Pfiz­er im­press­es car­dio crowd with mor­tal­i­ty and hos­pi­tal­iza­tion rates for tafamidis in AT­TR-CM -- but Al­ny­lam quick­ly blasts back

Pfiz­er has scored the kind of po­ten­tial­ly game-chang­ing piv­otal da­ta for tafamidis in rare cas­es of transthyretin amy­loid car­diomy­opa­thy that an­a­lysts have been on the look­out for. And the phar­ma gi­ant is rolling out an ex­pand­ed ac­cess pro­gram for AT­TR-CM pa­tients now — just as a ri­val ther­a­py from Al­ny­lam is hit­ting the mar­ket for the first time.

Re­searchers to­day fol­lowed up pos­i­tive top-line da­ta with the news that tafamidis spurred a 30% drop in mor­tal­i­ty risk along with a 32% re­duc­tion in the risk of car­dio-re­lat­ed hos­pi­tal­iza­tion.  That’s good enough to win over a key crowd of top an­a­lysts, but you can bet that there will be plen­ty of ques­tions to­day as every­one hunts for the dev­il in the de­tail. And Al­ny­lam wast­ed no time in rais­ing doubts about the da­ta, which is like­ly go­ing to re­lieve in­vestors fret­ting over the com­pe­ti­tion.

Cred­it Su­isse an­a­lysts ear­li­er not­ed that “even a mod­est im­prove­ment in mor­tal­i­ty (10% to 15%) would be fa­vor­able.” Any­thing 20% to 25% could prove to be a game-chang­er, they added, in a field where a land­mark RNAi ther­a­py from Al­ny­lam is about to hit the mar­ket and an­oth­er — less at­trac­tive — ther­a­py from Akcea and Io­n­is is like­ly right be­hind it.

The da­ta al­so hit a sec­ondary on an im­prove­ment in the re­duc­tion of per­for­mance in the 6-minute walk test along with an im­prove­ment in qual­i­ty of life scores.

But some ques­tions re­main. And at first blush Al­ny­lam got a quick thumbs up for re­main­ing com­pet­i­tive as a mar­ket show­down looms be­tween the lead­ers in the field.

Al­ny­lam fol­lowed up by point­ing out that Pfiz­er looks weak­est where it looks strongest, with­out a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant read­out for hered­i­tary AT­TR. The com­pa­ny al­so spot­light­ed the pooled dose re­sults, an un­usu­al de­ci­sion by Pfiz­er. They added:

  • In APOL­LO, over 50% of patisir­an pa­tients showed IM­PROVE­MENT rel­a­tive to base­line on both mNIS+7 and Nor­folk.
  • In APOL­LO car­diac sub­pop­u­la­tion of hAT­TR pa­tients*, patisir­an re­sult­ed in:
    • De­crease from base­line (i.e., IM­PROVE­MENT) in NT-proB­NP lev­els (55% re­duc­tion for pati rel­a­tive to pbo)
    • 31.6% of pati pa­tients had de­crease change from base­line of NT-proB­NP ≥30% and ≥300 pg/mL, a key mor­tal­i­ty prog­nos­ti­ca­tor, at Month 18, where­as no pbo pa­tients had de­creas­es of this mag­ni­tude.

Per­haps most sig­nif­i­cant­ly, Al­ny­lam al­so be­lieves that this field is pri­mar­i­ly a growth op­por­tu­ni­ty, as new and bet­ter di­ag­noses iden­ti­fy a grow­ing group of pa­tients for both. In that sce­nario, pa­tients and physi­cians can make their own choic­es as all the biotechs ben­e­fit.

You can get more de­tails in the study pub­lished in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine.

In­vestors seem fair­ly hap­py ini­tial­ly with both sides. Al­nyam shares jumped 16% by the end of the day — a re­lief ral­ly — while Pfiz­er stock end­ed down a cou­ple of points.

Bren­da Coop­er­stone

Re­searchers of­fered pooled da­ta for two dos­es of the drug — an 80 mg and 20 mg reg­i­men — rather than break­ing the re­sults out in­to dosage groups, leav­ing it un­like­ly that they saw a clear dose re­sponse. An­a­lysts will be fol­low­ing up Pfiz­er’s state­ment to­day with more ques­tions on how the ther­a­py worked. But it’s clear that Pfiz­er will be claim­ing an ad­van­tage here, pro­vid­ing one rea­son for CEO Ian Read’s re­cent vote of con­fi­dence that the com­pa­ny’s late-stage pipeline can pro­vide the big drugs it needs to keep rev­enue on the up­swing.

