Tesaro makes its case for a clean sweep with ni­ra­parib - and shares soar again

Lon­nie Moul­der

We al­ready knew go­ing in­to the big ES­MO meet­ing that Tesaro’s PARP in­hibitor ni­ra­parib had demon­strat­ed stel­lar re­sults for a range of ovar­i­an can­cer pa­tients with BR­CA mu­ta­tions. But when in­ves­ti­ga­tors stood up to dis­play the re­sults of their piv­otal study, a full set of da­ta demon­strat­ed a ben­e­fit not on­ly for tu­mors that were pos­i­tive for HRD, an im­por­tant bio­mark­er, but al­so for HRD-neg­a­tive tu­mors.

The ben­e­fit nar­rows pro­gres­sive­ly by that last step, but even at a 3.1-month pro­gres­sion sur­vival ben­e­fit for the HRD-neg­a­tive group in the Phase III — 6.9 months ver­sus 3.8 months — in­ves­ti­ga­tors laid the ground­work for ad­vanc­ing this drug for use with­out a di­ag­nos­tic test de­vel­oped by Myr­i­ad Ge­net­ics.

“Even in the HRD-neg­a­tive com­mu­ni­ty, there’s a sub­stan­tial ben­e­fit,” CEO Lon­nie Moul­der told me in the lead­up to the ES­MO con­fer­ence. And he’s pre­pared to make the case for ni­ra­parib with a full set of “ran­dom­ized, con­trolled da­ta we think is quite pow­er­ful.”

“Our con­clu­sion is that all pa­tients have a ben­e­fit and all pa­tients must be treat­ed,” chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor Man­soor Raza Mirza said at the Copen­hagen meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to Reuters’ re­port.

Their study in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine adds that one in 5 of those HRD-neg­a­tive pa­tients demon­strat­ed a ben­e­fit of greater than 18 months of pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival, a point Tesaro will be mak­ing with reg­u­la­tors. The over­all sur­vival (OS) re­sults have yet to be de­ter­mined, leav­ing reg­u­la­tors to make their de­ci­sions based on PFS re­sults.

Tesaro’s bull­ish po­si­tion was cheered on by in­vestors Mon­day morn­ing, dri­ving up the biotech’s shares by 21% on the added per­spec­tive. And some an­a­lysts, like Leerink’s Sea­mus Fer­nan­dez, helped fu­el the ral­ly with com­ments like this:

Avastin was ap­proved in com­bi­na­tion with chemother­a­py in plat­inum-re­sis­tant ovar­i­an can­cer based on 3.4 month ben­e­fit (6.8 vs. 3.4 months for chemo alone; HR=0.38; p<0.0001). While there are sev­er­al caveats to this com­par­i­son (Avastin was used in com­bi­na­tion in a treat­ment set­ting for plat­inum-re­sis­tant pa­tients and pro­duced a low­er haz­ard ra­tio with a larg­er n), we be­lieve this demon­strates that the FDA can view a 3+ month im­prove­ment in mPFS as clin­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful.

Johnathan Lan­cast­er, Myr­i­ad’s chief med­ical of­fi­cer, dis­agreed with Tesaro’s as­sess­ment, telling Bloomberg that the HRD-neg­a­tive PFS rate is not clin­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant. He backed that up by not­ing that As­traZeneca’s Lyn­parza, which man­aged to get ap­proved even af­ter a pan­el vot­ed the drug down on weak ear­ly re­sults, was not OK’d for use in BR­CA neg­a­tive pa­tients with a PFS of 3.6 months.

Myr­i­ad Ge­net­ics had this to add in a state­ment to End­points News:

The NO­VA study demon­strat­ed the ef­fi­ca­cy of both the drug and Bio­mark­er. De­spite the su­per sen­si­tive plat­inum re­spon­ders se­lect­ed for the study, my­Choice HRD was able to strat­i­fy based on ben­e­fit. The FDA will need to de­cide whether the 3.1 month ben­e­fit in HRD neg­a­tive pa­tients is suf­fi­cient. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly im­por­tant in the con­text of drugs that have tox­i­c­i­ty in the main­te­nance set­ting where the al­ter­na­tive is no ther­a­py at all.

For pa­tients with non-germline BR­CA mu­ta­tions that were HRD pos­i­tive, the PFS ben­e­fit was much more dis­tinct, a me­di­an 12.9 months ver­sus 3.8 months. The drug was test­ed as a main­te­nance ther­a­py in plat­inum-sen­si­tive, re­cur­rent ovar­i­an can­cer. You can see the full set of da­ta and the dis­cus­sion in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine.

