Nim­bus picks 4 pre­clin­i­cal tar­gets for the next chap­ter of its pi­o­neer­ing com­pu­ta­tion­al drug dis­cov­ery work

Big name part­ner­ships were crit­i­cal for Nim­bus Ther­a­peu­tics’ first decade. With a head-turn­ing $1.2 bil­lion — $600 mil­lion of which were paid with­in months — deal from Gilead and a re­turn­ing cus­tomer in Cel­gene, the biotech emerged as a pro­lif­ic pi­o­neer of com­pu­ta­tion­al chem­istry and struc­ture-based drug dis­cov­ery while the in­dus­try went through a seis­mic shift in its think­ing of the role that al­go­rithms play in en­gi­neer­ing new ther­a­pies.

Jeb Keiper

As the sec­ond of the ini­tial batch of pro­grams en­ter the clin­ic, Nim­bus is un­veil­ing the head­ings that will de­fine what it calls its sec­ond chap­ter.

Their team of 20-plus sci­en­tists has iden­ti­fied four new tar­gets — AMP­Kβ2, CTPS1, Cbl-b and WRN — which they have been prob­ing with aca­d­e­m­ic col­lab­o­ra­tors and ex­perts at Schrödinger. And this time around, they plan to keep all four in-house for at least a lit­tle longer, fo­cus­ing on re­cruit­ing new staffers and friend­ly re­searchers rather than buy­ers.

At the same time, Nim­bus has dropped its STING ef­forts af­ter a slew of biotechs reached for it and came up emp­ty.

“One of the com­pli­ments we’ve been paid by our peers in the broad­er drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment com­mu­ni­ty has been in our abil­i­ty to se­lect re­al­ly in­ter­est­ing tar­gets that are quite com­pelling,” Jeb Keiper — the for­mer BD chief who took over as CEO from Don Nichol­son less than two years ago — told End­points News. “We care a lot about be­ing able to do that.”

Aside from the usu­al sus­pects in tar­get se­lec­tion, such as ge­net­ic val­i­da­tion and med­ical need, Nim­bus zoomed in­to ones for which a se­lec­tive, struc­ture-based ap­proach is par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful, CSO Pe­ter Tum­mi­no said.

Pe­ter Tum­mi­no

In AMPK (AMP-ac­ti­vat­ed pro­tein ki­nase), that means find­ing ac­ti­va­tors se­lec­tive for the β2 sub­unit, which could trans­late in­to a bet­ter safe­ty pro­file as meta­bol­ic drugs. Sim­i­lar­ly, the chal­lenge in CTP is to find com­pounds se­lec­tive for the S-1 iso­form. Cbl-b (Cbl pro­to-onco­gene B) is an E3 ubiq­ui­tin lig­ase — a nat­ur­al pro­tein de­grad­er — that’s gar­nered at­ten­tion from both small com­pa­nies like Nurix and big ones like Roche. Fi­nal­ly, the goal with WRN (Wern­er syn­drome ATP-de­pen­dent he­li­case) is to come up with a new treat­ment op­tion for tu­mors vul­ner­a­ble to dis­rup­tions in DNA re­pair.

“What isn’t new is we’re look­ing for small mol­e­cule agents,” he said.

Al­though these are tar­gets of high in­ter­est, he added, much is still un­known about their struc­tures, and Nim­bus is work­ing with lead­ing bi­ol­o­gists to elu­ci­date them with tech­niques like cryo-EM and crys­tal­log­ra­phy.

These are “not things you can sim­ply out­source to con­tract re­search groups,” Keiper added. “You re­al­ly are do­ing fun­da­men­tal aca­d­e­m­ic dis­cov­ery work.” That’s the kind of spe­cial sauce — mix­ing dyed in the wool drug dis­cov­ery vet­er­ans with com­pu­ta­tion­al ex­perts — that Nim­bus be­lieves will keep it go­ing for many years more.

ZS Per­spec­tive: 3 Pre­dic­tions on the Fu­ture of Cell & Gene Ther­a­pies

The field of cell and gene therapies (C&GTs) has seen a renaissance, with first generation commercial therapies such as Kymriah, Yescarta, and Luxturna laying the groundwork for an incoming wave of potentially transformative C&GTs that aim to address diverse disease areas. With this renaissance comes several potential opportunities, of which we discuss three predictions below.

Allogenic Natural Killer (NK) Cells have the potential to displace current Cell Therapies in oncology if proven durable.

Despite being early in development, Allogenic NKs are proving to be an attractive new treatment paradigm in oncology. The question of durability of response with allogenic therapies is still an unknown. Fate Therapeutics’ recent phase 1 data for FT516 showed relatively quicker relapses vs already approved autologous CAR-Ts. However, other manufacturers, like Allogene for their allogenic CAR-T therapy ALLO-501A, are exploring novel lymphodepletion approaches to improve persistence of allogenic cells. Nevertheless, allogenic NKs demonstrate a strong value proposition relative to their T cell counterparts due to comparable response rates (so far) combined with the added advantage of a significantly safer AE profile. Specifically, little to no risk of graft versus host disease (GvHD), cytotoxic release syndrome (CRS), and neurotoxicity (NT) have been seen so far with allogenic NK cells (Fig. 1). In addition, being able to harness an allogenic cell source gives way to operational advantages as “off-the-shelf” products provide improved turnaround time (TAT), scalability, and potentially reduced cost. NKs are currently in development for a variety of overlapping hematological indications with chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-Ts) today, and the question remains to what extent they will disrupt the current cell therapy landscape. Click for more details.

