Kim Stratton, Orphazyme

Near­ly two years af­ter their nar­row PhI­II fail­ure, Or­p­hazyme gets speedy look at the FDA

Or­p­hazyme’s bet that, de­spite miss­ing both pri­ma­ry end­points on its piv­otal study, they would find wel­com­ing ears at the FDA has paid off, for now.

The Dan­ish biotech an­nounced to­day that the FDA has ac­cept­ed the ap­pli­ca­tion for their ex­per­i­men­tal drug ari­mo­clo­mol in the rare neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tion Nie­mann-Pick dis­ease Type C and giv­en it pri­or­i­ty re­view. Al­though drugs that fail piv­otal stud­ies rarely re­ceive a pri­or­i­ty look at the agency, the dis­tinc­tion should come with lit­tle sur­prise. Or­p­hazyme has sig­naled re­peat­ed­ly since the 2019 re­sults came out that the FDA viewed an ap­pli­ca­tion fa­vor­ably and, the FDA gave it break­through des­ig­na­tion that No­vem­ber.

The agency set a PDU­FA date for March 17, 2021. Or­p­hazyme’s stock jumped 8.38% on the news, from 83.5 kro­nes to 90.5 kro­nes ($13.3 to $14.3).

“We look for­ward to col­lab­o­rat­ing with the FDA as they com­plete their re­view of this NDA to ad­dress the un­met med­ical need in NPC, and mean­while are work­ing to ex­pand our U.S. ac­tiv­i­ties in prepa­ra­tion for po­ten­tial com­mer­cial avail­abil­i­ty next year,” CEO Kim Strat­ton said in a state­ment.

Or­p­hazyme, a one-drug com­pa­ny tar­get­ing a string of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­ders, came out it with re­sults from a 50-per­son Phase II/III study on Nie­mann-Pick type C pa­tients, their lead in­di­ca­tion, in Jan­u­ary 2019. Ari­mo­clo­mol failed to hit both pri­ma­ry end­points, both a stan­dard scale for as­sess­ing symp­toms in pa­tients, called the NPC Clin­i­cal Sever­i­ty Scale, and the Clin­i­cal Glob­al Im­pres­sion of Im­prove­ment, a self-rat­ing tool that the FDA re­quest­ed. It al­so failed sev­er­al sec­ondary end­points.

Still, the drug on­ly nar­row­ly missed sig­nif­i­cance on the first pri­ma­ry end­point, where they saw both a 74% re­duc­tion in dis­ease sever­i­ty and a p-val­ue of 0.0506. And the com­pa­ny not­ed that two pre-spec­i­fied sub­group analy­ses reached sig­nif­i­cance, with dis­ease pro­gres­sion slow­ing in pa­tients over the age of 4 and in pa­tients who had been tak­ing an Acte­lion drug some­times pre­scribed for the dis­ease. All end­points were against place­bo.

In a de­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tion with no sig­nif­i­cant treat­ments, Or­p­hazyme was will­ing to bet that was enough to take to reg­u­la­tors. So far, they’ve been proven right.

Or­p­hazyme, eye­ing funds for com­mer­cial­iza­tion, filed for its first US of­fer­ing ear­li­er this month, pen­cil­ing in an ini­tial fig­ure of $115 mil­lion for the raise. In ad­di­tion to their lead in­di­ca­tion, they al­so have piv­otal stud­ies on­go­ing for ALS and spo­radic in­clu­sion body myosi­tis, a pro­gres­sive mus­cle dis­or­der.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

Samit Hirawat (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Af­ter bruis­ing re­jec­tion, blue­bird and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb land ide-cel pri­or­i­ty re­view. But will it mat­ter for the CVR?

With the clock all but up, the FDA accepted and handed priority review to Bristol Myers Squibb and bluebird bio’s BCMA CAR-T, keeping a narrow window open for Celgene investors to still cash in on the $9 CVR from the $63 billion Celgene merger.

The acceptance comes five months after the two companies weres slammed with a surprise refuse-to-file that threatened to foreclose the CVR entirely. Today’s acceptance sets the FDA decision date for March 27, 2021 – or precisely 4 days before the CVR deadline of March 31. Given the breakthrough designation and strong pivotal data — 81.5% response rate, 35.2% complete response rate — priority review was largely expected.

