Pa­tient death spurs tri­al halt for Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics

Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics is paus­ing an ear­ly-stage clin­i­cal tri­al af­ter a pa­tient died. The death was deemed to be pos­si­bly re­lat­ed to its drug, MG­TA-117.

The biotech said the pause of the Phase I/II tri­al is vol­un­tary and gives it time to re­view all avail­able da­ta be­fore de­cid­ing what to do next. It’s al­so re­port­ed the known in­for­ma­tion to the FDA.

The dose-es­ca­la­tion tri­al was de­signed to test whether MG­TA-117, an an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate, could serve as a more tar­get­ed al­ter­na­tive to high-in­ten­si­ty chemother­a­py as a con­di­tion­ing agent for can­cer pa­tients who are set to re­ceive a stem cell trans­plant. It re­cruit­ed pa­tients with re­lapsed/re­frac­to­ry acute myeloid leukemia and myelodys­plas­tic syn­drome.

Just a month ago, Ma­gen­ta flagged two cas­es of dose-lim­it­ing tox­i­c­i­ties — both Grade 4 res­pi­ra­to­ry se­ri­ous ad­verse events — in the co­hort re­ceiv­ing the high­est dose. The com­pa­ny stopped dos­ing in that co­hort, known as co­hort 4, but said it would con­tin­ue to dose new pa­tients in co­hort 3 based on tri­al pro­to­col.

But af­ter the lat­est tri­al par­tic­i­pant was dosed at the co­hort 3 lev­el, Ma­gen­ta said the pa­tient ex­pe­ri­enced “res­pi­ra­to­ry fail­ure and car­diac ar­rest re­sult­ing in death” — or what in­ves­ti­ga­tors would clas­si­fy as a Grade 5 se­ri­ous ad­verse event. The com­pa­ny said it’s deemed to be pos­si­bly drug-re­lat­ed, but didn’t elab­o­rate.

MG­TA-117 tar­gets the CD117 re­cep­tor, which is high­ly ex­pressed on the cell sur­face of hematopoi­et­ic stem cells and leukemia cells. Ma­gen­ta, whose mis­sion is to im­prove all as­pects of stem cell trans­plants and stem cell-based gene ther­a­pies, had hoped it could more se­lec­tive­ly de­plete stem cells than tra­di­tion­al ap­proach­es.

Co­hort 4 pa­tients were giv­en a dose of 0.13 mg/kg, while the dosage for co­hort 3 was 0.08 mg/kg.

Ma­gen­ta’s shares, which have gone through sev­er­al up­swings and down­swings, have crashed more than 85% over the past year and have been lan­guish­ing deep in pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry since the De­cem­ber up­date. The stock fell an­oth­er 23% to $0.38 Thurs­day morn­ing in pre-mar­ket trad­ing.

So­cial: acute myeloid leukemia cells (Shut­ter­stock)

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Feng Zhang (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

In search of new way to de­liv­er gene ed­i­tors, CRISPR pi­o­neer turns to mol­e­c­u­lar sy­ringes

Bug bacteria are ruthless.

Some soil bacteria have evolved tiny, but deadly injection systems that attach to insect cells, perforate them and release toxins inside — killing a bug in just a few days’ time. Scientists, on the other hand, want to leverage that system to deliver medicines.

In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, MIT CRISPR researcher Feng Zhang and his lab describe how they engineered these syringes made by bacteria to deliver potential therapies like toxins that kill cancer cells and gene editors. With the help of an AI program, they developed syringes that can load proteins of their choice and selectively target human cells.

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Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Mod­er­na so­lid­i­fies deal with Kenya to build mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

The mRNA player Moderna is further cementing its presence on the African continent.

Moderna announced on Thursday that it has finalized an agreement with Kenya’s government to partner up and bring an mRNA manufacturing facility to the east African nation. The new facility aims to manufacture up to 500 million doses of vaccines annually. Moderna also said the new facility will have the ability to spike its production capabilities to respond to public health emergencies on the continent or globally.

Sulagna Bhattacharya, Nanoscope Therapeutics CEO

Nanoscope’s eye dis­ease gene ther­a­py shows mixed re­sults in PhII

Dallas-based biotech Nanoscope Therapeutics unveiled Phase II results on its gene therapy for a rare eye disease Thursday morning.

In the RESTORE trial, 18 patients with retinitis pigmentosa got a gene therapy called MCO-010 while nine got placebo. On a vision test called the MLYMT, the treatment group had a one-point greater change over one year in their score compared to the placebo group, the primary endpoint of the study. However, the 95% confidence interval was 0.0 to 3.0, meaning the result was not statistically significant. The p-value was not provided.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing roundup: Catal­ent to pro­duce low-cost ver­sion of nalox­one; CSL opens R&D site

Catalent will be manufacturing a low-cost version of the opioid overdose treatment naloxone as part of a contract with Harm Reduction Therapeutics.

Catalent plans to manufacture the treatment at its facility in Morrisville, NC. No financial details on the deal were disclosed.

Harm Reduction was granted priority review status for the NDA on its spray last year. The company has been working on a naloxone product since 2017. It is anticipating approval in July of this year and a US launch in early 2024.

As­pen looks to re­bound in pro­duc­tion and rev­enue af­ter Covid-19

Last year, South African-based vaccine manufacturer Aspen Pharmacare was facing reports that it had not received a single order for its manufactured Covid-19 shots and that manufacturing lines were sitting idle. But now the vaccine producer is looking to turn things around.

Aspen’s disclosure of its financial results in March unveiled that manufacturing revenue had decreased by 12% to R 603 million ($33.8 million), which Lorraine Hill, Aspen Group’s COO, said is attributable to lower Covid vaccine sales.

Cedric Ververken, Confo Therapeutics CEO

Dai­ichi Sankyo inks $183M dis­cov­ery deal with GPCR biotech for CNS tar­get

Belgian biotech Confo Therapeutics has landed $183 million, plus potential royalties, in a drug-discovery deal with Daiichi Sankyo.

Early Thursday, Confo Therapeutics put out word of the deal that will be focused on small molecule antagonists to go after an undisclosed target that the company says is associated with CNS diseases.

Confo CEO Cedric Ververken told Endpoints News that Daiichi originally reached out to learn about the biotech’s technology. He added that Confo, founded in 2015, will use its platform to drug a GPCR target that Daiichi has struggled with internally.

Dif­fu­sion to hand Nas­daq spot to EIP Phar­ma for PhI­Ib de­men­tia study of ex-Ver­tex drug

One of the more than a dozen bidders for Diffusion Pharmaceuticals’ spot on Nasdaq has prevailed.

Boston biotech EIP Pharma will merge with Diffusion in an all-stock deal, with plans to start a Phase IIb clinical trial in the coming months in a common form of dementia with no approved treatments. The combined company will be renamed CervoMed.

The nine-year-old privately-held EIP is working on a former Vertex drug that it will test in a 160-person Phase IIb in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies, or DLB. The National Institute on Aging is expected to fund that trial with a $21 million grant. With the reverse merger, slated for closing in the middle of this year, EIP will be funded through that readout in the second half of 2024. EIP’s equity and debt holders will own about 77.25% of the combined company.

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Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

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