Savara gets FDA break­through sta­tus de­spite large, late-stage fail­ure

Savara watched their stock crater in June as they an­nounced a late-stage fail­ure on their lead com­pound. But now, based on the same Phase III tri­al, the FDA is giv­ing the biotech and its rare lung dis­ease drug break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion.

The des­ig­na­tion comes for Mol­gradex, an in­halant meant to treat au­toim­mune pul­monary alve­o­lar pro­teinosis (aPAP). It was the lead com­pound in Savara’s 2016 buy­out of Seren­dex. The dis­ease is caused by au­toan­ti­bod­ies that neu­tral­ize a pro­tein called GM-CSF in the lungs, and the in­halant re­plen­ish­es the lungs with a re­com­bi­nant form of the pro­tein.

Savara said in June that the drug had failed to sig­nif­i­cant­ly im­prove oxy­gen lev­els in tri­al pa­tients’ alve­o­lar, the parts of the lung ob­struct­ed in PAP pa­tients. Savara tried to sal­vage the study, point­ing to sec­ondary and “ex­plorato­ry” end­points and blam­ing the pri­ma­ry fail­ure on an un­ex­pect­ed­ly high place­bo ef­fect. In­vestors didn’t buy it, tank­ing their stock price $SVRA 75%.

The FDA, though, ap­pears to think there’s a sto­ry there. It’s im­pos­si­ble to know the agency’s think­ing, but de­tailed slides Savara re­leased this fall em­pha­sized “a pat­tern of im­prove­ment” on sev­er­al met­rics in the 139-per­son tri­al and ar­gued that the “to­tal­i­ty of out­come da­ta” sup­port Mol­gradex over place­bo.

That da­ta in­clud­ed sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments on the Saint Georges Res­pi­ra­to­ry Ques­tion­naire and CT scans. The biotech al­so ar­gued the pri­ma­ry end­point (tech­ni­cal­ly called A-aDO2), as well as a walk­ing test called 6MWT, he­mo­glo­bin lev­els and the time be­fore res­cue surgery “trend­ed” to­ward sig­nif­i­cance.

Bruce Trap­nell

Mol­gradex was “ef­fec­tive as shown by changes in lung pathol­o­gy, phys­i­ol­o­gy, health sta­tus, func­tion,” lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor Bruce Trap­nell wrote.

That still leaves a lot of ques­tions about the ben­e­fit for pa­tients, and though in­vestors came back with the break­through des­ig­na­tion, they didn’t re­turn Savara to its pre-June sta­tus. The stock near­ly tripled on Mon­day, from $1.73 per share to $4.91. But that’s still less than half of the $10.57 price on June 12.

The news may al­so bol­ster con­fi­dence in Savara’s oth­er pro­grams. Those in­clude a Phase II tri­al ap­ply­ing Mol­gradex to non­tu­ber­cu­lous my­cobac­te­ria, with re­sults ex­pect­ed ear­ly this year, and a now-en­rolling study ap­ply­ing the drug to non­tu­ber­cu­lous my­cobac­te­ria in cys­tic fi­bro­sis pa­tients. There’s al­so a van­comycin in­halant for MR­SA in­fec­tions in CF pa­tients, with Phase III re­sults ex­pect­ed in about a year.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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Roche and Genen­tech re­searchers plot $53M dis­cov­ery quest aimed at spark­ing a 'Holy moly' piv­ot in neu­ro R&D

Roche and Genentech have committed $53 million to back a 10-year quest aimed at going back to the drawing board to use new technology and fresh scientific insights to generate a pipeline of drugs for neurological diseases.

Researchers from both Roche and its big South San Francisco hub — mixing teams from gRED and pRED this time — will mix it up with the scientists drawn together for the Weill Neurohub — formed in 2019 as a joint research partnership involving UCSF, Berkeley and the University of Washington — in an exploration of the field to develop new therapies for some of the toughest diseases in drug R&D: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS and autism.

Am­gen, As­traZeneca speed to­ward fil­ing next-gen an­ti­body for asth­ma af­ter un­cork­ing full late-stage da­ta

On the hunt for a novel competitor to Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent in severe asthma, Amgen and AstraZeneca posted “exciting” results from their next-gen antibody late last year. Now, the partners are showing their hands, and the results look good enough for approval.

Amgen and AstraZeneca’s tezepelumab plus standard of care cut the rate of severe asthma attacks by 56% at the one-year mark compared with SOC alone, according to full data from the Phase III NAVIGATOR study presented Friday at the virtual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting. And those significant results were consistent regardless of patients’ baseline eosinophil counts.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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Glax­o­SmithK­line re­thinks strat­e­gy for Covid-19 an­ti­body — not the Vir ones — af­ter tri­al flop. Is there hope in high-risk pa­tients?

In the search for a better Covid-19 therapeutic, GlaxoSmithKline and Vir have partnered up on two antibodies they hope have a chance. GSK is also testing its own in-house antibody, and early results may have shut the door on its widespread use.

A combination of GSK’s monoclonal antibody otilimab plus standard of care couldn’t best standard of care alone in preventing death and respiratory failure in hospitalized Covid-19 patients after 28 days, according to data from the Phase IIa OSCAR study unveiled Thursday.