Seth Lederman, Tonix Pharmaceuticals CEO

Small, strug­gling biotech winds up with a 3X los­er as an­oth­er PhI­II of its lead drug col­laps­es

Lit­tle Tonix Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has run in­to an­oth­er brick wall as its lead drug — a re­for­mu­lat­ed mus­cle re­lax­ant orig­i­nal­ly ap­proved 44 years ago — has failed an­oth­er Phase III study, send­ing shares back in­to pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry.

Three years af­ter go­ing down in their first Phase III tri­al of TNX-102 SL (cy­cloben­za­prine HCl sub­lin­gual tablets) for symp­toms of PTSD, the biotech — which had been en­cour­aged by a break­through des­ig­na­tion at the FDA — re­port­ed late Fri­day the drug al­so failed its sec­ond late-stage chal­lenge for pain as­so­ci­at­ed with fi­bromyal­gia. Out­side da­ta mon­i­tors rec­om­mend­ed the Phase III tri­al be halt­ed for fu­til­i­ty af­ter de­cid­ing in­ter­im da­ta made it un­like­ly the drug would pass muster.

Re­searchers will now halt en­roll­ment and con­tin­ue to fol­low pa­tients al­ready on the drug.

Tonix shares $TNXP, which ear­li­er had to be re­ha­bil­i­tat­ed to stay on Nas­daq, crum­bled — drop­ping 35% and leav­ing shares at 64 cents at the start of trad­ing Mon­day.

The fail­ure fol­lows Tonix’s ini­tial re­port­ed suc­cess in its first Phase III fi­bromyal­gia study.

The drug failed a late-stage tri­al for symp­toms of PTSD in 2018, send­ing ex­ecs back to the draw­ing board with an­oth­er Phase III PTSD tri­al, which al­so failed. They still have it in the pipeline for PTSD, shift­ing fo­cus yet again to sleep dis­tur­bance.

The lat­est fail­ure at Tonix un­der­scores that break­through des­ig­na­tions may make it eas­i­er to dis­cuss things with reg­u­la­tors, but it’s no guar­an­tee of suc­cess in a clin­i­cal tri­al.

“We are sur­prised and dis­ap­point­ed that the in­ter­im analy­sis did not sup­port con­tin­ued en­roll­ment in this Phase 3 RAL­LY study, es­pe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the pre­vi­ous Phase 3 RE­LIEF study, which had a sim­i­lar de­sign and achieved sta­tis­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance on the pri­ma­ry end­point. Af­ter the cur­rent­ly en­rolled par­tic­i­pants com­plete the study, we will pro­ceed with a full analy­sis of the un­blind­ed da­ta from the study to de­ter­mine the next steps in this pro­gram,” com­ment­ed CEO Seth Le­d­er­man.

What Will it Take to Re­al­ize the Promise and Po­ten­tial of Im­mune Cell Ther­a­pies?

What does it take to get to the finish line with a new cancer therapy – fast? With approvals in place and hundreds of immune cell therapy candidates in the pipeline, the global industry is poised to create a fundamental shift in cancer treatments towards precision medicine. At the same time, unique challenges associated with cell and process complexity present manufacturing bottlenecks that delay speed to market and heighten cost of goods sold (COGS) — these hurdles must be overcome to make precision treatments an option for every cancer patient. This series of articles highlights some of the key manufacturing challenges associated with the production of cell-based cancer therapies as well as the solutions needed to transcend them. Automation, process knowledge, scalability, and assured supply of high-quality starting material and reagents are all critical to realizing the full potential of CAR-based therapies and sustaining the momentum achieved in recent years. The articles will highlight leading-edge technologies that incorporate these features to integrate across workflows, accelerate timelines and reduce COGS – along with how these approaches are enabling the biopharmaceutical industry to cross the finish line faster with new treatment options for patients in need.

The biggest ques­tions fac­ing gene ther­a­py, the XLMTM com­mu­ni­ty, and Astel­las af­ter fourth pa­tient death

After three patients died last year in an Astellas gene therapy trial, the company halted the study and began figuring out how to safely get the program back on track. They would, executives eventually explained, cut the dose by more than half and institute a battery of other measures to try to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Then tragically, Astellas announced this week that the first patient to receive the new regimen had died, just weeks after administration.

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EQRx chairman Alexis Borisy and CEO Melanie Nallichieri

EQRx, CStone un­furl full lung can­cer da­ta for PD-L1 drug in what the part­ners are call­ing a first

As a self-stylized drug pricing disruptor, EQRx has high hopes for its lead PD-(L)1 to offer proof of concept for the entire business model. After touting a win back in May, the biotech is back with full data in lung cancer that could back up an approval.

