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: A small, ob­scure biotech just won big with their IPO. In this mar­ket. Are you kid­ding me?

How could a small, largely unknown biotech that emerged from stealth mode just months ago with early-stage cancer programs jump onto Wall Street in the middle of a Category 6 financial hurricane and sail through with a $165 million IPO?

And what does that mean for the rest of the industry waiting to see just how much damage global lockdowns will wreak on clinical development?

The biotech is a company called Zentalis. The crew there nabbed an $85 million crossover round late last year — notably waiting 5 years before waving the numbers around to attract attention, according to my read of a FierceBiotech story. Perceptive joined in, but the syndicate was not in general the kind of marquee affair that gets tongues wagging.

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Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day attends a meeting with the President and other biopharma leaders at the White House on March 2, 2020 (AP Photo)

Ramp­ing up glob­al pro­duc­tion of remde­sivir, Gilead CEO Dan O’Day de­tails plans to dis­trib­ute 1.5M dos­es to fight Covid-19 — for free

Gilead is still some days away from turning the card on its first round of data on remdesivir’s ability to fight severe cases of Covid-19, but the big biotech is ramping up an emergency supply of a million courses of therapy as it starts free distribution of the drug to tens of thousands of patients under their compassionate use and expanded access program as well as clinical trials.

In his latest open letter posted over the weekend, Gilead CEO Dan O’Day outlined how the company has been successful in cutting production time on remdesivir while repurposing some of their own facilities and turning to contract manufacturers to build a near-term supply of 1.5 million doses. They are still working on efficacy and dosing, but that supply could cover 140,000 courses of treatment. That supply, he added, would be more widely available following a potential approval.

Bob Nelsen at the Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH chief Bob Nelsen has $1.5B to prove 2 sim­ple points: ‘We’re in the most in­no­v­a­tive time ever’ and in­vestors are stay­ing

ARCH co-founder and managing director Bob Nelsen has a well known yen for the home run swing, betting big on potentially transformative meds and tech and the biotech teams he helps bring together. He thrives and bleeds on the cutting edge. And now Nelsen and the ARCH group have debuted 2 big funds to prove that this is the time for the best of biotech to shine — deadly pandemic be damned.

Two new funds, ARCH Venture Fund X and ARCH Venture Fund X Overage, gathered a combined $1.46 billion. And that’s a record. ARCH Venture Fund IX and ARCH Venture Fund IX Overage closed in 2016 with a combined $1.1 billion. ARCH Venture Fund VIII and ARCH Venture Fund VIII Overage closed in 2014 with a combined $560 million.

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Have a new drug that promis­es to fight Covid-19? The FDA promis­es fast ac­tion but some de­vel­op­ers aren't hap­py

After providing an emergency approval to use malaria drugs against coronavirus with little actual evidence of their efficacy or safety in that setting, the FDA has already proven that it has set aside the gold standard when it comes to the pandemic. And now regulators have spelled out a new approach to speeding development that promises immediate responses in no uncertain terms — promising a program offering the ultimate high-speed pathway to Covid-19 drug approvals.

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Once fu­ri­ous over No­var­tis’ da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion scan­dal, the FDA now says it’s noth­ing they need to take ac­tion on

Back in the BP era — Before Pandemic — the FDA ripped Novartis for its decision to keep the agency in the dark about manipulated data used in its application for Zolgensma while its marketing application for the gene therapy was under review.

Civil and criminal sanctions were being discussed, the agency noted in a rare broadside at one of the world’s largest pharma companies. Notable lawmakers cheered the angry regulators on, urging the FDA to make an example of Novartis, which fielded Zolgensma at $2.1 million — the current record for a one-off therapy.

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Covid-19 roundup: GSK, Am­gen tai­lor R&D work to fit the coro­n­avirus age; Doud­na's ge­nomics crew launch­es di­ag­nos­tic lab

You can add Amgen and GSK to the list of deep-pocket drug R&D players who are tailoring their pipeline work to fit a new age of coronavirus.

Following in the footsteps of a lineup of big players like Eli Lilly — which has suspended patient recruitment for drug studies — Amgen and GSK have opted to take a more tailored approach. Amgen is intent on circling the wagons around key studies that are already fully enrolled, and GSK has the red light on new studies while the pandemic plays out.

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In a stun­ning set­back, Amarin los­es big patent fight over Vas­cepa IP. And its high-fly­ing stock crash­es to earth

Amarin’s shares $AMRN were blitzed Monday evening, losing billions in value as reports spread that the company had lost its high-profile effort to keep its Vascepa patents protected from generic drugmakers.

Amarin had been fighting to keep key patents under lock and key — and away from generic rivals — for another 10 years, but District Court Judge Miranda Du in Las Vegas ruled against the biotech. She ruled that:
(A)ll the Asserted Claims are invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C.§ 103. Thus, the Court finds in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s remaining infringementclaim, and in their favor on their counterclaims asserting the invalidity of the AssertedClaims under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

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Aaron Royston, venBio

In­vest­ing in the time of coro­n­avirus: the good, the bad and the hope­ful, as biotech VC firms close funds worth $3B

Apart from disrupting biopharma R&D and regulatory timelines, the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably ravaged financial markets and eroded investor risk appetite. Investing in the time of coronavirus feels reckless, but if biotech venture funds are any indication, the time is ripe.

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Drug dis­cov­ery in the age of coro­n­avirus

Developing new drugs is incredibly hard. That’s why, despite superhuman efforts from the industry, we’re still looking at 12-18 months minimum before we can realistically hope for a vaccine for Covid-19, and probably months before there’s a proven viable drug treatment.

But our increasing ability to begin to industrialize the drug discovery and development process through an engineering approach means that we have more hope for speeding up this process than ever before — and not just to defeat coronavirus, but to benefit the development of all new medicines in the future.