Mer­ck­'s Keytru­da fails triple neg­a­tive breast can­cer piv­otal study

Months af­ter the FDA sanc­tioned the ap­proval of Roche’s run­ner up check­point in­hibitor Tecen­triq in com­bi­na­tion with Cel­gene’s Abrax­ane for treat­ment naive pa­tients with triple neg­a­tive breast can­cer, Mer­ck’s keynote PD-1 Keytru­da has stum­bled in a late-stage tri­al as the sec­ond or third line of de­fense against the rare, ag­gres­sive form of can­cer.

Pa­tients in the 622-pa­tient tri­al were ei­ther giv­en the block­buster treat­ment or chemother­a­py. The main goal of the study — over­all sur­vival — was not met, Mer­ck said, adding that de­tails will be dis­closed at a lat­er date.

The US drug­mak­er will con­tin­ue to test Keytru­da monother­a­py and in com­bi­na­tion with chemother­a­py in ear­li­er stages of the dif­fi­cult-to-treat dis­ease.

About 10-20% of all breast can­cers are triple-neg­a­tive breast can­cers (TNBCs), which char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly has a high re­cur­rence rate with­in the first five years af­ter di­ag­no­sis. In TNBC pa­tients, the growth of the can­cer is not fu­eled by the hor­mones es­tro­gen and prog­es­terone, or by the HER2 pro­tein, mak­ing it hard to treat.

Roche’s Tecen­triq com­bi­na­tion with Abrax­ane was the first-ever im­munother­a­py to get ap­proval in the first­line TNBC set­ting. The ap­proval was key for the Swiss drug­mak­er that is third-in-line — be­hind Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb and Mer­ck — for the check­point in­hibitor Iron throne. The large drug­mak­er must get ahead of its ri­vals in cru­cial can­cer ar­eas if it wants to hold on to its po­si­tion, as As­traZeneca carves out a niche for its PD-L1 check­point Imfinzi in a sub­set of non-small cell lung can­cer pa­tients.

About 70% of breast can­cers di­ag­nosed in peo­ple with an in­her­it­ed BR­CA mu­ta­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly BR­CA1, are di­ag­nosed with TNBC. PARP in­hibitors such as As­traZeneca’s Lyn­parza and Pfiz­er’s Talzen­na are al­ready ap­proved for germline BR­CA-mu­tat­ed breast can­cer, and are be­ing in­ves­ti­gat­ed in com­bi­na­tion with check­point in­hibitors for TNBC.

Mean­while, an­ti­body drug con­ju­gates are an­oth­er po­ten­tial treat­ment op­tion for TNBC un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The DCT-OS: A Tech­nol­o­gy-first Op­er­at­ing Sys­tem - En­abling Clin­i­cal Tri­als

As technology-enabled clinical research becomes the new normal, an integrated decentralized clinical trial operating system can ensure quality, deliver consistency and improve the patient experience.

The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines has many of us looking forward to a time when everyday things return to a state of normal. Schools and teachers are returning to classrooms, offices and small businesses are reopening, and there’s a palpable sense of optimism that the often-awkward adjustments we’ve all made personally and professionally in the last year are behind us, never to return. In the world of clinical research, however, some pandemic-necessitated adjustments are proving to be more than emergency stopgap measures to ensure trial continuity — and numerous decentralized clinical trial (DCT) tools and methodologies employed within the last year are likely here to stay as part of biopharma’s new normal.

Onno van de Stolpe, Galapagos CEO (Thierry Roge/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Gala­pa­gos chops in­to their pipeline, drop­ping core fields and re­or­ga­niz­ing R&D as the BD team hunts for some­thing 'trans­for­ma­tive'

Just 5 months after Gilead gutted its rich partnership with Galapagos following a bitter setback at the FDA, the Belgian biotech is hunkering down and chopping the pipeline in an effort to conserve cash while their BD team pursues a mission to find a “transformative” deal for the company.

