Mer­ck KGaA, Pfiz­er's Baven­cio set to seal blad­der can­cer ap­proval af­ter con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al scores

Baven­cio could use the win.

More than two years af­ter its mak­ers — Ger­many’s Mer­ck KGaA and Pfiz­er — se­cured FDA ap­proval for a form of blad­der can­cer, the com­pa­nies un­veiled that the con­fir­ma­to­ry study test­ing the PD-L1 in­hibitor had per­formed as ex­pect­ed, help­ing pa­tients live longer as a main­te­nance treat­ment ver­sus stan­dard-of-care.

The drug was grant­ed ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval on the ba­sis of tu­mor re­sponse and du­ra­tion of re­sponse in May 2017 in pa­tients with lo­cal­ly ad­vanced or metasta­t­ic urothe­lial car­ci­no­ma (UC) whose dis­ease has pro­gressed dur­ing or af­ter plat­inum-con­tain­ing chemother­a­py. On Mon­day, the com­pa­nies said that da­ta from the con­fir­ma­to­ry JAVELIN Blad­der 100 tri­al showed pa­tients treat­ed with Baven­cio lived sig­nif­i­cant­ly longer than those who re­ceived stan­dard care.

A sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in over­all sur­vival was demon­strat­ed in the Baven­cio arm in each of the co-pri­ma­ry pop­u­la­tions: all ran­dom­ized pa­tients and pa­tients with PD-L1–pos­i­tive tu­mors, the com­pa­ny added, with­out dis­clos­ing the num­bers. The da­ta will be hand­ed over to the FDA.

Baven­cio was late to the check­point in­hibitor game. Mer­ck’s mar­ket-lead­ing Keytru­da and Bris­tol-My­ers’ pi­o­neer­ing Op­di­vo were the first two PD-1/L1 drugs to make the cut, and have since scored var­i­ous ap­provals across im­muno-on­col­o­gy and now reap in bil­lions in sales. Re­gen­eron, Roche and Chi­na-based drug de­vel­op­ers al­so have their own check­points — PARP in­hibitors are al­so the mix.

Last Sep­tem­ber, Cowen an­a­lysts shaved their 2024 pro­jec­tions for Baven­cio by $170 mil­lion to $480 mil­lion, cit­ing flat growth and rel­a­tive­ly few cat­a­lysts ahead. In com­par­i­son, Op­di­vo is ex­pect­ed to gen­er­ate a meaty $12.4 bil­lion that year, and king Keytru­da a hefty $20.6 bil­lion, the an­a­lysts es­ti­mat­ed.

Baven­cio, for which Pfiz­er paid $850 mil­lion up­front in 2014 to part­ner with Mer­ck KGaA on, has had some se­ri­ous set­backs in its quest to make a mark. The part­ners were forced to ad­mit de­feat in ovar­i­an can­cer in March last year af­ter three straight tri­al fail­ures. Months lat­er in No­vem­ber, the drug al­so fiz­zled as a first-line main­te­nance ther­a­py for gas­tric can­cer pa­tients, years af­ter fal­ter­ing in a gas­tric can­cer study to im­prove over­all sur­vival. In 2018, Baven­cio al­so botched a key study in the lu­cra­tive field of lung can­cer.

The com­pa­nies, how­ev­er, did have some luck in kid­ney can­cer. Baven­cio was grant­ed ap­proval in May 2019 in com­bi­na­tion with Pfiz­er’s ty­ro­sine ki­nase in­hibitor In­ly­ta for use as a front­line ther­a­py for re­nal cell car­ci­no­ma, af­ter late-stage da­ta showed the com­bi­na­tion demon­strat­ed a sig­nif­i­cant pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival ben­e­fit. It is al­so ap­proved for use in Merkel cell car­ci­no­ma.

UC ac­counts for about 90% of all blad­der can­cer cas­es. When blad­der can­cer is metasta­t­ic, the five-year sur­vival rate is 5%, ac­cord­ing to Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety es­ti­mates.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Up­dat­ed: FDA re­mains silent on or­phan drug ex­clu­siv­i­ty af­ter last year's court loss

Since losing a controversial court case over orphan drug exclusivity last year, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development has remained entirely silent on orphan exclusivity for any product approved since last November, leaving many sponsors in limbo on what to expect.

