Jean-Paul Clozel, Idorsia CEO (Patrick Straub/Keystone via AP Images)

Sec­ond PhI­II study for Idor­si­a's sleep drug re­turns pos­i­tive re­sults, but al­so rais­es new ques­tions

Fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful Phase III study in April show­cas­ing the safe­ty and po­ten­tial of its new sleep drug, Idor­sia post­ed some mixed news in the sec­ond Phase III study, but that won’t stop a planned fil­ing aimed at reg­u­la­to­ry ap­proval.

The drug, a dual orex­in re­cep­tor an­tag­o­nist (DO­RA) called dari­dorex­ant, was found to sig­nif­i­cant­ly im­prove sleep main­te­nance and sub­jec­tive to­tal sleep time in 25 mg dos­es, repli­cat­ing re­sults from the first Phase III study. How­ev­er, im­prove­ments in sleep on­set and day­time func­tion­ing nar­row­ly missed sta­tis­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance, de­spite nu­mer­i­cal con­sis­ten­cy with the April study.

Idor­sia al­so test­ed 10 mg dos­es of dari­dorex­ant in the study and found pos­i­tive re­sponse across all four ef­fi­ca­cy mea­sures, but all fell short of be­ing sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant.

The new study mea­sured dari­dorex­ant’s ef­fects in 924 adult and el­der­ly pa­tients. Side ef­fects from the tests re­mained low, as with the first study, with se­ri­ous in­stances re­main­ing bal­anced across dosage amounts and place­bos, ac­cord­ing to the biotech.

Re­sults from the two stud­ies re­gard­ing the 25 mg dos­es and place­bos will now be pooled, and some an­a­lysts ex­pect this will of­fer a promis­ing pro­file to take to reg­u­la­tors. Ques­tions will like­ly re­main, how­ev­er, giv­en the cau­tion that reg­u­la­tors usu­al­ly take when ap­prov­ing in­som­nia treat­ments.

Pe­ter Welford at Jef­feries sees the poor re­sults for the low dose as a good thing, as it re­moves any temp­ta­tion the FDA may have to for­go the high dose and go with the less threat­en­ing low­er dose — as they did with Mer­ck. But its suc­cess is still no sure thing.

Im­por­tant­ly the low­er 10mg dose showed small­er non-sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits, re­mov­ing the risk reg­u­la­tors en­dorse a sub­op­ti­mal dose to err on the side of cau­tion, in our view. Com­mer­cial un­cer­tain­ties re­main.

In­som­nia drugs gen­er­al­ly are slow to be­come avail­able and are dif­fi­cult to pro­duce. The drugs are al­so heav­i­ly reg­u­lat­ed, as the FDA demon­strat­ed when it im­posed black box warn­ings last year on a slew of more com­mon­ly-known drugs like Lunes­ta, Am­bi­en and Sonata.

Where DO­RAs dif­fer from tra­di­tion­al in­som­nia drugs is in the in­hi­bi­tion of orex­in sig­nal­ing. Orex­ins, dis­cov­ered in 1998, are hor­mones pro­duced by the hy­po­thal­a­mus that reg­u­late sleep, arousal and ap­petite.

On­ly two DO­RAs have hit the mar­ket in the US, but they al­so faced up­hill climbs. Mer­ck’s Bel­som­ra (chem­i­cal­ly known as su­vorex­ant), re­leased in 2014, re­quired warn­ing la­bels re­gard­ing next-day resid­ual ef­fects and abuse po­ten­tial, among oth­er safe­ty risks.

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, Ei­sai’s DO­RA Dayvi­go (lem­borex­ant) scored an FDA ap­proval in De­cem­ber and launched last month but al­so need­ed sim­i­lar warn­ings.

Idor­sia spun off of Swiss phar­ma com­pa­ny Acte­lion af­ter a $30 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion by John­son & John­son in ear­ly 2017. Idor­sia had been Acte­lion’s old re­search and de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment and is head­ed up by Acte­lion’s founder and CEO, Jean-Paul Clozel. Dari­dorex­ant is one of four de­vel­op­men­tal drugs cur­rent­ly in Idor­sia’s pipeline that has reached the Phase III stage.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Ex­elix­is pulls a sur­prise win in thy­roid can­cer just days ahead of fi­nal Cabome­tyx read­out

Exelixis added a thyroid cancer indication to its super-seller Cabometyx’s label on Friday — months before the FDA was expected to make a decision, and days before the company was set to unveil the final data at #ESMO21.

At a median follow-up of 10.1 months, differentiated thyroid cancer patients treated with Cabometyx (cabozantinib) lived a median of 11 months without their disease worsening, compared to just 1.9 months for patients given a placebo, Exelixis said on Monday.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.

As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi Sanky­o's ADC En­her­tu blows away Roche's Kad­cy­la in sec­ond-line ad­vanced breast can­cer

AstraZeneca and Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo think they’ve struck gold with their next-gen ADC drug Enhertu, which has shown some striking data in late-stage breast cancer trials and early solid tumor tests. Getting into earlier patients is now the goal, starting with Enhertu’s complete walkover of a Roche drug in second-line breast cancer revealed Saturday.

Enhertu cut the risk of disease progression or death by a whopping 72% (p=<0.0001) compared with Roche’s ADC Kadcyla in second-line unresectable and/or metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer patients who had previously undergone treatment with a Herceptin-chemo combo, according to interim data from the Phase III DESTINY-Breast03 head-to-head study presented at this weekend’s #ESMO21.

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Den­mark's Gubra to col­lab­o­rate with Bay­er on pep­tides; Sam­sung and Bio­gen re­ceive FDA ap­proval for Lu­cen­tis biosim­i­lar

Danish biotech Gubra announced a research collaboration and license agreement with Bayer to develop peptide therapeutics to treat cardiorenal diseases. The collaboration will utilize Gubra’s peptide drug discovery platform to identify potential candidates.

This is not the first time Gubra has partnered with a company on peptide therapeutics — they partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim back in 2017 to create peptide therapeutics to treat obesity.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.