Roche flags ear­ly suc­cess for Tecen­triq com­bos, hus­tles in­to PhI­I­Is

San­dra Horn­ing, Roche CMO

Af­ter wrap­ping a pair of ear­ly-stage com­bi­na­tion stud­ies for melanoma us­ing its PD-L1 check­point drug Tecen­triq (ate­zolizum­ab), Roche now plans to hus­tle straight in­to Phase III for each of them as it looks to con­tin­ue to ramp up its grow­ing can­cer fran­chise in the face of some tough com­pe­ti­tion from Mer­ck and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb.

Com­bin­ing Tecen­triq with its MEK in­hibitor Cotel­lic along with the BRAF in­hibitor Zelb­o­raf de­liv­ered an 83% over­all re­sponse rate in their Phase Ib, with 3 of 24 — out of 29 to­tal pre­vi­ous­ly un­treat­ed pa­tients with BRAF mu­ta­tion-pos­i­tive melanoma — see­ing com­plete re­spons­es. There were no grade 5 ad­verse events in the study, but 40% did ex­pe­ri­ence a grade 3 or 4 AE with the triple com­bo.

In pre­vi­ous­ly treat­ed melanoma pa­tients, the com­bi­na­tion of Tecen­triq and Cotel­lic de­liv­ered an over­all re­sponse rate of 45% among the 20 pa­tients with non-oc­u­lar metasta­t­ic melanoma — 50 per­cent in BRAF wild-type and 40 per­cent in BRAF-mu­tant pa­tients.

Grade 3/4 AEs oc­curred in 59% of the pa­tients.

That’s good enough to war­rant piv­otal stud­ies for both sets of com­bi­na­tion ther­a­pies, which have be­come a cen­tral fo­cus in the sec­ond-wave of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment plans for the lead­ers in this field. Mer­ck has some 200 com­bi­na­tion stud­ies un­der­way for Keytru­da.

Tecen­triq was re­cent­ly OK’d for use in sec­ond-line non-small cell lung can­cer, which fol­lowed its ap­proval for blad­der can­cer. Bris­tol-My­ers com­pletes the set of three com­pa­nies in the mar­ket with a check­point, while As­traZeneca and Pfiz­er/Mer­ck KGaA fol­low up with check­points of their own in what has be­come a hec­tic race to seize and hold mar­ket share.

Roche, a leader in on­col­o­gy, has no in­ten­tion of falling be­hind now.

“We are en­cour­aged by these ear­ly re­sults which demon­strate a high pro­por­tion of peo­ple re­spond­ed to these in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al com­bi­na­tion ther­a­pies,” said San­dra Horn­ing, MD, Roche’s Chief Med­ical Of­fi­cer and Head of Glob­al Prod­uct De­vel­op­ment.  “The re­sults sug­gest that the com­bi­na­tion of TECEN­TRIQ with our BRAF and MEK tar­get­ed agents may ex­tend the es­tab­lished ben­e­fits of the ap­proved monother­a­py and com­bi­na­tion ap­proach­es of these med­i­cines.”

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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San Diego cou­ple charged with steal­ing trade se­crets, open­ing Chi­nese biotech as DOJ crack­down con­tin­ues

A San Diego couple has been charged with stealing trade secrets from a US hospital and opening a business based off those secrets in China as the controversial industry-wide crackdown on alleged corporate espionage continues. On the same day, the Department of Justice announced they had arrested Beijing representative Zhongsan Liu for allegedly trying to obtain research visas for government recruiters.

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Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

UP­DAT­ED: Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time Monday morning the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation of a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month. In a followup call, Dunsire also noted that the company will likely need 200 to 250 reps for this marketing task on both sides of the Atlantic. And analysts were quick to note that the dealmaking at Lundbeck isn’t done, with another $2 billion to $3 billion available for more deals to beef up the pipeline.

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Tower Bridge in London [Shutterstock]

#UK­BIO19: Join GSK’s Hal Bar­ron and a group of top biotech ex­ecs for our 2nd an­nu­al biotech sum­mit in Lon­don

Over the past 10 years I’ve made a point of getting to know the Golden Triangle and the special role the UK biopharma industry plays there in drug development. The concentration of world class research institutes, some of the most accomplished scientists I’ve ever seen at work and a rising tide of global investment cash leaves an impression that there’s much, much more to come as biotech hubs are birthed and nurtured.

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen pulls the plug on prized IPF drug from $562M+ Stromedix buy­out

One of Biogen’s attempts to branch out has flopped as the biotech scraps a mid-stage program for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

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Warts for the win: Aclar­is' lead drug clears piv­otal study

Aclaris Therapeutics has found a way to get rid of the warts and all.

The company — which earlier this month decided to focus on its arsenal of kinase inhibitors — on Monday unveiled positive data from a pivotal study testing its lead experimental drug for use in common warts.

The drug, A-101, was tested in a 502-patient study called THWART-2 — patients enrolled had one to six warts before qualifying for the trial. Patients either self-administered A-101 topical solution or a vehicle twice a week over a two-month period. A higher proportion of patients on the drug (a potent hydrogen peroxide topical solution) saw their warts disappear at day 60, versus the vehicle (p<0.0001) — meeting the main goal of the study.  Each secondary endpoint also emerged in favor of A-101, the company said.

Charles Nichols, LSU School of Medicine

Could psy­che­delics tack­le the obe­si­ty cri­sis? A long­time re­searcher in the field says his lat­est mouse study sug­gests po­ten­tial

Psychedelics have experienced a renaissance in recent years amid a torrent of preclinical and clinical research suggesting it might provide a path to treat mood disorders conventional remedies have only scraped at. Now a preclinical trial from a young biotech suggests at least one psychedelic compound has effects beyond the mind, and — if you believe the still very, very early hype — could provide the first single remedy for some of the main complications of obesity.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Ac­celeron drops a de­vel­op­ment pro­gram as #2 drug fails to spark func­tion­al ben­e­fits in pa­tients with a rare neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ail­ment

Acceleron is scrapping a muscular dystrophy development program underway for its number 2 drug in the pipeline after pouring over some failed mid-stage secondary data.

Gone is the ACE-083 project in patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Their drug hit the primary endpoint on building muscle but flopped on key secondaries for functional improvements in patients, which execs felt was vital to the drug’s success.