John Reed, Sanofi R&D chief (Jeff Rumans)

Sanofi flash­es more PhI­II da­ta on new mul­ti­ple myelo­ma drug, set­ting up bat­tle with Darza­lex

Two months af­ter nab­bing their first ap­proved can­cer drug in a decade, Sanofi an­nounced new late-stage da­ta bur­nish­ing the drug’s ef­fi­ca­cy in an­oth­er com­bi­na­tion for mul­ti­ple myelo­ma.

In a 302-per­son Phase III tri­al, in­ves­ti­ga­tors com­bined the new drug, known as Sar­clisa, with Am­gen’s Kypro­lis and showed that the cock­tail was more ef­fec­tive than Kypro­lis alone. Al­though Sanofi did not re­lease da­ta, they said the in­de­pen­dent re­view board had stopped it af­ter the com­bo showed “sig­nif­i­cant­ly pro­longed pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival.”

“This is the sec­ond pos­i­tive phase 3 tri­al for Sar­clisa, fur­ther sup­port­ing the po­ten­tial our med­i­cine has to im­prove out­comes for pa­tients strug­gling with re­lapsed mul­ti­ple myelo­ma,” Sanofi R&D chief John Reed said in a state­ment.

The tri­al re­sult gives an ad­di­tion­al boost to Sanofi as they take on J&J, whose Gen­mab-de­vel­oped Darza­lex has been the mar­ket leader for third-line mul­ti­ple myelo­ma pa­tients — and some ear­li­er stage pa­tients — since its ap­proval in 2015. Last year, Am­gen re­leased da­ta that a sim­i­lar com­bo of Kypro­lis and Darza­lex led to a 37% re­duc­tion in risk of death or dis­ease pro­gres­sion in the same set of pa­tients. Both drugs work by the same mech­a­nism, tar­get­ing the CD38 re­cep­tor that’s over-ex­pressed on mul­ti­ple myelo­ma cells.

On March 2, FDA ap­proved Sar­clisa well ahead of an April PDU­FA, a recog­ni­tion of the tests Sanofi had al­ready run on its first prospec­tive can­cer ap­proval since 2010. In a Phase III tri­al test­ing Sar­clisa in com­bi­na­tion with Bris­tol My­ers Squibb’s Po­m­a­lyst against Po­m­a­lyst alone, the Sar­clisa pa­tients had a pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival of 11.5 months, com­pared to 6.5 months for the Po­m­a­lyst pa­tients.

Al­though the FDA ap­proval came for third-line pa­tients, the new tri­al test­ed the drug in pa­tients who had gone through one to three lines of ther­a­pies, po­ten­tial­ly point­ing to the drug’s ef­fi­ca­cy in ear­li­er stage pa­tients. In all tri­als, the drug was al­so giv­en with dex­am­etha­sone, a chemother­a­py giv­en to most mul­ti­ple myelo­ma pa­tients.

Al­though the po­ten­tial sales for an ef­fec­tive mul­ti­ple myelo­ma drug are sig­nif­i­cant — J&J earned a hair un­der $3 bil­lion last year from Darza­lex, al­though that in­cludes oth­er in­di­ca­tions — Sanofi faces a dif­fi­cult launch as they look to mar­ket the new drug dur­ing a pan­dem­ic. Their Q1 earn­ings showed €1 mil­lion in sales through one month.

Covid-19 roundup: Eu­rope pur­chas­es 80M dos­es of Mod­er­na's vac­cine; CO­V­AXX se­cures $2.8B in emerg­ing mar­ket pre-or­ders

With the announcement of its vaccine efficacy data last week, Moderna is starting to line up customers for its Covid-19 mRNA jabs.

The Massachusetts-based biotech announced Wednesday it has agreed to sell an initial round of 80 million doses to the European Commission, with the option to double the amount to 160 million. Once the member states rubber stamp the approval, the deal will be finalized.