The drug is al­ready armed with both a break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion as well as a Saki­gake ti­tle from Japan­ese reg­u­la­tors. Look for some quick mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tions and an ag­gres­sive roll­out if the da­ta hold up.

What we al­so didn’t get im­me­di­ate­ly was much de­tail on safe­ty da­ta. The drug arm and place­bo had a “com­pa­ra­ble” safe­ty pro­file, the com­pa­ny re­port­ed.

Cred­it Su­isse has es­ti­mat­ed peak sales at $600 mil­lion, with a shot at more un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances. The big ques­tion now is how much Al­ny­lam — whose drug On­pat­tro was ap­proved for TTR polyneu­ropthay — might be af­fect­ed by the com­pe­ti­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the an­a­lysts:

Though the in­di­ca­tions may be dif­fer­ent, the prod­ucts will like­ly com­pete, as physi­cians we spoke with in­di­cat­ed that many pa­tients with car­diomy­opa­thy tend to al­so have polyneu­ropa­thy and vice ver­sa. A few physi­cians be­lieve Al­ny­lam’s prod­uct is the safer prod­uct and will use patisir­an to treat car­diomy­opa­thy while get­ting re­im­burse­ment for polyneu­ropa­thy. Oth­er physi­cians ex­pect to pri­mar­i­ly pre­scribe tafamidis if the out­come da­ta are clin­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful.

Pfiz­er, though, al­so faces a chal­lenge in get­ting physi­cians to do a much bet­ter job at di­ag­nos­ing TTR-car­diomy­opa­thy. But their de­ci­sion to be­gin a wide-open ex­pand­ed ac­cess pro­gram is a clear shot over Al­ny­lam’s bow. The drug is al­ready ap­proved as Vyn­daqel and on the mar­ket to treat fa­mil­ial amy­loid polyneu­ropa­thy.

Their mar­ket ri­val­ry starts to­day.

Al­so af­fect­ed by to­day’s an­nounce­ment is Ei­dos Ther­a­peu­tics $EI­DX, which re­cent­ly went pub­lic as it pur­sued its own work in the field.

“We be­lieve the AT­TR-ACT study find­ings bring us a sig­nif­i­cant step clos­er to our goal of pro­vid­ing an ur­gent­ly need­ed ther­a­py for a se­ri­ous and of­ten fa­tal dis­ease,” said Bren­da Coop­er­stone, Pfiz­er’s chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer for rare dis­ease. “We look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing dis­cus­sions with glob­al reg­u­la­to­ry au­thor­i­ties about the po­ten­tial of tafamidis as a treat­ment op­tion for peo­ple liv­ing with AT­TR-CM.” 

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck pulls Keytru­da in SCLC af­ter ac­cel­er­at­ed nod. Is the FDA get­ting tough on drug­mak­ers that don't hit their marks?

In what could be an early shot in the battle against drugmakers that whiff on confirmatory studies to support accelerated approvals, the FDA ordered Bristol Myers Squibb late last year to give up Opdivo’s approval in SCLC. Now, Merck is next on the firing line — are we seeing the FDA buckling down on post-marketing offenders?

Merck has withdrawn its marketing approval for PD-(L)1 inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic small cell lung cancer as part of what it describes as an “industry-wide evaluation” by the FDA of drugs that do not meet the post-marketing checkpoints on which their accelerated nods were based, the company said Monday.

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Paul Sekhri

The next big biotech su­per­star? Paul Sekhri has some thoughts on that

It occasionally occurs to Paul Sekhri that if they pull this off, his company will be on the front page of the New York Times and a lead story in just about every major news outlet on the planet. He tries not to dwell on it, though.

“I just want to be laser-focused on getting to that point,” Sekhri says, before acknowledging, “Yes, it absolutely crossed my mind.”

Sekhri, a longtime biopharma executive with tenures at Sanofi and Novartis, is now entering year three as CEO of eGenesis, the biotech that George Church protégé Luhan Yang founded to genetically alter pigs so that they can be used for organ transplants. He led them through one megaround and has just closed another, raising $125 million from 17 different investors to push the first-ever (humanized) pig to human transplants into the clinic.

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Amit Munshi, Arena

One of Are­na's top drugs flops in a PhI­Ib study for IBS pain. But re­searchers tease out a pos­si­ble path for­ward as CEO ex­plores 's­trate­gic op­tion­s'

Four years ago, when Arena CEO Amit Munshi cut its ties to a troubled weight drug and doubled down on the pipeline, a cannabinoid receptor 2 agonist figured prominently in the biotech’s future. On Tuesday evening, however, Munshi’s high hopes for the drug took a nasty hit after it failed a Phase IIb study for patients with irritable bowel syndrome pain.

