NASH con­tender CymaBay runs in­to trou­ble as mid-stage da­ta dis­ap­point

A snap­shot of neg­a­tive da­ta from an on­go­ing 52-week mid-stage NASH study eval­u­at­ing CymaBay Ther­a­peu­tics’ lead drug has trig­gered alarm, af­ter the ex­per­i­men­tal liv­er drug, se­ladel­par, per­formed worse than a place­bo at a three-month read­out.

Sur­prised and aghast, in­vestors of the San Fran­cis­co-based biotech wast­ed lit­tle time in reg­is­ter­ing their dis­ap­point­ment. The com­pa­ny’s shares $CBAY plum­met­ed about 44.5% to $6.16 in ear­ly Tues­day trad­ing.

In the 181-pa­tient tri­al, pa­tients were ei­ther giv­en place­bo, se­ladel­par 10 mg, 20 mg, or 50 mg once dai­ly. The main goal at the end of 12 weeks was to in­duce a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in liv­er fat con­tent. Pa­tients giv­en the place­bo saw a re­duc­tion of 20.8% in liv­er fat, while those giv­en the three es­ca­lat­ing dos­es of se­ladel­par ex­pe­ri­enced small­er im­prove­ments: 10 mg (9.8%), 20 mg (14.2%) and 50 mg (13%).

Cymabay has pre­vi­ous­ly said it ex­pect­ed to see a 20-30% rel­a­tive — place­bo-ad­just­ed — change in liv­er fat at 12 weeks.

Pol Boudes Linkedin

“While the re­duc­tions in liv­er fat were min­i­mal, we re­main en­cour­aged by the sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in bio­chem­i­cal mark­ers of liv­er in­jury…” Pol Boudes, CymaBay’s chief med­ical of­fi­cer, said in a state­ment.

The ex­per­i­men­tal drug’s 52-week biop­sy read­out is ex­pect­ed in mid-2020. Se­ladel­par be­longs to a fam­i­ly of drugs that ac­ti­vate pro­teins called per­ox­i­some pro­lif­er­a­tor-ac­ti­vat­ed re­cep­tors (PPARs), which reg­u­late gene ex­pres­sion. Ex­ist­ing ev­i­dence sug­gests that in the liv­er, PPAR ag­o­nists play a role in bile acid syn­the­sis, in­flam­ma­tion, fi­bro­sis and lipid me­tab­o­lism.

“While there is still a 52-week fol­low-up, we be­lieve that these 12-week re­sults sig­nif­i­cant­ly lessen the com­pet­i­tive threat of se­ladel­par in NASH. Hence, by less­en­ing the com­pet­i­tive threat, we be­lieve these re­sults should ben­e­fit In­ter­cept, as OCA re­mains the on­ly med­ica­tion to show a ben­e­fit on fi­bro­sis in a Phase 3 tri­al. While OCA has some is­sues of its own, we think it is no­table that one of those is NOT a failed ran­dom­ized, place­bo con­trolled study,” Baird’s Bri­an Sko­r­ney wrote in a note.

Akin to CymaBay, French drug de­vel­op­ers Gen­fit (set to re­port piv­otal da­ta in 2019) and In­ven­ti­va are work­ing on their own PPAR ag­o­nists for NASH.

On Tues­day morn­ing, shares of Gen­fit $GN­FT — that re­cent­ly made its Nas­daq de­but — were al­so down about 15% at $20.37. The move­ment like­ly re­flects in­vestors tak­ing the CymaBay da­ta as ev­i­dence against the ef­fi­ca­cy of Gen­fit’s elafi­bra­nor, Sko­r­ney not­ed. “We think this move is some­what un­jus­ti­fied…the two med­ica­tions were thought to have dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed mech­a­nisms of ac­tion, it seems that this may not be the case, as se­ladel­par’s da­ta sug­gest that the med­ica­tion does not re­duce liv­er fat, which is sim­i­lar to what we have seen from ear­li­er tri­als of elafi­bra­nor.”

How­ev­er, as a con­se­quence of the new CymaBay da­ta, the two PPAR ag­o­nists now look more sim­i­lar than dif­fer­ent, he said. “CymaBay may be at a sig­nif­i­cant dis­ad­van­tage mov­ing for­ward as we be­lieve that even if PPAR ag­o­nism is suc­cess­ful in Gen­fit’s Phase 3 tri­al, with­out any clear signs of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, CymaBay may have an up­hill bat­tle as they work to catch up to Gen­fit in NASH. If elafi­bra­nor fails in NASH, it would prob­a­bly be pre­dic­tive of the out­come of se­ladel­par in NASH. Ei­ther way, we think this makes the PPAR class, as a whole, look like a less sig­nif­i­cant com­pet­i­tive threat to OCA.”

Oth­er ma­jor NASH con­tenders — Gilead $GILD (fail in Phase III) and In­ter­cept $ICPT (mixed win in Phase III) — have dis­closed the top line num­bers of their late-stage tri­als. In­ter­cept is poised to sub­mit its mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion lat­er this year.

Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Joseph Kim, Inovio CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

Pos­i­tive Covid-19 vac­cine da­ta? New mouse study? OWS in­clu­sion? Yep, but some­how, the usu­al tid­bits from In­ovio back­fire

You don’t go more than 40 years in biotech without ever getting a product to market unless you can learn the art of writing a promotional press release. And Inovio captures the prize in baiting the hook.

Tuesday morning Inovio, which has been struggling to get its Covid-19 vaccine lined up for mass manufacturing, put out a release that touched on virtually every hot button in pandemic PR.

There was, first and foremost, an interim snapshot of efficacy from their Phase I program for INO-4800.

Jan van de Winkel, Genmab CEO

Seat­tle Ge­net­ics, Gen­mab turn on TV for a high­light reel in cer­vi­cal can­cer — but a ri­val biotech promis­es a bet­ter show

Seattle Genetics $SGEN and their partners at Genmab $GMAB polished up some positive Phase II numbers for their antibody drug conjugate tisotumab vedotin — you can call it TV — for recurrent cervical cancer. And while they mapped out a shortcut to a potential quick approval, the big challenge for this team is being presented by a rival biotech which muscled its way into the spotlight for the same indication a year ago.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Dan Gold, MEI Pharma CEO

De­vel­op­ment part­ners at MEI, Helsinn dump a high-risk PhI­II AML study af­ter con­clud­ing it would fail sur­vival goal

Four years after Switzerland’s Helsinn put $25 million of cash on the table for an upfront and near-term milestone to take MEI Pharma’s drug pracinostat into a long-running Phase III trial for acute myeloid leukemia, the partners are walking away from a clinical pileup.

The drug — an HDAC inhibitor — failed to pass muster during a futility analysis, as researchers concluded that pracinostat combined with azacitidine wasn’t going to outperform the control group in the pivotal.