Pfiz­er, Mer­ck KGaA re­port their lat­est set­back with check­point con­tender Baven­cio

Mer­ck KGaA and their part­ners at Pfiz­er have an­oth­er big set­back to re­port for their PD-L1 check­point drug Baven­cio.

The check­point ei­ther alone or in com­bi­na­tion with chemother­a­py failed to hit ei­ther the over­all sur­vival or pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival end­points in their Phase III JAVELIN Ovar­i­an 200 study for drug-re­sis­tant ovar­i­an can­cer. The news comes 9 months af­ter re­searchers al­so re­port­ed a fail for their check­point on sec­ond-line lung can­cer, lead­ing some an­a­lysts to con­clude that their big Baven­cio pro­gram was look­ing like a run­ner-up in the in­tense­ly com­pet­i­tive field.

Lu­ciano Ros­set­ti, Mer­ck KGaA

Baven­cio al­so failed a Phase III study for gas­tric can­cer, putting a crimp in their plans to ramp up sales and rais­ing doubts about their abil­i­ty to com­pete against lead­ers like Mer­ck and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb.

The haz­ard ra­tio in the lat­est study un­der­scored a mea­ger 5% re­duc­tion in risk on over­all sur­vival for Baven­cio alone and an 11% drop for the com­bi­na­tion arm. That was a flat fail­ure. But re­searchers al­so teased out a pos­i­tive p-val­ue for the com­bi­na­tion arm on pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival.

Key­ing on the pos­i­tive, Mer­ck KGaA R&D chief Lu­ciano Ros­set­ti said that they would con­tin­ue to ex­plore the num­bers.

It hasn’t all been bad news with Baven­cio. Just a cou­ple of months ago their drug came though for re­nal cell car­ci­no­ma pa­tients, set­ting up some speedy ap­pli­ca­tions for mar­ket­ing ap­proval. Re­searchers say it helped PD-L1 ex­press­ing pa­tients and the full pop­u­la­tion, demon­strat­ing a sig­nif­i­cant PFS ben­e­fit com­pared to a con­trol arm treat­ed with Su­tent.

Chris Boshoff

Chris Boshoff, the head of I/O at Pfiz­er Glob­al Prod­uct De­vel­op­ment, had this to say to­day:

We ini­ti­at­ed the JAVELIN Ovar­i­an 200 tri­al as the first Phase III study of a check­point in­hibitor in the plat­inum-re­sis­tant or -re­frac­to­ry set­ting rec­og­niz­ing these pa­tients have the most press­ing need for new treat­ment op­tions. The re­sults speak to the sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges these women face.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

FDA de­lays de­ci­sion on No­var­tis’ po­ten­tial block­buster MS drug, wip­ing away pri­or­i­ty re­view

So much for a speedy review.

In February, Novartis announced that an application for their much-touted multiple sclerosis drug ofatumumab had been accepted and, with the drug company cashing in on one of their priority review vouchers, the agency was due for a decision by June.

But with June less than 48 hours old, Novartis announced the agency has extended their review, pushing back the timeline for approval or rejection to September. The Swiss pharma filed the application in December, meaning their new schedule will be nearly in line with the standard 10-month window period had they not used the priority voucher.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 83,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Joseph Kim, Inovio CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

Caught in a stand­off with its con­tract man­u­fac­tur­er over Covid-19 vac­cine, In­ovio files suit in an at­tempt to break free while ri­vals race ahead

Inovio was one of the first vaccine developers to snag attention for a jab that their execs said promised to end the Covid-19 pandemic. Using their own unique DNA tech, CEO Joseph Kim said it took just 3 hours to work it out.

But while rivals are racing to the finish line with ambitious plans to make vast quantities of their vaccines with billions of dollars of deals, Inovio is still stuck at the starting line on manufacturing.

Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

Gilead bol­sters its case for block­buster hope­ful fil­go­tinib as FDA pon­ders its de­ci­sion

Before remdesivir soaked up the spotlight amid the coronavirus crisis, Gilead’s filgotinib was the star experimental drug tapped to rake in billions competing with other JAK inhibitors made by rivals including AbbVie and Eli Lilly.

Now, long term data on the drug — discovered by Gilead’s partners at Galapagos and posted as part of a virtual medical conference — have solidified the durability and safety of filgotinib in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, spanning data from three late-stage trials. An FDA decision on the drug is expected this year.

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na read­ies to en­ter PhI­II in Ju­ly, As­traZeneca not far be­hind; EU ready to ne­go­ti­ate vac­cine ac­cess with $2.7B fund

Moderna may soon add another first to the Covid-19 vaccine race.

In March, the mRNA biotech was the first company to put a Covid-19 vaccine into humans. Next month, they may become the first company to put their vaccine into the large, late-stage trials that are needed to prove whether the vaccine is effective.

In an interview with JAMA editor Howard Bauchner, NIAID chief Anthony Fauci said that a 30,000-person, Phase III trial for Moderna’s vaccine could start in July. The news comes a week after Moderna began a Phase II study that will enroll several hundred people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 83,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

New safe­ty da­ta ex­pose po­ten­tial weak­ness as Pfiz­er's abroc­i­tinib takes on Dupix­ent in eczema

Last September, when Pfizer celebrated positive data from a second Phase III study of abrocitinib, many watchers applauded the efficacy but were still waiting to see whether the JAK1 inhibitor is “safe enough to be a formidable competitor to Dupixent,” the clear leader in the atopic dermatitis field. The full slate of safety data are now out and, according to one analyst, the answer is: probably not.