Lat­est news on Pfiz­er's $3B+ JAK1 win; Pacts over M&A at #JPM22; 2021 by the num­bers; Bio­gen's Aduhelm reck­on­ing; The sto­ry of sotro­vimab; and more

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For those of you who attended #JPM22 in any shape or form, we hope you had a fruitful time. Regardless of how you spent the past hectic week, may your weekend be just what you need it to be.

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A $3B+ peak sales win? Pfiz­er thinks so, as FDA of­fers a tardy green light to its JAK1 drug abroc­i­tinib

Back in the fall of 2020, newly crowned Pfizer chief Albert Bourla confidently put their JAK1 inhibitor abrocitinib at the top of the list of blockbuster drugs in the late-stage pipeline with a $3 billion-plus peak sales estimate.

Since then it’s been subjected to serious criticism for the safety warnings associated with the class, held back by a cautious FDA and questioned when researchers rolled out a top-line boast that their heavyweight contender had beaten the champ in the field of atopic dermatitis — Dupixent — in a head-to-head study.

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Robert Califf, FDA commissioner nominee (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Rob Califf ad­vances as Biden's FDA nom­i­nee, with a close com­mit­tee vote

Rob Califf’s second confirmation process as FDA commissioner is already much more difficult than his near unanimous confirmation under the Obama administration.

The Senate Health Committee on Thursday voted 13-8 in favor of advancing Califf’s nomination to a full Senate vote. Several Democrats voted against Califf, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Maggie Hassan. Several other Democrats who aren’t on the committee, like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, also said Thursday that they would not vote for Califf. Markey, Hassan and Manchin all previously expressed reservations about the prospect of Janet Woodcock as an FDA commissioner nominee too.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard)

Bio­gen vows to fight CM­S' draft cov­er­age de­ci­sion for Aduhelm be­fore April fi­nal­iza­tion

Biogen executives made clear in an investor call Thursday they are not preparing to run a new CMS-approved clinical trial for their controversial Alzheimer’s drug anytime soon.

As requested in a draft national coverage decision from CMS earlier this week, Biogen and other anti-amyloid drugs will need to show “a meaningful improvement in health outcomes” for Alzheimer’s patients in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to get paid for their drugs, rather than just the reduction in amyloid plaques that won Aduhelm its accelerated approval in June.

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CRO own­er pleads guilty to ob­struct­ing FDA in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to fal­si­fied clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta

The co-owner of a Florida-based clinical research site pleaded guilty to lying to an FDA investigator during a 2017 inspection, revealing that she falsely portrayed part of a GlaxoSmithKline pediatric asthma study as legitimate, when in fact she knew that certain data had been falsified, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Three other employees — Yvelice Villaman Bencosme, Lisett Raventos and Maytee Lledo — previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced in connection with falsifying data associated with the trial at the CRO Unlimited Medical Research.

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, Oncology R&D

Can­cer pow­er­house As­traZeneca rolls the dice on a $75M cash bet on a buzzy up­start in the on­col­o­gy field

After establishing itself in the front ranks of cancer drug developers and marketers, AstraZeneca is putting its scientific shoulder — and a significant amount of cash — behind the wheel of a brash new upstart in the biotech world.

The pharma giant trumpeted news this morning that it is handing over $75 million upfront to ally itself with Scorpion Therapeutics, one of those biotechs that was newly birthed by some top scientific, venture and executive talent and bequeathed with a fortune by way of a bankroll to advance an only hazily explained drug platform. And they are still very much in the discovery and preclinical phase.

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‘Skin­ny la­bels’ on gener­ics can save pa­tients mon­ey, re­search shows, but re­cent court de­ci­sions cloud fu­ture

New research shows how generic drug companies can successfully market a limited number of approved indications for a brand name drug, prior to coming to market for all of the indications. But several recent court decisions have created a layer of uncertainty around these so-called “skinny” labels.

While courts have generally allowed generic manufacturers to use their statutorily permitted skinny-label approvals, last summer, a federal circuit court found that Teva Pharmaceuticals was liable for inducing prescribers and patients to infringe GlaxoSmithKline’s patents through advertising and marketing practices that suggested Teva’s generic, with its skinny label, could be employed for the patented uses.

A patient in Alaska receiving an antibody infusion to prevent Covid hospitalizations in September. All but one of these treatments has been rendered useless by Omicron (Rick Bowmer/AP Images)

How a tiny Swiss lab and two old blood sam­ples cre­at­ed one of the on­ly ef­fec­tive drugs against Omi­cron (and why we have so lit­tle of it)

Exactly a decade before a novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Davide Corti — a newly-minted immunologist with frameless glasses and a quick laugh — walked into a cramped lab on the top floor of an office building two hours outside Zurich. He had only enough money for two technicians and the ceiling was so low in parts that short stature was a job requirement, but Corti believed it’d be enough to test an idea he thought could change medicine.

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