On a win­ning streak, Heron rock­ets up 30% on PhI­Ib pain drug da­ta

More than dou­bling its stock since the first of the year, San Diego’s Heron Ther­a­peu­tics re­port­ed yet an­oth­er slam dunk Thurs­day morn­ing with news that its pain drug de­liv­ered in two more in­di­ca­tions. That’s af­ter the com­pa­ny re­port­ed stel­lar Phase III da­ta just three months ago, and a FDA OK on a dif­fer­ent drug be­fore that.

Bar­ry Quart

Heron’s in­vestors are pleased with the news, with the com­pa­ny’s stock $HRTX jump­ing 30% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing.

The com­pa­ny’s pain drug is a long-act­ing lo­cal anes­thet­ic made up of bupi­va­caine and meloxi­cam, which Heron calls HTX-011. The drug was test­ed in two Phase IIb stud­ies against the pain as­so­ci­at­ed with to­tal knee arthro­plas­ty and breast aug­men­ta­tion. Both stud­ies en­rolled be­tween 222 and 243 pa­tients, and were ran­dom­ized, place­bo-con­trolled, and dou­ble-blind. The pa­tients were split in­to four co­horts, with one group re­ceiv­ing HTX-011 as a monother­a­py, while the oth­ers ei­ther got an HTX-011 com­bo with ropi­va­caine, a place­bo, or the anes­thet­ic bupi­va­caine (the cur­rent stan­dard of care).

Heron met the pri­ma­ry end­points in both stud­ies, show­ing that HTX-011 and the com­bo worked sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter at re­duc­ing pain than bupi­va­caine and the place­bo. In the knee study, The HTX-011 com­bo and HTX-011 alone re­sult­ed in re­duc­tions of 23% and 19% re­spec­tive­ly in pain in­ten­si­ty mea­sured at rest through 48 hours when com­pared to place­bo (p<0.0001 and p=0.0002, re­spec­tive­ly). That’s dou­ble the pain re­duc­tion than that of bupi­va­caine, which on­ly re­duced pain in­ten­si­ty by 11%.

The breast aug­men­ta­tion study re­sults were sim­i­lar­ly strong, with Heron’s drug achiev­ing near­ly triple the pain re­duc­tion than that of bupi­va­caine. HTX-011 re­sult­ed in re­duc­tions of 22% in pain in­ten­si­ty mea­sured at rest through 24 hours, while bupi­va­caine re­sult­ed in a re­duc­tion of 8%.

This is the sec­ond wave of good news for HTX-011, which wowed in­vestors in March for its ef­fi­ca­cy against post-surgery pain af­ter bunionec­to­my (bunion re­moval) and her­nia re­pair.

“With post­op­er­a­tive opi­oids serv­ing as a gate­way to ad­dic­tion, there is a large un­met need for non-opi­oid pain al­ter­na­tives,” said Bar­ry Quart, Heron’s CEO, in a state­ment. “With the re­sults re­port­ed to­day, we have seen pos­i­tive re­sults across 7 con­trolled clin­i­cal stud­ies and 5 di­verse sur­gi­cal mod­els, in­clud­ing her­nia re­pair, ab­domino­plas­ty, bunionec­to­my, to­tal knee arthro­plas­ty and breast aug­men­ta­tion.”

In a note to in­vestors ear­li­er this year, an­a­lysts at Jef­feries sug­gest­ed the piv­otal read­out for HTX-011 would be a “sig­nif­i­cant cat­a­lyst” for Heron. The com­pa­ny plans to file an NDA for the pro­gram lat­er this year.

The good news for the com­pa­ny fol­lows a reg­u­la­to­ry win late last year, when Heron scored FDA ap­proval of Cin­van­ti to pre­vent nau­sea and vom­it­ing for pa­tients on chemo. It was the sec­ond an­ti-nau­sea drug in Heron’s prod­uct port­fo­lio, with Sus­tol ap­proved last Au­gust for the same in­di­ca­tion.

Heron’s stock has climbed 88% since that Cin­van­ti win back in No­vem­ber, and could climb as much as 139% if Heron’s stock opens Thurs­day at its pre-mar­ket price.

We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.


ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology


ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development


CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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UP­DAT­ED: Pay­back? An­a­lysts say Sarep­ta was blind­sided by an FDA re­jec­tion dri­ven by reg­u­la­to­ry re­venge

In one of the least anticipated moves of the year, the FDA has rejected Sarepta’s application for an accelerated approval of its Duchenne MD drug golodirsen after fretting over safety issues.

In a statement that arrived after the bell on Monday, Sarepta explained the CRL, saying:

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FDA de­ci­sion on Ver­tex's CF triple will come just ahead of planned CEO shake­up

Vertex has clinched a priority review for the all-important cystic fibrosis triple that will blaze the trail for treating a large group of patients unhelped by its current drugs.

FDA regulators have set a PDUFA date of March 19, 2020, just a year after the Boston biotech posted positive Phase III results showing that people with two F508del mutations experienced statistically significant improvements in lung function after a 4-week regimen of VX-445, tezacaftor and ivacaftor. After reviewing 24-week data among patients with one F508del mutation and one minimal function mutation — and thoroughly comparing the VX-445 triple with another combo featuring VX-659 on scores like safety, drug-drug interactions, and photosensitivity — Vertex ultimately went with VX-445.

An MIT spin­out kills one of its ‘liv­ing ther­a­peu­tics’ af­ter flunk­ing an ear­ly-stage study — shares rout­ed

Just a few weeks after bagging $80 million in a deal to collaborate with Gingko Bioworks on its special blend of engineered bacteria used for “living therapeutics,” little Synlogic in Boston $SYBX is tossing one of its two clinical programs after watching an early-stage study go down in defeat.

Their Phase Ib/IIa study for SYNB1020 to counter the accumulation of ammonia in the body, a condition called hyperammonemia or urea cycle disorder, floundered at the interim readout, forcing the biotech to kill it and reserve its cash for pipeline therapies with greater potential.

Elan­co to buy Bay­er's an­i­mal health busi­ness for $7.6B, as deal­mak­ing gath­ers steam in the sec­tor

Last week, Elanco explicitly dodged answering questions about its rumored interest in Bayer’s animal health business in its post-earnings call. On Tuesday, the Eli Lilly spinoff disclosed it was purchasing the German drug maker’s veterinary unit in a cash-and-stock deal worth $7.6 billion. 

Elanco $ELAN has been busy on the deal-making front. In April, it laid out plans to swallow its partner, Kansas-based pet therapeutics company Aratana $PETX. A July report by Reuters suggested a potential Bayer deal was being explored, and Bloomberg last week said the deal was imminent, citing sources. 

As­traZeneca's di­a­betes drug Farx­i­ga helps pa­tients with heart dis­ease and with­out di­a­betes in land­mark tri­al

Months ago, data on J&J’s $JNJ Invokana indicated the diabetes drug conferred cardiovascular (CV) benefit in patients who do and do not have preexisting CV disease. On Tuesday, AstraZeneca’s $AZN rival treatment, Farxiga, was shown to cut the risk of CV death or the worsening of heart failure in patients with heart disease, in a landmark trial.

The treatments, in addition to Jardiance from Eli Lilly $LLY, belong to a class of diabetes drugs called sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, which work by curbing the absorption of glucose via the kidneys so that surplus glucose is excreted through urination.

Levi Garraway. Broad Institute via Youtube

Roche raids Eli Lil­ly for its next chief med­ical of­fi­cer as San­dra Horn­ing plans to step down

We found out Monday morning where Levi Garraway was headed after he left Eli Lilly as head of oncology R&D a few days ago. Roche named Garraway as their new chief medical officer, replacing Sandra Horning, who they say is retiring from the company.

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Af­ter a posse of Wall Street an­a­lysts pre­dict a like­ly new win for Sarep­ta, we're down to the wire on a crit­i­cal FDA de­ci­sion

As Bloomberg notes, most of the Wall Street analysts that cover Sarepta $SRPT are an upbeat bunch, ready to cheer on the team when it comes to their Duchenne MD drugs, or offer explanations when an odd setback occurs — as happened recently with a safety signal that was ‘erroneously’ reported last week.

Ritu Baral Cowen
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