Ghazaleh Sadri-Vakili. Mass General Research Institute via Twitter

Mass Gen­er­al team presents mouse da­ta to back the case for us­ing re­for­mu­lat­ed asth­ma drug to treat ALS

Can a re­for­mu­la­tion of an old drug on the mar­ket for asth­ma, al­ler­gy and mas­to­cy­to­sis pro­tect against liv­er dis­ease, Alzheimer’s, and amy­otroph­ic lat­er­al scle­ro­sis?

A team from Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal is mak­ing a case for the lat­ter two. Hav­ing re­cent­ly found an in­jec­tion of cro­molyn sodi­um ef­fec­tive in in­hibit­ing amy­loid be­ta (Aβ) ag­gre­ga­tion in vit­ro and in mouse mod­els, re­searchers set out to in­ves­ti­gate whether the same com­pound can achieve the same in ALS.

Their con­clu­sion, pub­lished on Na­ture’s open ac­cess jour­nal Sci­en­tif­ic Re­ports:

Our re­sults in­di­cate that cro­molyn sodi­um treat­ment sig­nif­i­cant­ly de­layed the on­set of neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms, and im­proved deficits in PaGE per­for­mance in both male and fe­male mice, how­ev­er, there was on­ly an ef­fect on sur­vival in fe­male mice.

While the pre­cise eti­ol­o­gy of ALS re­mains poor­ly un­der­stood, one the­o­ry pro­pos­es that neu­roin­flam­ma­to­ry process­es are im­pli­cat­ed in its ini­ti­a­tion and pro­gres­sion.

As cro­molyn in­hibits mast cell de­gran­u­la­tion, the sci­en­tists at Mass Gen­er­al hy­poth­e­sized that it could con­vert im­mune cells in the brain, in­clud­ing mi­croglia and as­tro­cytes, from a pro-in­flam­ma­to­ry to an an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry state as well as re­duc­ing the lev­els of cy­tokines and chemokines.

Af­ter com­par­ing the ef­fects of once-dai­ly in­jec­tions of cro­molyn ver­sus a place­bo in wild type mice and mice car­ry­ing a ge­net­ic mu­ta­tion for ALS, re­spec­tive­ly, the re­searchers came up emp­ty on the mi­croglia and as­tro­cytes the­o­ry. But they did find low­er lev­els of pro-in­flam­ma­to­ry cy­tokines/chemokines in the spinal cord and plas­ma — in ad­di­tion to ob­serv­ing that the trans­genic mice treat­ed with cro­molyn sodi­um had the high­est mo­tor neu­ron counts among the four groups.

“Our study sup­ports the no­tion that in­flam­ma­tion has a sig­nif­i­cant role in the pro­gres­sion of ALS and there­fore ex­plor­ing an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry treat­ments may be of great val­ue for de­vel­op­ing an ef­fec­tive treat­ment,” said Ghaz­a­leh Sadri-Vak­ili, lead au­thor of the study and di­rec­tor of the Neu­roEpi­ge­net­ics Lab­o­ra­to­ry at Mass Gen­er­al, in a state­ment.

Sadri-Vak­ili has pre­vi­ous­ly not­ed that the neu­rol­o­gy de­part­ment at Mass Gen­er­al has a plan in place to get the drug — pro­vid­ed by AZTher­a­pies — in­to the clin­ic for ALS.

Un­like the for­mu­la­tions of cro­molyn cur­rent­ly avail­able through pre­scrip­tion and over the counter, which are ab­sorbed through lung and nasal in­hala­tion or in­gest­ed drops, the ver­sion in­ject­ed in­to mice in the study can be “ful­ly avail­able in the blood­stream” and cere­brospinal flu­id, ac­cord­ing to the biotech.

AZTher­a­pies is con­duct­ing a Phase III tri­al of an­oth­er for­mu­la­tion of cro­molyn, com­bined with oral ibupro­fen, to treat ear­ly Alzheimer’s. It is un­clear whether any clin­i­cal pro­grams are in place to test cro­molyn sodi­um in pri­ma­ry scle­ros­ing cholan­gi­tis af­ter Bay­lor Scott and White Health re­searchers re­port­ed it de­creased bil­iary pro­lif­er­a­tion and fi­bro­sis in mice.

Am­gen lays off about 300 work­ers, cit­ing 'in­dus­try head­wind­s'

Amgen has laid off about 300 employees, a company spokesperson confirmed to Endpoints News via email Sunday night.

Employees posted to LinkedIn in recent days about layoffs hitting Amgen last week. The Thousand Oaks, CA-based biopharma, which employs about 24,000 people, said the reduction “mainly” impacted US-based workers on its commercial team.

Drug developers of all sizes, including small upstarts and pharma giants, have let employees go in recent months as the biopharma market drags through a quarters-long winter doldrum.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Am­gen launch­es the first US Hu­mi­ra biosim­i­lar at two dif­fer­ent list prices

The bizarre dynamics of the US prescription drug market were on full display once again this morning as Amgen announced that it would launch the first US biosimilar for Humira, the best-selling drug of all time, at two completely different list prices.

