Reg­u­la­tors or­der AB Sci­ence to halt tri­al work on PhI­II ALS drug, de­mand­ing proof it's cleaned up

Just weeks af­ter lay­ing out claims on pos­i­tive Phase III da­ta for their ALS drug ma­sitinib, French reg­u­la­to­ry au­thor­i­ties are drop­ping the ham­mer on AB Sci­ence, or­der­ing a halt to clin­i­cal re­search work on the drug un­til the biotech can prove it’s com­pli­ant with rules gov­ern­ing drug study con­duct.

In a re­lease out ear­ly Fri­day, the biotech said that the Agence Na­tionale de la Sécu­rité des Médica­ments is de­mand­ing an ex­ter­nal au­dit to clear their work on tri­al pro­ce­dures. AB Sci­ence says that the ANSM ze­roed in on a trou­bled study —AB06006 — in­volv­ing ma­sitinib in treat­ing mas­to­cy­to­sis. But those prob­lems, the biotech kicked back, all oc­curred be­tween 2009 and 2015, be­fore they put a new qual­i­ty con­trol sys­tem in place.

The biotech — a pub­licly trad­ed com­pa­ny in France — added that the sus­pen­sion of all tri­al work on the drug is on­ly tem­po­rary and they plan to get it all re­solved ex­pe­di­tious­ly, com­plet­ing the au­dit “in com­ing months.”

In ad­di­tion, AB’s lengthy state­ment not­ed that the sus­pen­sion of tri­al work is lim­it­ed to France. It won’t af­fect their ALS plans, they add, be­cause their late-stage tri­al oc­curred out­side of France and the au­dit will be com­plet­ed soon in any case.

The 16-year-old biotech, though, run by co-founder and CEO Alain Moussy, has a cred­i­bil­i­ty is­sue. Over the years AB Sci­ence has been known to put out cheery re­leas­es on da­ta and prospects on­ly to be forced to walk it all back. The EMA re­ject­ed its mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tions on ma­sitinib for ad­vanced in­op­er­a­ble pan­cre­at­ic can­cer and gas­troin­testi­nal stro­mal tu­mors in 2014 and 2013, ham­mer­ing the com­pa­ny on poor tri­al de­sign, safe­ty as well as man­u­fac­tur­ing short­com­ings.

The tim­ing of the halt couldn’t have come at a worse mo­ment. In March re­searchers claimed the first ever suc­cess­ful Phase III study in ALS, with plans to de­tail the da­ta at an up­com­ing sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ence. The drug was filed at the EMA last fall for ALS.

Just days ago Mit­subishi Tan­abe won the first new drug ap­proval at the FDA in more than 20 years, for Rad­i­ca­va, and on­ly af­ter they asked the com­pa­ny to file it for a mar­ket­ing OK. The last new ther­a­py, Ri­lutek (rilu­zole) from Sanofi, ar­rived in the US in the mid-90s, un­der­scor­ing just how dif­fi­cult this dis­ease has been to tack­le in the clin­ic.

AB Sci­ence’s trou­ble could work to the ad­van­tage of Cy­to­ki­net­ics, which is work­ing on a late-stage ALS drug called tirasem­tiv.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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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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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.