a secretive project to master a new approach to manufacturing mRNA therapies.

Right now, he says, he has a working “GMP-in-a-box” prototype for a new company he’s building — after launching 3 public companies — which plans to spread this contained, precise manufacturing tech around the world with a set of partners. He’s raised $60 million, recruited some prominent experts. And not coincidentally, he’s going semi-public with this just as a small group of pioneers appears to be on the threshold of ushering in the world’s first mRNA vaccines to fight a worldwide pandemic.

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Isaac Veinbergs, Libra CEO

With $29M in Se­ries A, Boehringer-backed Li­bra looks to tack­le neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion through cel­lu­lar clean­ing

Can the natural process by which cells clean out toxic proteins be harnessed to create potential treatments for neurodegenerative disorders?

That’s the question Libra Therapeutics will be trying to answer, as the new biotech officially launched Wednesday morning with $29 million in Series A financing. The company has three preclinical programs at the ready, with its lead candidate targeting ALS and frontotemporal dementia. But CEO Isaac Veinbergs said he hopes to develop therapies for a wide range of diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.

Patrick Enright, Longitude co-founder (Longitude)

As its biotechs hit the pan­dem­ic ex­it, Lon­gi­tude rais­es $585M for new neu­ro, can­cer, ag­ing and or­phan-fo­cused fund

The years have been kind to Longitude Capital. This year, too.

A 2006 spinout of Pequot Capital, its founders started their new firm just four years before the parent company would go under amid insider trading allegations. Their first life sciences fund raised $325 million amid the financial crisis, they added a second for $385 million and then in, 2016, a third for $525 million. In the last few months, the pandemic biotech IPO boom netted several high-value exits from those funds, as Checkmate, Vaxcyte, Inozyme and Poseida all went public.

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Gene Wang, Immetas co-founder and CEO (file photo)

Im­metas Ther­a­peu­tics nabs $11M Se­ries A to nar­row their bis­pe­cif­ic work tar­get­ing in­flam­ma­tion in age-re­lat­ed dis­eases

How does a biotech celebrate its two-year anniversary? For Immetas Therapeutics, it’s with an $11 million Series A round and a game plan to fight age-related disease.

Co-founders Gene Wang and David Sinclair came together years ago around the idea that inflammation is the ultimate process driving age-related illnesses, including cancer. The duo launched Immetas in 2018 and packed the staff with industry experts. Wang, who says he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit, has held lead roles at Novartis, GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck. He’s worked on blockbuster drugs like Humira, Gardasil, Varubi and Zolinza. And now, he’s channeling that spirit as CEO.

Samit Hirawat (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Af­ter bruis­ing re­jec­tion, blue­bird and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb land ide-cel pri­or­i­ty re­view. But will it mat­ter for the CVR?

With the clock all but up, the FDA accepted and handed priority review to Bristol Myers Squibb and bluebird bio’s BCMA CAR-T, keeping a narrow window open for Celgene investors to still cash in on the $9 CVR from the $63 billion Celgene merger.

The acceptance comes five months after the two companies weres slammed with a surprise refuse-to-file that threatened to foreclose the CVR entirely. Today’s acceptance sets the FDA decision date for March 27, 2021 – or precisely 4 days before the CVR deadline of March 31. Given the breakthrough designation and strong pivotal data — 81.5% response rate, 35.2% complete response rate — priority review was largely expected.

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