Patients dosed with EQRx and CStone Pharmaceuticals’ sugemalimab posted median progression-free survival of 9 months compared with 5.8 months for patients given placebo (p=0.0026), according to full data from the Phase III GEMSTONE-301 study in Stage III non-small cell lung cancer set to be presented at this weekend’s #ESMO21.

Amgen VP of R&D David Reese

Am­gen rolls out da­ta for KRAS in­hibitor com­bo study in col­orec­tal can­cer, hop­ing to move on from ug­ly ear­ly re­sults

With the first win for its KRAS inhibitor sotorasib in hand, Amgen is pushing ahead with an aggressive clinical plan to capitalize on its first-to-market standing. The drugmaker thinks combinations — in-house or otherwise — could offer a path forward, and one early readout from that strategy is bearing fruit.

A combination of Amgen’s sotorasib and its EGFR inhibitor Vectibix posted an overall response rate of 27% in 26 patients with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) with the KRAS-G12C mutation, according to data from the larger Phase Ib/II CODEBREAK 101 study set to present at this weekend’s virtual ESMO Congress.

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As­traZeneca touts Imfinzi im­munother­a­py com­bos for lung can­cer in push to dri­ve PD-L1 drug up­take

Facing the big dogs in the PD-(L)1 space, AstraZeneca has taken its own contender Imfinzi into blockbuster territory in its four years on the market but sees even bigger things for the drug. Combinations could be the key, and early results from a mid-stage test are adding some fuel to that strategy.

Imfinzi combined with one of two investigational immunotherapies — a CD73 antibody dubbed oleclumab or an Innate’s anti-NGK2a named monalizumab — topped Imfinzi alone in terms of overall response and progression-free survival in patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors had not worsened during concurrent chemoradiation, according to interim data from the Phase II COAST trial set to be presented at #ESMO21.

Gri­fols drops $1B on Ger­man hold­ing com­pa­ny in con­tin­ued plas­ma push

One Spanish biotech is beefing up its plasma therapy operations, and on Friday, it announced that it’s doing so in a billion-dollar deal.

Grifols is now the largest shareholder of Biotest, a company valued at more than $1.8 billion. By teaming up, the two will try to increase the number of plasma therapies available and increase patient access around the world, Grifols said in a press release.

The company did so by acquiring holding company Tiancheng Pharmaceutical, the Germany-based owner of nearly 90% of Biotest shares, for nearly $1.27 billion. Grifols now owns nearly 90% of Biotest voting rights and almost 45% of the total share capital of Biotest.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Eu­ro­pean study finds that Gilead­'s Covid-19 an­tivi­ral remde­sivir shows no clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Gilead’s remdesivir — or Veklury, as it’s marketed in the US — raked in around $2.8 billion last year as the only FDA-approved antiviral to treat Covid-19. But new data from a European study suggest the drug, which has been given to about half of hospitalized Covid patients in the country, has no actual benefit.

The open-label DisCoVeRy trial enrolled Covid-19 patients across 48 sites in Europe to test a handful of treatments, including remdesivir, lopinavir–ritonavir, lopinavir–ritonavir and interferon beta-1a, and hydroxychloroquine. To participate, patients had to show symptoms for seven days and require oxygen support. A total of 429 patients were randomized to receive remdesivir plus standard of care, while 428 were assigned to standard of care alone.

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Ali Tehrani, Zymeworks CEO

Zymeworks squares up with Her­ceptin af­ter HER2 bis­pe­cif­ic aces mid-stage test in esophageal can­cer

Roche’s Herceptin has long stood as standard of care across multiple advanced cancers, but a suite of next-gen players are looking to beat the aging giant at its own game. In HER2-expressing esophageal cancer, BeiGene partner Zymeworks thinks its bispecific antibody could have the juice to get it done.

Zymeworks’ bispecific antibody zanidatamab, combined with one of two chemotherapy regimens, posted an overall response rate of 75% in patients with advanced gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma (GEA) who had not previously received a HER2-targeted cancer therapy, the Vancouver-based biotech said Thursday.

Covid-19 roundup: FDA re­veals boost­er ad­comm ques­tion; Eli Lil­ly's an­ti­body cock­tail cleared for pre­ven­tion

The FDA released briefing documents this week from the agency and Pfizer each outlining their arguments for today’s Covid-19 booster shot adcomm, but one thing conspicuously missing was the question on which panel members would be voting. But late Thursday night, regulators published that question.

Adcomm members will be asked whether or not the safety and efficacy data from Pfizer/BioNTech’s original Phase III study “support approval” of a booster shot at least six months after the second dose in individuals older than 16. The question notably excludes the real-world data from Israel and other analyses that Pfizer and the Biden administration had said would be a centerpiece of their arguments for boosters.