Or­chard Ther­a­peu­tics prunes jobs to re­fo­cus pri­or­i­ties on big­ger fruit

In 2018, Or­chard Ther­a­peu­tics se­cured ac­cess to GSK’s pi­o­neer­ing gene ther­a­py for “bub­ble boy syn­drome,” Strimvelis, among a bas­ket of oth­er rare dis­ease pro­grams, af­ter the big British drug­mak­er de­cid­ed the slate of drugs was too niche for its ar­se­nal of treat­ments. Now, Or­chard has al­so elect­ed to steer away from “ul­tra-rare” dis­eases to pro­grams fo­cused on more preva­lent con­di­tions.

The strate­gic shift, which al­so in­cludes halt­ing con­struc­tion of a Fre­mont man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty and shut­ter­ing its Cal­i­for­nia R&D fa­cil­i­ty, has trig­gered a 25% cut in the com­pa­ny’s work­force.

“In our view, the new busi­ness plan rep­re­sents a smart repri­or­i­ti­za­tion of its com­mer­cial strat­e­gy to fo­cus on high­er yield op­por­tu­ni­ties and con­serve cash. This should re­move any need for near-term fi­nanc­ings,” Cowen’s Yaron Wer­ber wrote in a note.

Bob­by Gas­par

The Lon­don, Boston, and San Fran­cis­co-based biotech — which went pub­lic in 2018 in a bumper $200 mil­lion IPO — has a port­fo­lio of ex vi­vo gene ther­a­pies, in which a pa­tient’s stem cells are ex­tract­ed and tweaked out­side the body be­fore be­ing trans­plant­ed back in, with the aim to treat a va­ri­ety of rare im­mune and meta­bol­ic dis­eases. Founder and now chief Bob­by Gas­par was heav­i­ly in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment of these hematopoi­et­ic stem cell gene ther­a­pies, bring­ing them from some of the first stud­ies in pa­tients to po­ten­tial reg­u­la­to­ry ap­provals.

GSK took a near­ly 20% stake in Or­chard in 2018, in re­turn for Strimvelis and oth­er gene-ther­a­py pro­grams. Strimvelis was one of the few ap­proved gene ther­a­pies in 2016, but up­take in the rare pa­tient pop­u­la­tion for adeno­sine deam­i­nase se­vere com­bined im­mun­od­e­fi­cien­cy (ADA-SCID) had strug­gled — the ther­a­py had on­ly been used in a hand­ful of pa­tients by 2018. In its IPO prospec­tus, Or­chard had stressed that the ther­a­py’s prod­uct rev­enue would not be enough to make the com­pa­ny prof­itable. Be­sides, Or­chard was al­so de­vel­op­ing its own ACA-SCID gene ther­a­py, OTL-101.

On Thurs­day, Or­chard said it was re­duc­ing in­vest­ment in OTL-101 and OTL-300 (its trans­fu­sion-de­pen­dent be­ta-tha­lassemia pro­gram) — to pour its re­sources in­to its pro­grams for metachro­mat­ic leukody­s­tro­phy (OTL-200), Wiskott-Aldrich syn­drome (OTL-103), Mu­copolysac­cha­ri­do­sis type I (OTL-203) and Mu­copolysac­cha­ri­do­sis type II­IA, al­so known as San­fil­ip­po syn­drome type A (OTL-201). The com­pa­ny al­so un­veiled two new pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams in fron­totem­po­ral de­men­tia and Crohn’s dis­ease.

Or­chard’s US ap­pli­ca­tion to mar­ket OTL-200 may be de­layed, the com­pa­ny in­di­cat­ed on Thurs­day, as the FDA has raised ques­tions about the clin­i­cal end­points used, nat­ur­al his­to­ry da­ta and chem­istry man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­trol da­ta. The drug­mak­er plans to en­gage with the FDA this year to rem­e­dy these hic­cups be­fore mak­ing its sub­mis­sion, it said.

“As EMA raised sim­i­lar ques­tions about the clin­i­cal da­ta for OTL-200, man­age­ment is hope­ful that they have the da­ta that FDA is re­quest­ing. How­ev­er, as the meet­ing with the FDA is un­like­ly to oc­cur un­til some time in H2:20, we an­tic­i­pate that the BLA fil­ing will get de­layed,” Wer­ber wrote.

If a new phase I/II study is re­quired, the BLA fil­ing could be de­layed, he said, post­pon­ing his ex­pect­ed launch to 2024 from 2022.

Or­chard’s cash, cash equiv­a­lents and in­vest­ments as of March 31 were $263.9 mil­lion. The re­or­ga­ni­za­tion an­nounced on Thurs­day, which gen­er­at­ed cash sav­ings of ap­prox­i­mate­ly $125 mil­lion through the end of 2021, will ex­tend the com­pa­ny’s abil­i­ty to keep the lights on in­to 2022.

So­cial: Bob­by Gas­par, Or­chard CEO (Roy­al Col­lege of Pae­di­atrics and Child Health, YouTube)

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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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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Susan Galbraith speaking at Endpoints News' virtual EUBIO21 summit

Imfinzi/treme­li­mum­ab com­bo scores As­traZeneca an­oth­er OS win — this time in liv­er can­cer

Is the tide turning on AstraZeneca’s battered PD-L1/CTLA4 combo?

A single priming dose of the experimental tremelimumab, followed by Imfinzi every four weeks, beat Nexavar (sorafenib) in helping a group of liver cancer patients live longer in a Phase III study, the company reported, meeting the primary endpoint.

Specifically, the two drugs extended overall survival for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma who had not received prior systemic therapy and were not eligible for localized treatment.

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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.

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.

Rahul Singhvi, Resilience CEO

A Bob Nelsen start­up turns to Har­vard to help sharp­en its tech, in­spir­ing first spin­out

One of Bob Nelsen’s latest projects is headed to Harvard.

Resilience, a company started with the goal of establishing itself as a “one-stop-shop” for companies looking to scale manufacturing, including for hard-to-develop cell and gene therapies, is less than a year old. Friday, it announced a five-year R&D deal with Harvard University that includes $30 million to develop biologics, including vaccines, nucleic acids and cell and gene therapies.

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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