Elad Kedar, Orasis CEO (Orasis)

Ora­sis Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals snags $30M to see its pres­by­opia treat­ment through to PhI­II

Ora­sis Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is one of sev­er­al biotechs de­vel­op­ing mi­otic-based eye drops as a po­ten­tial al­ter­na­tive to read­ing glass­es — one drop, and no more squint­ing at text mes­sages. With the help of a $30 mil­lion Se­ries C, the Is­rael-based com­pa­ny has its sights set on Phase III.

“Read­ing glass­es are in­con­ve­nient, they are not aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing for many peo­ple, and then fi­nal­ly, they are al­so one of the very first signs of ag­ing,” said CEO Elad Kedar, who joined Ora­sis in 2015 short­ly af­ter the com­pa­ny was found­ed.

The pres­by­opia treat­ment works through pupil mod­u­la­tion — con­strict­ing the pupil to cre­ate a “pin­hole ef­fect” and in­crease depth of field, im­prov­ing near vi­sion. The chal­lenge is find­ing the “sweet spot,” Kedar said. Con­strict the pupil too far, and pa­tients could ex­pe­ri­ence near­sight­ed­ness.

Ora­sis will use Se­ries C fund­ing to push its lead can­di­date, CSF-1, in­to Phase III. Two iden­ti­cal tri­als will be con­duct­ed in the US with about 300 par­tic­i­pants each, Kedar said, adding that it’s a ‘mat­ter of weeks” be­fore test­ing be­gins. The com­pa­ny will eval­u­ate the drug for ef­fi­ca­cy, safe­ty and com­fort.

Ora­sis met its pri­ma­ry end­point in a Phase IIb study of CSF-1 with about 160 par­tic­i­pants. The drug showed three-line im­prove­ment in par­tic­i­pants’ abil­i­ty to read an ET­DRS chart, a stan­dard eye chart used by oph­thal­mol­o­gists, Kedar said.

But the biotech isn’t alone in the race for a mi­otic-based eye drop. Ab­b­Vie is cur­rent­ly in Phase III with its can­di­date, pres­bysol, which it in­her­it­ed in the Al­ler­gan buy­out. PRX-100, in de­vel­op­ment by Pres­by­opia Ther­a­pies, is ex­pect­ed to en­ter Phase III this year, ac­cord­ing to Mod­ern Op­tom­e­try. And in a proof-of-con­cept study, 78% of pa­tients giv­en OS­RX Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals’ Eye Fo­cus main­tained 20/40 vi­sion for 8 hours.

“There is a lot of ex­pec­ta­tion for eye drops for pres­by­opia to be­come very strong el­e­ments with­in the tools that eye care pro­fes­sion­als can fi­nal­ly pro­vide their pa­tients,” Kedar said.

In ad­di­tion to con­duct­ing its Phase III study, Ora­sis will use the Se­ries C to help pre­pare for a com­mer­cial launch.

“I mean, we’re not try­ing to elim­i­nate read­ing glass­es from the world. There are some peo­ple that would like to use the drop every day when they go to work, and some peo­ple may want to use it when they go Fri­day night to the restau­rant and they don’t want to use the read­ing glass­es … ” Kedar said. “So, this is re­al­ly … what we are go­ing to be able to of­fer so many peo­ple in the US and glob­al­ly.”

The fi­nanc­ing round was led by Bluestem Cap­i­tal and Vi­sion­ary Ven­tures, and joined by re­turn­ing in­vestors in­clud­ing Se­quoia Cap­i­tal, SBI (Japan) In­no­va­tion Fund, Mav­er­ick Ven­tures Is­rael and LifeSci Ven­ture Part­ners.

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.

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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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

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.

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.

‘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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