On the heels of GW's epilep­sy win, Wall Street dar­ling Zo­genix shares pos­i­tive PhI­II da­ta on ri­val drug

A ri­val is al­ready loom­ing for GW Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $GW­PH, the drug­mak­er who scored the very first cannabis-de­rived drug ap­proval on­ly weeks ago to treat rare forms of epilep­sy. Now, Zo­genix is on their heels with pos­i­tive Phase III da­ta for its drug tar­get­ing the same in­di­ca­tion.

In­vestors are re­joic­ing, with Zo­genix’s $ZGNX stock climb­ing near­ly 25% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing. The stock price has al­ready soared 210% in the past 12 months.

Stephen Farr

The Emeryville-based com­pa­ny re­port­ed its ex­per­i­men­tal med ZX008 trig­gered a dra­mat­ic drop in the rate of seizures ex­pe­ri­enced by pa­tients with Dravet syn­drome, a rare form of child­hood epilep­sy. The Phase III study (the sec­ond of two) saw 43 pa­tients had a me­di­an re­duc­tion of 62.7% in con­vul­sive seizures per month. That’s com­pared to 1.2% on place­bo. The oth­er Phase III study Zo­genix re­port­ed back in Sep­tem­ber saw a me­di­an re­duc­tion of 72.4%, while place­bo on­ly saw a drop of 17.4%.

ZX008 is a low-dose for­ma­tion of fen­flu­ramine, one part of the in­fa­mous weight­loss drug com­bo “Fen-Phen” — banned back in the 1990s due to car­diac risk. In Zo­genix’s two Phase III stud­ies, its ver­sion of this drug did not trig­ger car­diac side ef­fects.

“Based on these high­ly com­pelling top-line re­sults from both of our piv­otal stud­ies, we are now fo­cused on sub­mit­ting ap­pli­ca­tions for reg­u­la­to­ry ap­provals in the US and Eu­rope in the fourth quar­ter of 2018,” said Stephen Farr, pres­i­dent and CEO of Zo­genix, in a state­ment. “We are ex­cit­ed about ZX008’s po­ten­tial to  have a ma­jor im­pact in the treat­ment of pa­tients with Dravet syn­drome and their fam­i­lies.”

The Phase III news comes less than a month af­ter GW Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals scored a green light on Epid­i­olex, grab­bing its first ever mar­ket­ing OK for one of its cannabi­noid drugs and set­ting up the biotech for a ma­jor shift to­ward com­mer­cial­iza­tion. The drug was ap­proved to treat seizures in chil­dren suf­fer­ing from rare cas­es of Lennox-Gas­taut syn­drome and Dravet syn­drome. 

Clar­i­vate has pegged 2022 Epid­i­olex sales at a block­buster-sized $1.2 bil­lion. But ri­vals like Zo­genix’s ZX008 could cer­tain­ly cut in­to that, if it reach­es the mar­ket.

Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Fol­low­ing news of job cuts in Eu­ro­pean R&D ops, Sanofi con­firms it’s of­fer­ing US work­ers an 'ear­ly ex­it'

Ear­li­er in the week we learned that Sanofi was bring­ing out the bud­get ax to trim 466 R&D jobs in Eu­rope, re­tool­ing its ap­proach to car­dio as re­search chief John Reed beefed up their work in can­cer and gene ther­a­pies. And we’re end­ing the week with news that the phar­ma gi­ant has al­so been qui­et­ly re­duc­ing staff in the US, tar­get­ing hun­dreds of jobs as the com­pa­ny push­es vol­un­tary buy­outs with a fo­cus on R&D sup­port ser­vices.

Evotec CEO Werner Lanthaler, File Photo

Ox­ford, Evotec ramp up LAB10x with AI ex­perts at Sen­syne — fo­cused on biotech spin­outs

Ox­ford is al­ly­ing it­self with Evotec and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence out­fit Sen­syne Health to ramp up some new biotech spin­outs while look­ing to “ac­cel­er­ate da­ta-dri­ven drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment.”

The big idea here is that Ox­ford sci­en­tists — some of the best drug hunters in the world — can uti­lize Sen­syne’s AI plat­form for their work, re­ly­ing on the chemists and hands-on de­vel­op­ers at Evotec to push ahead to a crit­i­cal proof of con­cept mo­ment. And they’ll do it through a project leader called LAB10x, which gets £5 mil­lion over the next three years to fund the work.

Roger Perlmutter. Merck via webcast

'Our lega­cy mat­ter­s': Mer­ck maps out Keytru­da king­dom while spot­light­ing ad­vances in vac­cines, hos­pi­tal care

“You can for the mo­ment stop tak­ing notes. You can put down your pens and your pad. I have no slides. I have no sub­stan­tive da­ta. I have no pitch.”

So be­gan Roger Perl­mut­ter’s brief ap­pear­ance on­stage at Mer­ck’s first in­vestor day in five years, where he dived in­to the com­pa­ny’s his­to­ry dat­ing back to 1933. The first em­ploy­ees at Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries, hand­picked by founder George W. Mer­ck, were crit­i­cal to Mer­ck’s abil­i­ty to achieve clin­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess.

How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

Why would the FDA ap­prove an­oth­er con­tro­ver­sial drug to spur a woman’s li­bido with these da­ta? And why no ex­pert pan­el re­view?

AMAG Pharmaceuticals’ newly approved drug for spurring women’s sexual desire may never make much money, but it’s a big hit at sparking media attention.

The therapy — Vyleesi (bremelanotide) — got the green light from regulators on Friday evening, swiftly lighting up a range of stories around the world, from The New York Times to The Guardian. Several headlines inevitably referred to it as the “female Viagra,” invoking Pfizer’s old erectile dysfunction blockbuster.

But the two drugs have little in common.

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John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.

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Re­gen­eron/Sanofi's an­ti­body un­der­whelms in asth­ma study — shares of ri­val Anap­tys­Bio pay the price

Al­though ex­pec­ta­tions were mut­ed, Re­gen­eron $REGN and Sanofi’s $SNY ex­per­i­men­tal IL-33 an­ti­body has un­der­whelmed in a proof-of-con­cept mid-stage asth­ma tri­al. Al­though the drug sig­nif­i­cant­ly im­proved the loss of asth­ma con­trol and lung func­tion as a monother­a­py com­pared to a place­bo, its ef­fect was nei­ther su­pe­ri­or to the es­tab­lished Dupix­ent, nor of val­ue when com­bined with the IL-4/IL-13 treat­ment.

Green-light­ed in Japan, FDA quick­ly spurns Dai­ichi Sanky­o's flawed ap­pli­ca­tion for AML drug

Three days af­ter win­ning Japan­ese ap­proval for its acute myeloid leukemia drug quizar­tinib, Dai­ichi Sankyo is be­ing forced to en­dure an em­bar­rass­ing re­jec­tion at the hands of the FDA.

US reg­u­la­tors wast­ed no time in bat­ting back quizar­tinib af­ter first high­light­ing the messy da­ta in its ap­pli­ca­tion in an in­ter­nal re­view, that in turn per­suad­ed a large ma­jor­i­ty of out­side ex­perts to rec­om­mend a re­jec­tion for the drug, which tar­gets FLT3-ITD–pos­i­tive AML cas­es.