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.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL CEO Paul Per­reault de­ter­mined to grow plas­ma col­lec­tion af­ter full-year sales dip

As the ink dries on CSL’s $11.7 billion Vifor buyout, the company posted a dip in profits, due in part to a drop in plasma donations amid the pandemic.

However, CEO Paul Perreault assured investors and analysts on the full-year call that the team has left “no stone unturned” when assessing options to grow plasma volumes. The chief executive also spelled out positive results for the company’s monoclonal antibody garadacimab in hereditary angioedema (HAE), though he isn’t revealing the exact numbers just yet.

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Marisol Peron, Genmab SVP of communications and corporate affairs

Gen­mab launch­es cor­po­rate cam­paign am­pli­fy­ing its ‘knock your socks off’ an­ti­bod­ies

Genmab often talks about its “knock-your-socks-off” antibodies — and now the term is getting its own logo and corporate campaign.

The teal and purple logo for the acronym KYSO — Genmab pronounces it “ky-so” — debuts on Wednesday and comes on the heels of Genmab’s newly announced 2030 vision. That aspiration aims to expand Genmab’s drug development beyond oncology to include other serious diseases, while also doubling down on its own drug development.

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Kate Haviland, Blueprint Medicines CEO

Blue­print met all its end­points in bid for ex­pand­ed Ay­vak­it la­bel — but stock trends low­er any­way

Blueprint Medicines announced this morning that the second part of its study on Ayvakit in non-advanced systemic mastocytosis (SM) — a rare disease in which a type of white blood cells known as mast cells builds up — met all endpoints, but the biopharma left key questions unanswered.

In 212 patients, with 141 in the treatment arm and 71 in the control arm, patients who got Ayvakit saw an average 15.6-point decrease in their symptom scores compared to a 9.2-point decrease in the placebo arm at 24 weeks. In an extension study, those on Ayvakit saw their symptom scores drop by 20.2 points by week 48.

President Joe Biden signs the Democrats' landmark climate change and health care bill. From L-R: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL). (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

Pres­i­dent Biden signs ma­jor drug pric­ing re­forms in­to law: What's com­ing for bio­phar­ma?

President Joe Biden yesterday afternoon signed into law historic, decades-in-the-making new drug pricing reforms as part of a wider reconciliation bill that will likely take a chunk out of biopharma companies’ profits for some blockbusters just prior to generic or biosimilar competition.

The partisan bill (all Democrats in the House and Senate voted for it, and all Republicans voted against it) includes not only Medicare price negotiations — which won’t kick off until 2026, leaving ample time for a legal challenge — but mandatory inflation-related rebates, and a $2,000 annual cap on what seniors’ pay for their prescription drugs.

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