Re­gard­less of the out­come of the de­bate over HRD sta­tus, Tesaro is lin­ing up for a near term ap­proval that should leave them in a strong mar­ket po­si­tion rel­a­tive to Lyn­parza or Clo­vis On­col­o­gy, which saw its stock price take a hit yes­ter­day over da­ta drawn from a dif­fer­ent set of ovar­i­an can­cer pa­tients. The com­pa­ny has been in­sist­ing that you can’t com­pare stud­ies, but it’s done every day. And as Clo­vis’s stock dropped 18% over the course of Fri­day, it wasn’t far­ing very well.

Pfiz­er, mean­while, plans to ad­vance their ri­val PARP drug ta­la­zoparib, new­ly ac­quired in its $14 bil­lion Medi­va­tion ac­qui­si­tion.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.
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How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

In­vestor day prep at Mer­ck in­cludes a new strat­e­gy to pick up the pace on M&A — re­port

Mer­ck’s re­cent deals to buy up two bolt-on biotechs — Ti­los and Pelo­ton — weren’t an aber­ra­tion. In­stead, both ac­qui­si­tions mark a new strat­e­gy to beef up its dom­i­nant can­cer drug op­er­a­tions cen­tered on Keytru­da while look­ing to ad­dress grow­ing con­cerns that too many of its eggs are in the one I/O bas­ket for their PD-1 pro­gram. And Mer­ck is go­ing af­ter more small- and mid-sized buy­outs to calm those fears.

John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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Right back at you, Pfiz­er: BeiGene and a Pfiz­er spin­out launch a new­co to de­vel­op a MEK/BRAF in­hibitor that could ri­val $11.4B com­bo

A day af­ter Pfiz­er bought Ar­ray and its ap­proved can­cer com­bo, BeiGene and Pfiz­er spin­out Spring­Works have part­nered in launch­ing a new biotech that has an eye on the very same mar­ket the phar­ma gi­ant just paid bil­lions for. And they’re plan­ning on us­ing an ex-Pfiz­er drug to do it.

In a nut­shell, Chi­na’s BeiGene is toss­ing in a pre­clin­i­cal BRAF in­hibitor — BGB-3245, which cov­ers both V600 and non-V600 BRAF mu­ta­tions — for a big stake in a new, joint­ly con­trolled biotech called Map­Kure with Bain-backed Spring­Works.

Sanofi aligns it­self with Google to stream­line drug de­vel­op­ment

Tech­nol­o­gy is bleed­ing in­to health­care, and big phar­ma is rid­ing the wave. Sanofi $SNY ap­point­ed its first chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer this Feb­ru­ary, fol­low­ing the foot­steps of its peers. By May, the French drug­mak­er and some of its big phar­ma com­pa­tri­ots joined forces with Google par­ent Al­pha­bet’s Ver­i­ly unit to aug­ment clin­i­cal tri­al re­search. On Tues­day, the Parisian com­pa­ny tied up with Google to ac­cess its cloud com­put­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech to spur the de­vel­op­ment of new ther­a­pies.

UP­DAT­ED: Roche fields first ap­proval for Ro­z­lytrek in the run-up to a show­down with Bay­er, Pfiz­er

While it’s wait­ing to hear back from FDA reg­u­la­tors, Roche is be­gin­ning the vic­to­ry lap for en­trec­tinib in Japan.

Roche is giv­ing Bay­er a run for their mon­ey with this tu­mor-ag­nos­tic drug, which tar­gets NTRK gene fu­sions. Now dubbed Ro­z­lytrek, it’s sanc­tioned to treat adult and pe­di­atric pa­tients in Japan with neu­rotroph­ic ty­ro­sine re­cep­tor ki­nase fu­sion-pos­i­tive, ad­vanced re­cur­rent sol­id tu­mors.

Arc­turus ex­pands col­lab­o­ra­tion, adding $30M cash; Ku­ra shoots for $100M raise

→  Rare dis­ease play­er Ul­tragenyx $RARE is ex­pand­ing its al­liance with Arc­turus $ARCT, pay­ing $24 mil­lion for eq­ui­ty and an­oth­er $6 mil­lion in an up­front as the two part­ners ex­pand their col­lab­o­ra­tion to in­clude up to 12 tar­gets. “This ex­pand­ed col­lab­o­ra­tion fur­ther so­lid­i­fies our mR­NA plat­form by adding ad­di­tion­al tar­gets and ex­pand­ing our abil­i­ty to po­ten­tial­ly treat more dis­eases,” said Emil Kakkis, the CEO at Ul­tragenyx. “We are pleased with the progress of our on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion. Our most ad­vanced mR­NA pro­gram, UX053 for the treat­ment of Glyco­gen Stor­age Dis­ease Type III, is ex­pect­ed to move in­to the clin­ic next year, and we look for­ward to fur­ther build­ing up­on the ini­tial suc­cess of this part­ner­ship.”