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Anthony Coyle (Repertoire)

Flag­ship's merged biotech Reper­toire nets ex-Pfiz­er CSO An­tho­ny Coyle as R&D chief

Flagship is building a big-name C-suite at its new, $220 million merged biotech.

Repertoire Immune Medicines, which already boasts former Bioverativ chief John Cox as its CEO, announced yesterday that Anthony Coyle, the former Pfizer CSO and the founding CEO of Pandion, will join as their head of R&D.

“As we progress clinical trials for our multi-clonal T cell candidates in immuno-oncology, Tony’s deep expertise in cellular immunology and novel therapeutic development will help us achieve our vision of creating a new class of transformative medicines for patients,” Cox said in a statement.

#ES­MO20: Push­ing in­to front­line, Mer­ck and Bris­tol My­ers duke it out with new slate of GI can­cer da­ta

Having worked in parallel for years to move their respective PD-1 inhibitors up to the first-line treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb finally have the data at ESMO for a showdown.

Comparing KEYNOTE-590 and CheckMate-649, of course, comes with the usual caveats. But a side-by-side look at the overall survival numbers also offer some perspective on a new frontier for the reigning checkpoint rivals, both of whom are claiming to have achieved a first.

President Donald Trump (via AP Images)

Signs of an 'Oc­to­ber Vac­cine Sur­prise' alarm ca­reer sci­en­tists. HHS con­tin­ues to claim Azar “will de­fer com­plete­ly to the FDA"

President Donald Trump, who seems intent on announcing a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day, could legally authorize a vaccine over the objections of experts, officials at the FDA and even vaccine manufacturers, who have pledged not to release any vaccine unless it’s proved safe and effective.

In podcasts, public forums, social media and medical journals, a growing number of prominent health leaders say they fear that Trump — who has repeatedly signaled his desire for the swift approval of a vaccine and his displeasure with perceived delays at the FDA — will take matters into his own hands, running roughshod over the usual regulatory process.

Can a mag­net­ic cell ther­a­py re­place corneal trans­plan­ta­tion? As eight-year jour­ney leads to the clin­ic, two broth­ers un­veil bold vi­sion

Jeff Goldberg was getting acquainted with a brand new way to do corneal transplants when an even newer, even bolder idea hit him.

It was almost 10 years ago, and Goldberg was in his first faculty position at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. Scientists had developed a new way to do cornea transplants where instead of sewing a whole donor cornea — a decades-old practice — they were just engrafting the inner layer of cells.

News brief­ing: Tiny Vac­cinex's drug flops in PhII Hunt­ing­ton's tri­al, stock craters; Siol­ta nabs $30M Se­ries B to de­vel­op mi­cro­bio­me drug

Siolta Therapeutics, a microbiome company targeting allergic diseases, raked in a $30 million Series B to develop its lead candidate, STMC-103H. The drug, which has been FDA fast-tracked, is headed for proof-of-concept trials, according to the company. Its various indications include allergic asthma, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and allergy prevention.

The news comes just after the California-based biotech added a prominent biopharma veteran as an advisor: 20-year Gilead CEO John Martin. The biotech also gained Richard Shames as CMO, who came by way of Protagonist Therapeutics.

Embattled CDC director Robert Redfield (AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: CDC ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee de­lays pri­or­i­ty dis­tri­b­u­tion vote; EU re­port­ed­ly in­dem­ni­fy­ing vac­cine mak­ers

A federal committee that advises the CDC was expected to hold a vote Tuesday on a plan regarding the distribution for initial doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines. But that vote has been scrapped.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, won’t be voting until the committee members learn more about which vaccines become available first, the Wall Street Journal reported. The vote could potentially wait until a specific vaccine is authorized before recommending how to dole out the first doses.

Zai Lab hauls in $761M from Hong Kong IPO to push Ze­ju­la, more bud­ding can­di­dates in Chi­na — re­port

Zai Lab is set to net more than $761 million from its secondary listing in Hong Kong after pricing the IPO at $72.51 (HKD$562) — just a hair below its Nasdaq closing price on Monday, Bloomberg and Nikkei Asian Review reported.

A pioneer in bringing Western drugs to China, co-founder and CEO Samantha Du has more than tripled Zai Lab’s market cap in the three years it’s been public in the US. The HKEX listing is designed to fund R&D and commercialization for the current portfolio while fueling new in-licensing pacts, the biotech wrote in a filing.