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Pascal Soriot (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

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Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter Ko­dak de­ba­cle, US lends $1.1B to a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny and their big Covid-19, mR­NA plans

In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

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Vivek Ramaswamy (Jeff Rumans/JPM 2020)

Urovan­t's lead drug dis­ap­points in mid-stage study as first big FDA de­ci­sion looms

Just as Urovant gets ready for its first big FDA decision on vibegron, the drug has flopped in what would’ve been a follow-on indication.

In a Phase IIa trial involving women with abdominal pain due to irritable bowel syndrome, vibegron failed to meet the bar on improving “average worst abdominal pain” over 12 weeks, compared to placebo, among IBS-D patients.

There were actually slightly more responders in the placebo group than in the drug arm, with only 40.9% of those randomized to vigebron achieving at least a 30% decrease in “worst abdominal pain” in the past 24 hours. The trial enrolled 222 women but only 189 completed the study.

Bahija Jallal (file photo)

TCR pi­o­neer Im­muno­core scores a first with a land­mark PhI­II snap­shot on over­all sur­vival for a rare melanoma

Bahija Jallal’s crew at TCR pioneer Immunocore says they have nailed down a promising set of pivotal data for their lead drug in a frontline setting for a solid tumor. And they are framing this early interim readout as the convincing snapshot they need to prove that their platform can deliver on a string of breakthrough therapies now in the clinic or planned for it.

In advance of the Monday announcement, Jallal and R&D chief David Berman took some time to walk me through the first round of Phase III data for their lead TCR designed to treat rare, frontline cases of metastatic uveal melanoma that come with a grim set of survival expectations.

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FDA hands Liq­uidia and Re­vance a CRL and de­fer­ral, re­spec­tive­ly, as Covid-19 cre­ates in­spec­tion chal­lenge

Two biotechs said they got turned away by the FDA on Wednesday, in part due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

North Carolina-based Liquidia Technologies was handed a CRL for its lead pulmonary arterial hypertension drug, citing the need for more CMC data and on-site pre-approval inspections, which the FDA hasn’t been able to conduct due to travel restrictions. The agency also deferred its decision on Revance Therapeutics’ BLA for its frown line treatment, because it needs to inspect the company’s northern California manufacturing facility. The action, Revance emphasized, was not a CRL.

News brief­ing: FDA re­quests new tri­al for Reata's Friedre­ich's atax­ia pro­gram; J&J's Trem­fya picks up ex­pand­ed la­bel in Eu­rope

Three months after Reata Pharmaceuticals suggested its Friedreich’s ataxia program omaveloxolone could be delayed, the company revealed that is indeed going to be the case.

Reata $RETA shares took a nosedive Wednesday after the biotech revealed that the FDA said supplemental data for its pivotal trial did not strengthen the case for approval. As a result, the drug is likely to need another study before the FDA takes up the case.

Jef­frey Hat­field takes over from Diego Mi­ralles as CEO of Vi­vid­ion; Drag­on­fly scores a new ex­ec with COO Alex Lu­gov­skoy

→ San Diego protein degradation startup Vividion Therapeutics has made a change at the top with Jeffrey Hatfield taking the helm as CEO, replacing Diego Miralles six months after Roche forked over $135 million to collaborate with Vividion on their small molecule degraders. Hatfield is chairman of the board at miRagen Therapeutics and previously held the CEO job at Zafgen and Vitae Pharmaceuticals. He also had a series of leadership roles at Bristol Myers Squibb from 1996-2004, including SVP, immunology and virology divisions.

Chi­na opens the door for biotech in­vestors in Hong Kong to buy Shang­hai stocks, and vice ver­sa

When Shanghai’s STAR board began opening its doors to biotech, it was considered not just a rival to Nasdaq but also the stock exchange in Hong Kong. Those perceptions may take an amicable turn as China expands a mutual access program with the city.

The changes mean investors in mainland China will be able to own Hong Kong biotech chapter stocks, while those in Hong Kong — a much more internationally connected group — would have access to those listed on STAR. In effect, it turns the Shanghai market into a globally accessible exchange overnight while also broadening a key source of revenue for HKEX.