Michael Handley, Statera Biopharma CEO

UP­DAT­ED: Stat­era Bio­phar­ma gets the OK to re­sume the study of a po­ten­tial stock­pile drug for lethal ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure

Last sum­mer, when Cy­to­com merged with Cleve­land Bi­o­Labs to grab a spot on Nas­daq, it al­so in­her­it­ed an in­trigu­ing rare dis­ease pro­gram that was un­der clin­i­cal hold. With a new name and brand, the com­pa­ny says it’s ready to bring that pro­gram back to the fore­front.

The FDA has lift­ed its clin­i­cal hold on en­tolimod, a toll-like re­cep­tor 5 (TLR5) ag­o­nist be­ing de­vel­oped for pa­tients ex­posed to lethal amounts of ra­di­a­tion, the com­pa­ny — now called Stat­era Bio­phar­ma — an­nounced on Wednes­day.

As a re­sult, the Col­orado-based biotech’s stock $STAB saw a 1% boost in pre­mar­ket trad­ing, be­fore sink­ing about 7% in ear­ly morn­ing trad­ing.

Acute ra­di­a­tion syn­drome (ARS) oc­curs when the whole body is ex­posed to ex­treme­ly high amounts of ra­di­a­tion over a short pe­ri­od of time — for ex­am­ple, those who sur­vived the Hi­roshi­ma and Na­gasa­ki atom­ic bombs, or fire­fight­ers that re­spond­ed at Cher­nobyl. Cleve­land Bi­o­Labs was work­ing on a treat­ment that could coun­ter­act the ef­fects of ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure in worst-case sce­nar­ios.

“It would be a stock­pil­ing agent,” Stat­era CEO Michael Han­d­ley told End­points News on Wednes­day. “So gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing the US gov­ern­ment and around the world, would or­der it and stock­pile it in the case of, God for­bid, a nu­clear re­ac­tor melt­down or even worse, nu­clear war­fare … So you store, stack it up and hope you nev­er use it.”

Al­though Cleve­land Bi­o­Labs couldn’t test en­tolimod’s ef­fi­ca­cy in hu­mans, the FDA’s An­i­mal Rule al­lows re­searchers to prove a drug works in an­i­mals in very spe­cif­ic cir­cum­stances where hu­man tri­als would be un­eth­i­cal. The com­pa­ny had been prepar­ing to file for an EUA when it was slapped with a clin­i­cal hold in late 2019 over “rec­om­men­da­tions for de­sign re­vi­sions,” ac­cord­ing to a 10-K fil­ing.

“From my knowl­edge of the his­tor­i­cal pro­gram, the FDA was re­quir­ing ad­di­tion­al rhe­sus mon­key stud­ies for ef­fi­ca­cy to con­firm the ef­fi­ca­cy in the orig­i­nal pri­mate stud­ies,” Han­d­ley said dur­ing the in­ter­view. “This was a pro­to­col clar­i­fi­ca­tion, to get the FDA to sign on to com­plet­ing just an ad­di­tion­al ef­fi­ca­cy study to move for­ward with (the) ARS in­di­ca­tion.”

Stat­era reached out again lat­er to add the fol­low­ing state­ment:

The clin­i­cal hold was placed be­cause FDA want­ed to en­sure sub­ject safe­ty in the pro­posed clin­i­cal tri­al. The FDA re­quest­ed the ad­di­tion of an in­de­pen­dent da­ta mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee and a few tweaks to the de­sign of the study. Stat­era was hap­py to com­ply with these re­quests as we agree that they add pro­tec­tion for the pa­tients. Once the pro­to­col was amend­ed to in­clude the FDA re­quests, FDA lift­ed the clin­i­cal hold.

The com­pa­ny said it was mis­stat­ed that ad­di­tion­al mon­key stud­ies were need­ed, and that the study in ques­tion was ac­tu­al­ly “a hu­man study al­so to even­tu­al­ly sup­port a BLA.”

Around the same time that en­tolimod was hit with the clin­i­cal hold, CEO Yakov Ko­gan gave his res­ig­na­tion, and vice pres­i­dent of fi­nance Christo­pher Zosh stepped up to lead the com­pa­ny in the in­ter­im.

Things were look­ing down, un­til im­munomod­u­la­tion-fo­cused Cy­to­com struck a deal last year to re­verse merge with the biotech to snag a spot on Nas­daq. Though the new com­pa­ny kept Cy­to­com’s name, they kept en­tolimod up their sleeve. Mean­while, the fo­cus shift­ed to Cy­to­com’s four late-stage pro­grams for Crohn’s dis­ease, fi­bromyal­gia, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and pan­cre­at­ic can­cer. The lead pro­gram, STAT-201, is ex­pect­ed to en­ter a Phase III study in Crohn’s dis­ease next quar­ter, Han­d­ley said.

This past sum­mer, the com­pa­ny re­brand­ed to Stat­era, the Latin word for “bal­ance,” in ref­er­ence to mod­u­lat­ing the im­mune sys­tem.

Han­d­ley isn’t quite sure if Stat­era will pur­sue an EUA for en­tolimod, adding that the first step will be to con­duct the ad­di­tion­al ad­vo­ca­cy study. They al­so plan on launch­ing the can­di­date in a Phase I/II pro­gram in hema­tol­ogy next year.

This sto­ry has been up­dat­ed with ad­di­tion­al com­ment from Stat­era.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

FDA un­veils new draft guid­ance to help with oligonu­cleotide ther­a­peu­tics de­vel­op­ment

While oligonucleotides, a wide variety of synthetically modified RNA or RNA/DNA hybrids that bind to a target RNA sequence to alter RNA and/or protein expression, have been winning approvals in recent years (e.g. Novartis’ cholesterol drug Leqvio), the regulatory agency is offering new draft guidance for those looking to follow a similar path.

The non-binding guidance, titled “Clinical Pharmacology Considerations for the Development of Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Guidance for Industry” deals with pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, and safety assessments required as part of oligonucleotide therapeutics R&D.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images)

Phar­ma-friend­ly sen­a­tor calls on FDA for a third time to show patent pro­tec­tions should­n't be blamed for high drug prices

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis made a name for himself in the 2020 election cycle as the darling of the pharma industry, accepting hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions, even from the likes of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Those contributions have led Tillis to attempt to re-write patent laws in pharma’s favor, a move which failed to gain steam in 2019, and request for a third time since January that the FDA should help stop “the false narrative that patent protections are to blame for high drug prices.”

EMA signs off on 3 drugs re­cent­ly re­ject­ed by FDA, in­clud­ing Bio­Mar­in's new he­mo­phil­ia gene ther­a­py

The EMA’s human medicines committee on Friday recommended three new drugs for approval or conditional approval, even as their US counterparts have rejected these three for various reasons.

In a major move, CHMP offered a thumbs-up to a conditional marketing authorization for the first gene therapy to treat severe hemophilia A, although the agency cautioned that it’s so far unknown how long the effects of infusion will last.

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