That silence means that for more than 70 orphan-designated indications for more than 60 products, OOPD has issued no public determination on the seven-year orphan exclusivity in the Orange Book, and no new listings of orphan exclusivity appear in OOPD’s searchable database, as highlighted recently by George O’Brien, a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, DC office.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Efren Landaos/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Pfiz­er makes an­oth­er bil­lion-dol­lar in­vest­ment in Eu­rope and ex­pands again in Michi­gan

Pfizer is continuing its run of manufacturing site expansions with two new large investments in the US and Europe.

The New York-based pharma giant’s site in Kalamazoo, MI, has seen a lot of attention over the past year. As a major piece of the manufacturing network for Covid-19 vaccines and antivirals, Pfizer is gearing up to place more money into the site. Pfizer announced it will place $750 million into the facility, mainly to establish “modular aseptic processing” (MAP) production and create around 300 jobs at the site.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Thibault Camus/AP Images, Pool)

No­var­tis bol­sters Plu­vic­to's case in prostate can­cer with PhI­II re­sults

The prognosis is poor for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) patients. Novartis wants to change that by making its recently approved Pluvicto available to patients earlier in their course of treatment.

The Swiss pharma giant unveiled Phase III results Monday suggesting that Pluvicto was able to halt disease progression in certain prostate cancer patients when administered after androgen-receptor pathway inhibitor (ARPI) therapy, but without prior taxane-based chemotherapy. The drug is currently approved for patients after they’ve received both ARPI and chemo.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Nkarta CEO Paul Hastings at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Nkar­ta un­der­scores safe­ty of CAR-NK, boasts ear­ly re­spons­es

The first generation of personalized CAR-T therapies made big waves in the treatment of lymphoma for their stunning efficacy. Nkarta is hoping its off-the-shelf natural killer cell approach will stand out on safety — while keeping some of those impressive numbers on responses.

In a new update from its Phase I dose escalation study, the South San Francisco-based biotech reported that seven out of 10 patients treated with the highest doses of its NK cell therapy, NKX019, achieved a complete response, translating to a complete response rate of 70%.

Pfiz­er-backed Me­di­ar Ther­a­peu­tics ropes in an­oth­er Big Phar­ma in­vestor

A biotech centered on treating fibrosis — born out of Mass General and Brigham and Women’s Hospital — has received a financial boost.

According to an SEC filing, the company has raised $31,761,186 in its latest funding round, which includes 17 investors. The filing lists six names attached to the company, including Meredith Fisher, a partner at Mass General Brigham Ventures and Mediar’s acting CEO.

Sekar Kathiresan, Verve Therapeutics CEO

Verve re­veals let­ter from FDA that lays out con­di­tions to lift base edit­ing tri­al hold

We now know why Verve’s lead candidate was placed on hold last month by US regulators.

In an SEC filing, Verve laid out the FDA’s conditions for lifting the hold on its lead therapy, VERVE-101. That includes submitting preclinical data about potency differences in human versus non-human cells, risks of gene editing germline cells, and off-target analyses in non-hepatocyte cell types.

The FDA also wants clinical data from the ongoing Heart-1 trial, and to modify the trial protocol in the US to add additional contraceptive measures and increase the length of a staggering interval between the dosing of participants.

Rick Modi, Affinia Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex-part­nered gene ther­a­py biotech Affinia scraps IPO plans

Affinia Therapeutics has ditched its plans to go public in a relatively closed-door market that has not favored Nasdaq debuts for the drug development industry most of this year. A pandemic surge in 2020 and 2021 opened the doors for many preclinical startups, which caught Affinia’s attention and gave the gene therapy biotech confidence in the beginning days of 2022 to send in its S-1.

But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

As mon­ey pours in­to dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics, in­sur­ance cov­er­age crawls



Talk therapy didn’t help Lily with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But a video game did.

As the 10-year-old zooms through icy waters and targets flying creatures on the snow-capped planet Frigidus, she builds attention skills, thanks to Akili Interactive Labs’ video game EndeavorRx. She’s now less anxious and scattered, allowing her to stay on a low dose of ADHD medication, according to her mom Violet Vu.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.