Put through a randomized pace with 273 patients, researchers said it flat failed the primary endpoint among the large group with abdominal pain. But they quickly went on to highlight subgroup data, always a tricky and controversial ploy, where they spotlighted a positive p value for patients with moderate to severe pain who received the high dose of the drug — one of 3 provided in the study.

Bob Nelsen (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

With stars aligned and cash in re­serve, Bob Nelsen's Re­silience plans a makeover at 2 new fa­cil­i­ty ad­di­tions to its drug man­u­fac­tur­ing up­start

Bob Nelsen’s new, state-of-the-art drug manufacturing initiative is taking shape.

Just 3 months after gathering $800 million of launch money, a dream team board and a plan to shake up a field where he found too many bottlenecks and inefficiencies for the era of Covid-19, Resilience has snapped up a pair of facilities now in line for a retooling.

The company has acquired a 310,000-square-foot plant in Boston from Sanofi along with a 136,000-square-foot plant in Ontario to add to a network which CEO Rahul Singhvi says is just getting started on building his company’s operations up. The Sanofi deal comes with a contract to continue manufacturing one of its drugs.

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CEO Marco Taglietti (Scynexis)

'N­ev­er been more ur­gent:' Scynex­is looks to tack­le su­per­bug cri­sis with late-stage read­out for an­ti­fun­gal hope­ful

As the superbug crisis heats up around the world, Scynexis says it has new data from two interim analyses that prove its antifungal has the potential to treat a broad range of infections.

“The need for new anti-infectives capable of fighting the most resistant pathogens has never been more urgent as we confront the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic,” CEO Marco Taglietti said in a statement.

A spot­light schiz­o­phre­nia drug in Neu­ro­crine's $2B Take­da deal flunks its first ma­jor test. But it's not giv­ing up yet

When Takeda spun out a pipeline of experimental psychiatry drugs to Neurocrine in a $2 billion deal amid a post-merger shakeout, R&D chief Andy Plump described the therapies as “very interesting but still difficult.”

On Tuesday, we got some idea of how difficult.

San Diego-based Neurocrine revealed that one of the three spotlight clinical programs they’d acquired failed the primary endpoint in a Phase II trial for schizophrenia, registering a negative outcome on the change from baseline in the positive and negative syndrome scale/negative symptom factor score (PANSS NSFS).

Af­ter bail­ing on Covid-19 vac­cines, Mer­ck will team up with J&J to pro­duce its shot as part of un­usu­al Big Phar­ma pact

Merck took a big gamble when it opted to jump into the Covid-19 vaccine race late, and made an equally momentous decision to back out in late January. Now, looking to chip in on the effort, Merck reportedly agreed to team up with one of the companies that has already crossed the finish line.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday is expected to announce a partnership between drugmakers Merck and Johnson & Johnson to jointly produce J&J’s recombinant protein Covid-19 vaccine that received the FDA’s emergency use authorization Saturday, the Washington Post reported.

Ab­b­Vie tees up a biotech buy­out af­ter siz­ing up their Parkin­son's drug spun out of Ke­van Shokat's lab

AbbVie has teed up a small but intriguing biotech buyout after looking over the preclinical work it’s been doing in Parkinson’s disease.

The company is called Mitokinin, a Bay Area biotech spun out of the lab of UCSF’s Kevan Shokat, whose scientific explorations have formed the academic basis of a slew of startups in the biotech hub. One of Shokat’s PhD students in the lab, Nicholas Hertz, co-founded Mitokinin using their lab work on PINK1 suggesting that amping up its activity could play an important role in regulating the mitochondrial dysfunction contributing to Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis and progression.

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Fi­bro­Gen shares skid low­er as a sur­prise ad­comm rais­es risks on roxa OK

FibroGen will likely have to delay its US rollout for roxadustat once again.

In an unexpected move, the FDA is convening its Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee to review the NDA in an advisory committee meeting. The date is yet to be confirmed.

Just a few weeks ago, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges predicted that the roxa approval could come ahead of the PDUFA date on March 20 — effusive despite already being let down once by the FDA’s extension of its review back in December. AstraZeneca, which is partnered with FibroGen on the chronic kidney disease-related anemia drug, disclosed regulators had requested further clarifying analyses of clinical data.