Nabri­va goes 2 for 2 in Phase III an­tibi­ot­ic pro­gram, scor­ing on a key cat­a­lyst -- but shares plunge on safe­ty wor­ries

Nabri­va Ther­a­peu­tics $NBRV has scored a sec­ond, piv­otal Phase III win for its an­tibi­ot­ic lefa­mulin in com­mu­ni­ty ac­quired bac­te­r­i­al pneu­mo­nia — set­ting up a pitch to the FDA lat­er this year and quite like­ly clear­ing a path to its first com­mer­cial launch.

Their an­tibi­ot­ic achieved non-in­fe­ri­or­i­ty com­pared to mox­i­floxacin for ear­ly clin­i­cal re­sponse (ECR) — 72 to 120 hours fol­low­ing ini­ti­a­tion of ther­a­py in the in­tent to treat pa­tient pop­u­la­tion. In this tri­al, ECR rates were 90.8% for lefa­mulin and 90.8% for mox­i­floxacin. The tri­al al­so achieved Eu­ro­pean goals out­lined for an ap­proval.

Nabri­va’s shares rock­et­ed up 24% on the news, and then re­versed course as in­vestors wres­tled over the safe­ty da­ta, falling 17% by the end of trad­ing. Di­ar­rhea proved a more ex­pan­sive con­cern than the ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta, with the an­tibi­ot­ic arm do­ing worse than moxi. Tox­i­c­i­ty is­sues grabbed in­vestors by the throat, with plen­ty of fret­ting about po­ten­tial lim­its to its use.

A cru­cial cat­a­lyst for this biotech, lefa­mulin came out of the sec­ond late-stage study look­ing iden­ti­cal to moxi, fit­ting a pro­file reg­u­la­tors re­quire for a mar­ket­ing ap­proval. If every­thing goes ac­cord­ing to plan, and gets around the safe­ty wor­ries, that will set up a launch in 2019 as the biotech seeks to carve out a large seg­ment of a big mar­ket, and not just due to drug re­sis­tance.

Col­in Broom

“I do not see this as an an­tibi­ot­ic to keep in re­serve,” CEO Col­in Broom tells me in a pre­view of the news. “It’s a short course of ther­a­py (5 days for lefa­mulin com­pared to 7 days for moxi), high­ly ef­fec­tive, with com­plete cov­er­age of the pathogens we wor­ry about….It’s re­al­ly the on­ly an­tibi­ot­ic out there that has the op­por­tu­ni­ty to be used out of the gate.”

Mak­ing that ar­gu­ment stick with pay­ers will re­quire some mod­er­a­tion on the pric­ing, he adds, with­out spelling out the num­bers. An­a­lysts will like­ly stay mind­ful that pay­ers will keep fo­cused on price, al­ways re­quir­ing cheap gener­ics when­ev­er pos­si­ble.

The biotech al­so re­port­ed that one pa­tient in their study al­so de­vel­oped C diff dur­ing an ex­tend­ed hos­pi­tal stay.

Gary Sender

Nei­ther Broom nor CFO Gary Sender are of­fer­ing their own peak sales es­ti­mates, but the CFO notes that an­a­lysts cov­er­ing the com­pa­ny have pen­cilled in es­ti­mates rang­ing from $500 mil­lion to $700 mil­lion a year — and they ex­pect those an­a­lysts to do some re­cal­cu­la­tions in their fa­vor with the lat­est batch of piv­otal da­ta.

Even now Nabri­va has a sales force of 20 work­ing the pre-com­mer­cial­iza­tion mar­ket. That will like­ly ex­pand to the 30-to-60 range, says the CEO, and even­tu­al­ly up to around 100. Broom ex­pects to line up part­ners for the ex-US mar­ket.

In do­ing so, Nabri­va may soon find it­self go­ing up against Paratek’s an­tibi­ot­ic, which al­so suc­ceed­ed for CABP and was filed for an ap­proval in Feb­ru­ary. Broom shrugs that off, though, dis­count­ing the ri­val as a broad spec­trum al­ter­na­tive that will like­ly be held in re­serve, al­low­ing lefa­mulin to push ahead in­to a broad­er mar­ket.

It won’t hurt Nabri­va that the FDA height­ened its warn­ings against the use of flu­o­ro­quinolones like maxi a cou­ple of years ago, af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing new safe­ty is­sues that in­cludes dis­abling side ef­fects in­volv­ing ten­dons, mus­cles, joints and nerves. And he adds that the com­mon­ly used z packs have be­come lit­tle bet­ter than a place­bo for about half of all cas­es of bac­te­r­i­al pneu­mo­nia.

Still, for years now the de­vel­op­ment of new an­tibi­otics has been left to small biotechs like Nabri­va, af­ter Big Phar­ma’s large­ly bowed out of a field they iden­ti­fied with nar­row mar­gins — de­spite the grow­ing num­ber of alarms from mul­ti­tude of glob­al health agen­cies over a steadi­ly ris­ing tide of drug re­sis­tance. It’s not an easy field, as a slate of re­cent clin­i­cal mishaps un­der­score. And cheap gener­ics are typ­i­cal­ly thrown at cas­es as they arise.

Broom, though, like oth­er CEOs in the field, be­lieves the eco­nom­ics of an­tibi­otics will grad­u­al­ly im­prove as more cas­es of re­sis­tance rise up. And he plans to be there with one of the new breed when it does.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

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So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Ken Frazier, AP Images

Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

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In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Len Schleifer (left) and George Yancopoulos, Regeneron (Vimeo)

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And they’re highlighting some clinical hemophilia research plans in the process.

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Mark Genovese (Stanford via Twitter)

Gilead woos fil­go­tinib clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor from Stan­ford to lead the charge on NASH, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases

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Mark Genovese — a longtime Stanford professor and most recently the clinical chief in the division of immunology and rheumatology — was the principal investigator in FINCH 2, one of three studies that supported Gilead’s NDA filing. In his new role as SVP, inflammation, he will oversee the clinical development of the entire portfolio.

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The immunomodulator, akin to others in its class, controls lymphocyte trafficking by limiting the white blood cells to the lymphatic system, in the lymph nodes, and thwarting their ability to jam up lymph nodes — precluding their ability to penetrate the bloodstream and the central nervous system.

Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

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After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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