Omega-backed start­up sells it­self qui­et­ly; Ab­b­Vie breaks out more Rin­voq da­ta; Re­vance gets FDA date for Botox ri­val

→ When it came in­to the lime­light with a $35 mil­lion Se­ries A fi­nanc­ing in 2018, At­ten­ua promised to re­pur­pose three oral neu­ronal nico­tinic re­cep­tor as­sets dis­card­ed by Cat­a­lyst Bio­sciences (which in turn got the drugs through a merg­er with Tar­ga­cept). But now that it’s wrapped a proof-of-con­cept tri­al of the lead drug in chron­ic cough, At­ten­ua is flip­ping the port­fo­lio to an­oth­er buy­er for yet an­oth­er use.

CO­DA Bio­ther­a­peu­tics has bought At­ten­ua and its clin­i­cal stage small mol­e­cule can­di­dates, which they say will serve to con­trol their chemo­ge­net­ic re­cep­tors de­signed to treat neu­ro­path­ic pain, fo­cal epilep­sy and oth­er neu­ro­log­ic dis­or­ders.

The South San Fran­cis­co biotech liked that At­ten­ua’s drugs come with “high-qual­i­ty drug de­vel­op­ment work al­ready com­plet­ed, one with a cur­rent­ly ac­tive IND,” CEO Michael Narachi said.

Ac­cord­ing to clin­i­cal­tri­als.gov At­ten­ua com­plet­ed its chron­ic cough study in May last year, where it com­pared bradan­i­cline to place­bo, but has not post­ed the re­sults pub­licly. “We un­der­stand that the Phase II study end­points were not met,” Narachi told End­points News via email.

Omega Funds, Abing­worth, Or­biMed and Red­mile Group in­vest­ed in At­ten­ua. The fi­nan­cial terms of the buy­out deal were not dis­closed.

Ab­b­Vie’s oral JAK in­hibitor Rin­voq, which is part­ly ex­pect­ed to fill the gi­ant Hu­mi­ra hole af­ter the megablock­buster falls off its patent cliff, has more pos­i­tive da­ta back­ing its use. The com­pa­ny on Wednes­day is­sued da­ta from a piv­otal study in pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis pa­tients, months af­ter pub­lish­ing sim­i­lar­ly pos­i­tive re­sults from an­oth­er Phase III tri­al in the same pa­tient pop­u­la­tion. Rin­voq was ap­proved by the FDA in Au­gust for use in pa­tients with rheuma­toid arthri­tis, al­though the la­bel came with the dread­ed black box warn­ing that have plagued the class of drugs.

→  Co-founder Dan Browne may have stepped down in Oc­to­ber fol­low­ing a “mis­judg­ment in han­dling an em­ploy­ee mat­ter,” but Cal­i­for­nia-based Re­vance is go­ing full steam ahead with its Botox ri­val Dax­i­bot­u­linum­tox­i­nA for In­jec­tion (DAXI). The prod­uct has been ac­cept­ed for re­view by the FDA for use in frown lines, and the agency is ex­pect­ed to make its de­ci­sion by No­vem­ber 25. DAXI is po­si­tioned as a di­rect com­peti­tor to Al­ler­gan’s Botox fran­chise — a prod­uct that is ap­proved for 13 in­di­ca­tions and gen­er­at­ed close to $3.6 bil­lion in 2018, de­spite the emer­gence of ri­vals: Ipsen’s Dys­port (man­u­fac­tured by Gal­der­ma for cos­met­ic use), Merz Phar­ma’s Xeomin. An­oth­er com­peti­tor, Evo­lus, scored FDA ap­proval for its prod­uct, Jeu­veau, in Feb­ru­ary 2019.

→ Italy’s Chiesi, which has al­lied with Is­raeli biotech Pro­tal­ix to de­vel­op an en­zyme re­place­ment ther­a­py for Fab­ry dis­ease, is now carv­ing out a whole new di­vi­sion to fo­cus on rare and ul­tra-rare dis­eases. It will be head­quar­tered in Boston and con­duct R&D in lyso­so­mal stor­age dis­or­ders, as well as rare hema­tol­ogy and oph­thal­mol­o­gy dis­eases.

→ Tiny Tonix, whose ex­per­i­men­tal PTSD drug Ton­mya lost its break­through ther­a­py sta­tus, ceased en­roll­ment of a piv­otal study on Wednes­day af­ter an in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tor­ing pan­el rec­om­mend­ed stop­ping the tri­al due to fu­til­i­ty on the ba­sis that the drug like­ly does not work. Be­set with mul­ti­ple set­backs, Tonix has done every­thing in its pow­er to get Ton­mya across the fin­ish line, in­clud­ing chang­ing tri­al goal­posts and us­ing sub­set analy­ses to take the pro­gram for­ward. The drug will con­tin­ue to be test­ed in pa­tients with fi­bromyal­gia.

→ The Chi­nese tech gi­ant Ten­cent man­aged to riv­et at­ten­tion its way when the com­pa­ny tem­porar­i­ly post­ed an up­date on the coro­n­avirus epi­dem­ic that list­ed close to 25,000 deaths and more than 154,000 cas­es in Chi­na. The of­fi­cial num­ber of deaths is a bit more than 500. The con­glom­er­ate quick­ly re­vert­ed to the of­fi­cial num­bers once the re­port had been flagged by alarmed ob­servers.

Tai­wan News re­port­ed that the com­pa­ny may have in­ad­ver­tent­ly re­vealed the ac­tu­al fig­ures be­ing tracked, as op­posed to the num­bers Chi­na prefers. Ei­ther way, the re­port un­der­scores some lin­ger­ing doubts that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is not be­ing com­plete­ly up­front about the way it’s han­dled the brew­ing pan­dem­ic so far. The gov­ern­ment has about 60 mil­lion cit­i­zens un­der lock­down to try and help con­tain the spread of the Wuhan virus, which has se­vere­ly dis­rupt­ed the coun­try’s econ­o­my.

→ Fol­low­ing up on some promis­ing mid-stage da­ta out of ES­MO, Curis has con­vinced its part­ners at Au­ri­gene to fund and con­duct a Phase IIb/III study of CA-170 among pa­tients with non-squa­mous non-small cell lung can­cer (nsNSCLC). In ex­change Au­ri­gene, a sub­sidiary of In­dia’s Dr. Red­dy’s Labs, gets the rights to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize the drug in all of Asia — adding to an ex­ist­ing agree­ment for In­dia and Rus­sia. De­signed to be used in com­bi­na­tion with chemora­di­a­tion, CA-170 is an oral drug that in­hibits both PD-L1 and VISTA.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

FDA ad­comm to de­cide on mol­nupi­ravir EUA; Can­cer at­las un­veils new po­ten­tial drug tar­get

The FDA has another adcomm coming down the pipeline — this time on Covid-19 oral antiviral molnupiravir.

The federal agency’s advisory committee will meet on November 30th to go over Merck and Ridgeback’s EUA request for their investigational antiviral drug, and discuss the available data supporting its use in Covid-19 patients.

This comes two weeks after Merck claimed that their antiviral pill reduced the chance that newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients would be hospitalized or die by 50%. The pharma made the announcement after interim data on 775 patients in their clinical trial showed the antiviral’s potential.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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