One price for Amgen’s Amjevita (adalimumab-atto) will be 55% below the current Humira list price, which is about $84,000 per year, and another at a list price 5% below the current Humira list price, but presumably (pharma companies don’t disclose rebates) with high rebates to attract PBMs and payers.

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New York City in­vests $20M in­to biotech 'in­no­va­tion space' at the Brook­lyn Navy Yard

New York City is investing $20 million in biotech this year in the form of a 50,000-square-foot “innovation space” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, complete with offices, research laboratories and events and programming space to grow biotech startups and companies.

Mayor Eric Adams said during his State of The City Address last Thursday that there will be an “emphasis” on making more opportunities for women and people of color to further diversify the industry. The City first reported the news.

Dirk Thye, Quince Therapeutics CEO

Af­ter piv­ot­ing from Alzheimer's to bone con­di­tions, biotech piv­ots again — and halves its head­count

When troubled public biotech Cortexyme bought a private startup named Novosteo and handed the keys to its executive team, the company — which changed its name to Quince Therapeutics — said it would shift its focus from an unorthodox Alzheimer’s approach to Novosteo’s bone-targeting drug platform.

Less than a year later, Quince is pivoting again.

The biotech has decided to out-license its bone-targeting drug platform and its lead drug, NOV004, and instead look for clinical-stage programs to in-license or acquire, according to a press release.

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Boehringer In­gel­heim touts pre­ven­tion re­sults in rarest form of pso­ri­a­sis

Boehringer Ingelheim uncorked some positive results suggesting that Spevigo can help prevent flare-ups in patients with a severe form of psoriasis, months after the drug was approved to treat existing flares.

Spevigo, an IL-36R antibody also known as spesolimab, met its primary and a key secondary endpoint in the Phase IIb EFFISAYIL 2 trial in patients with generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP), Boehringer announced on Monday. While the company is keeping the hard numbers under wraps until later this year, it said in a news release that it anticipates sharing the results with regulators.

As­traZeneca, No­vo Nordisk and Sanofi score 340B-re­lat­ed ap­peals court win over HHS

AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi won an appeals court win on Monday, as the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the companies cannot be forced to provide 340B-discounted drugs purchased by hospitals from an unlimited number of community and specialty pharmacies.

“Legal duties do not spring from silence,” the decision says as the court makes clear that the federal government’s interpretation of the “supposed requirement” that the 340B program compels drugmakers to supply their discounted drugs to an unlimited number of contract pharmacies is not correct, noting:

Ap­peals court toss­es J&J's con­tro­ver­sial 'Texas two-step' bank­rupt­cy case

A US appeals court has ruled against Johnson & Johnson’s use of bankruptcy to deal with mounting talc lawsuits, deciding that doing so would “create a legal blind spot.”

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous bankruptcy court decision on Monday, calling for the dismissal of a Chapter 11 filing by J&J’s subsidiary LTL Management.

Faced with more than 38,000 lawsuits alleging its talc-based products caused cancer, J&J spun its talc liabilities into a separate company called LTL Management back in October 2021 and filed for bankruptcy, a controversial move colloquially referred to as a “Texas two-step” bankruptcy. Claimants argued that the strategy is a misuse of the US bankruptcy code — and on Monday, a panel of judges agreed.

Chad Mirkin, Flashpoint co-founder

‘The field is at a flash­point’: New Chad Mirkin-found­ed biotech hopes to make more ef­fec­tive can­cer vac­cines

Following the success of the mRNA Covid vaccines, cancer vaccines are seeing renewed interest after years of middling results. But a group of researchers suggests that more attention needs to be paid not to what goes into those vaccines, but how the parts are put together.

In a recent paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, researchers led by Northwestern University’s Chad Mirkin describe how the placement of different antigens in a cancer vaccine impacts its efficacy. The paper builds on past work done by Mirkin’s lab that suggests the structure, or how the parts of a vaccine are arranged, impact a vaccine’s efficacy, not just its components.

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#JPM23: Reg­u­la­to­ry un­cer­tain­ty? What about M&A? Da­ta rule? Alessan­dro Masel­li and John Car­roll take out their crys­tal balls

Endpoints editor and founder John Carroll sat down the Catalent CEO Alessandro Maselli to talk about what’s ahead in 2023. Right or wrong, this covers all the big issues faced by biopharma. This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

John Carroll:

I think 2022 had to be one of the worst years ever for crystal balls. You went into 2022 thinking all sorts of nice things about what was ahead, not thinking about a European land war, maybe not thinking that the Federal Reserve was going to be jacking up interest rates as fast as they could to get ahead of inflation. Just a tremendous number of macroeconomic issues that were out there. The sudden and complete collapse of support on the markets in Nasdaq for biotech. A lot of darlings in the industry that had been out there for a while suddenly found themselves moving from a really hot market to a really cold market all of a sudden and had to make a lot of different changes in terms of strategizing.

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