Puma shares ripped af­ter grow­ing grade 3 di­ar­rhea threat is high­light­ed in an ab­stract

Simos Sime­oni­dis, RBC Cap­i­tal

The skep­tics ripped in­to Puma Biotech­nol­o­gy $PBYI to­day, tear­ing a 20% chunk out of its share price by ear­ly af­ter­noon on Mon­day af­ter get­ting a glimpse of its lead can­cer drug’s con­tin­u­ing prob­lems spurring se­vere cas­es of di­ar­rhea in pa­tients.

The re­ac­tion quick­ly set in af­ter Puma post­ed an ab­stract for an up­com­ing can­cer sym­po­sium which spelled out the in­creas­ing rates in ner­a­tinib tri­als. RBC’s Simos Sime­oni­dis sat down to com­pare the num­bers, and reached a few un­set­tling con­clu­sions. Here’s a note he post­ed Mon­day af­ter­noon:

In an ab­stract re­leased this morn­ing, Puma dis­closed da­ta from the Phase II CON­TROL tri­al in the ex­tend­ed ad­ju­vant set­ting show­ing that treat­ment with lop­eramide helps low­er the ~40% Grade 3 (G3) di­ar­rhea seen in the Ex­teNET Phase III tri­al. How­ev­er, the num­bers re­leased to­day show that the G3 rates went up com­pared to what was dis­closed last year… Specif­i­cal­ly, in pa­tients in the orig­i­nal lop­eramide pro­to­col, the rate of G3 di­ar­rhea in­creased to 21.4% from 18.5%. Fur­ther­more, in the amend­ed pro­to­col arm, the amount of G3 di­ar­rhea more than dou­bled from 13% to 28.6%. Over­all, the blend­ed rate be­tween these two arms was 27.1% vs. 16% last year.

The com­pa­ny had re­cent­ly dis­closed they had added a new arm to the study, com­bin­ing the cor­ti­cos­teroid budes­onide to help with the pro­phy­lax­is reg­i­men. To­day’s re­lease of the wors­en­ing (vs. last year’s da­ta) di­ar­rhea, helps ex­plain the need for this change in the tri­al. While we view the 12.5% rate of G3 di­ar­rhea as po­ten­tial­ly promis­ing, we point to the small n (16 pa­tients) and to the fact that these da­ta are still ear­ly (i.e. it is pos­si­ble that they ac­tu­al­ly get worse over time, just as the da­ta from arms 1 and 2 did). The up­date in San An­to­nio should have slight­ly more ma­ture da­ta; how­ev­er, we view the fact that lop­eramide alone no longer ap­pears suf­fi­cient to pro­phy­laxe against se­vere di­ar­rhea as a sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive for ner­a­tinib and the stock.

One key point here: Sime­oni­dis has been cau­tious but pos­i­tive about ner­a­tinib’s prospects as a new treat­ment for breast can­cer as it un­der­goes scruti­ny at the FDA. Datasets on 5-year sur­vival and lop­eramide pro­phy­lax­is had im­proved sen­ti­ment around the com­pa­ny’s chances, he not­ed last Sep­tem­ber 20, when the FDA ac­cept­ed Puma’s ap­pli­ca­tion for re­view.

The bear po­si­tion on Puma is that the drug could be too tox­ic even for the FDA, which has proven will­ing to put up with sig­nif­i­cant threats for drugs ini­tial­ly aimed at dy­ing pa­tients. Bulls be­lieve that the safe­ty bar is low enough to clear.

In­vestors were way ahead of Sime­oni­dis to­day, dri­ving down the com­pa­ny stock as Twit­ter quick­ly spread the word to any­one who hadn’t heard al­ready.

Hal Barron, GSK

Break­ing the death spi­ral: Hal Bar­ron talks about trans­form­ing the mori­bund R&D cul­ture at GSK in a crit­i­cal year for the late-stage pipeline

Just ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Q2 update on Wednesday, science chief Hal Barron is making the rounds to talk up the pharma giant’s late-stage strategy as the top execs continue to woo back a deeply skeptical investor group while pushing through a whole new R&D culture.

And that’s not easy, Barron is quick to note. He told the Financial Times:

I think that culture, to some extent, is as hard, in fact even harder, than doing the science.

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Aca­dia is mak­ing the best of it, but their lat­est PhI­II Nu­plazid study is a bust

Acadia’s late-stage program to widen the commercial prospects for Nuplazid has hit a wall. The biotech reported that their Phase III ENHANCE trial flat failed. And while they $ACAD did their best to cherry pick positive data wherever they can be found, this is a clear setback for the biotech.

With close to 400 patients enrolled, researchers said the drug flunked the primary endpoint as an adjunctive therapy for patients with an inadequate response to antipsychotic therapy. The p-value was an ugly 0.0940 on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, which the company called out as a positive trend.

Their shares slid 12% on the news, good for a $426 million hit on a $3.7 billion market cap at close.

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Some Big Phar­mas stepped up their game on da­ta trans­paren­cy — but which flunked the test?

The nonprofit Bioethics International has come out with their latest scorecard on data transparency among the big biopharmas in the industry — flagging a few standouts while spotlighting some laggards who are continuing to underperform.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit created a new set of standards with Yale School of Medicine and Stanford Law School to evaluate the track record on trial registration, results reporting, publication and data-sharing practice.

Busy Gilead crew throws strug­gling biotech a life­line, with some cash up­front and hun­dreds of mil­lions in biobucks for HIV deal

Durect $DRRX got a badly needed shot in the arm Monday morning as Gilead’s busy BD team lined up access to its extended-release platform tech for HIV and hepatitis B.

Gilead, a leader in the HIV sector, is paying a modest $25 million in cash for the right to jump on the platform at Durect, which has been using its technology to come up with an extended-release version of bupivacaine. The FDA rejected that in 2014, but Durect has been working on a comeback.

In­tec blitzed by PhI­II flop as lead pro­gram fails to beat Mer­ck­'s stan­dard com­bo for Parkin­son’s

Intec Pharma’s $NTEC lead drug slammed into a brick wall Monday morning. The small-cap Israeli biotech reported that its lead program — coming off a platform designed to produce a safer, more effective oral drug for Parkinson’s — failed the Phase III at the primary endpoint.

Researchers at Intec, which has already seen its share price collapse over the past few months, says that its Accordion Pill-Carbidopa/Levodopa failed to prove superior to Sinemet in reducing daily ‘off’ time. 

Cel­gene racks up third Ote­zla ap­proval, heat­ing up talks about who Bris­tol-My­ers will sell to

Whoever is taking Otezla off Bristol-Myers Squibb’s hands will have one more revenue stream to boast.

The drug — a rising star in Celgene’s pipeline that generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year — is now OK’d to treat oral ulcers associated with Behçet’s disease, a common symptom for a rare inflammatory disorder. This marks the third FDA approval for the PDE4 inhibitor since 2014, when it was greenlighted for plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors.

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Apotex, though, has been a disaster ground. The manufacturer voluntarily yanked the ANDAs on 31 drugs — in late 2017 — after the FDA came across serious manufacturing deficiencies at their plants in India. A few days ago, the FDA made it official.

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