The filgotinib disaster didn’t warrant a mention as Galapagos laid out its Darwinian restructuring plans. Forced to make choices, the company is ditching its IPF molecule ’1205, while moving ahead with a Phase II IPF study for its chitinase inhibitor ’4617.

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Mod­er­na CEO brush­es off US sup­port for IP waiv­er, eyes more than $19B in Covid-19 vac­cine sales in 2021

Moderna is definitively more concerned with keeping pace with Pfizer in the race to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 than it is with Wednesday’s decision from the Biden administration to back an intellectual property waiver that aims to increase vaccine supplies worldwide.

In its first quarter earnings call on Thursday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel shrugged off any suggestion that the newly US-backed intellectual property waiver would impact his company’s vaccine or bottom line. Still, the company’s stock price fell by about 9% in early morning trading.

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'Chang­ing the whole game of drug dis­cov­ery': Leg­endary R&D vet Roger Perl­mut­ter leaps back in­to work as a biotech CEO

Roger Perlmutter needs no introduction to anyone remotely involved in biopharma. As the R&D chief first at Amgen and then Merck, he’s built a stellar reputation and a prolific career steering new drugs toward the market for everything from cancer to infectious diseases.

But for years, he’s also held a less known title: science partner at The Column Group, where he’s regularly consulted about the various ideas the VCs had for new startups.

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Ad­comm splits slight­ly in fa­vor of FDA ap­prov­ing Chemo­Cen­tryx’s rare dis­ease drug

The FDA’s Arthritis Advisory Committee on Thursday voted 10 for and 8 against the approval of ChemoCentryx’s $CCXI investigational drug avacopan as a treatment for adults with a rare and serious disease known as anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis.

The vote on whether the FDA should approve the drug was preceded by a split vote of 9 to 9 on whether the efficacy data support approval, and 10 to 8 that the safety profile of avacopan is adequate enough to support approval.

Drug pric­ing watch­dog joins the cho­rus of crit­ics on Bio­gen's ad­u­canum­ab: What about charg­ing $2,560 per year?

As if Biogen’s aducanumab isn’t controversial enough, the researchers at drug pricing watchdog ICER have drawn up the contours of a new debate: If the therapy does get approved for Alzheimer’s by June, what price should it command?

Their answer: At most $8,290 per year — and perhaps as little as $2,560.

Even at the top of the range, the proposed price is a fraction of the $50,000 that Wall Street has reportedly come to expect (although RBC analyst Brian Abrahams puts the consensus figure at $11.5K). With critics, including experts on the FDA’s advisory committee, making their fierce opposition to aducanumab’s approval loud and clear, the pricing pressure adds one extra wrinkle Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos doesn’t need as he orders full-steam preparation for a launch.

Biden ad­min­is­tra­tion backs a po­lar­iz­ing pro­pos­al to waive IP for all Covid-19 vac­cines

In a surprise U-turn, the Biden administration said Wednesday that it will support a proposal at the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines.

The proposal, backed by South Africa and India at the WTO, seeks to help developing countries with limited vaccine supplies. The US and Europe historically opposed the proposal, saying IP should be protected because it incentivizes new drug and vaccine development.

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FDA ex­tends re­search agree­ment with MIT-li­censed or­gan-on-chip sys­tems

The FDA on Wednesday extended its four-year agreement with CN Bio, a developer of single- and multi-organ-on-chip systems used for drug discovery, for another three years.

CN Bio said the scope of the research performed by the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has expanded to include the exploration of the company’s lung-on-a-chip system to help with the agency’s evaluation of inhaled drugs, in addition to the agency’s work on its liver model.

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In quest to meet user fee goals, FDA’s per­for­mance con­tin­ues down­ward trend

A recent update to the FDA’s running tally of how it’s meeting its user fee-related performance goals during the pandemic shows an agency that is not out of the woods yet.

The latest numbers reveal that for a second straight quarter in 2021, the FDA has met its user fee goal dates for 93% of original new drug applications, which compares with 94% and 98% for the previous two quarters in 2020, respectively.

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