Tesaro rock­ets up af­ter PARP in­hibitor aces PhI­II study and R&D ri­val­ry in­ten­si­fies

Tesaro’s close­ly-watched PARP in­hibitor ni­ra­parib has aced its first Phase III chal­lenge, rack­ing up a slate of promis­ing out­comes for pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival for ad­vanced, re­cur­ring ovar­i­an can­cer that will take it straight to the FDA — which has al­ready ap­proved a ri­val with much worse da­ta.

Mary Lynne Hed­ley, Tesaro Pres­i­dent & COO

“This is the first ran­dom­ized Phase III of a PARP in­hibitor to be suc­cess­ful,” says Mary Lynne Hed­ley, the pres­i­dent and COO of Waltham, MA-based Tesaro ($TSRO).

“The hope would be that fol­low­ing sub­mis­sions from the NO­VA study, we could be in a po­si­tion to launch ni­ra­parib next year,” says CEO Lon­nie Moul­der, who views the Phase III da­ta as a ma­jor mile­stone for Tesaro.

In­vestors, who watched the biotech’s shares slide 8% yes­ter­day, drove a 112% spike in the com­pa­ny’s share val­ue in pre-mar­ket trad­ing Wednes­day morn­ing. Tesaro start­ed the day with a $1.7 bil­lion mar­ket cap.

The da­ta high­light a clear im­pact for the tar­get­ed drug in a pop­u­la­tion of germline BR­CA mu­ta­tion car­ri­ers, with a me­di­an PFS of 21 months in the drug group com­pared to 5.5 months in the con­trol arm — a 15.5-month ad­van­tage.

But it al­so did bet­ter than that, sur­pris­ing some doubters in two oth­er tar­get­ed pa­tient groups.

For pa­tients who were not germline BR­CA mu­ta­tion car­ri­ers but whose tu­mors were de­ter­mined to be HRD pos­i­tive, the ni­ra­parib arm hit the pri­ma­ry end­point with a me­di­an PFS of 12.9 months com­pared to 3.8 months for the con­trol arm. And in the over­all non-germline BR­CA mu­tant co­hort, which in­clud­ed pa­tients with both HRD-pos­i­tive and HRD-neg­a­tive tu­mors, the PFS was 9.3 months for ni­ra­parib com­pared to 3.9 months for con­trol.

Lon­nie Moul­der, Tesaro CEO

“From the out­set, we’ve been quite bull­ish on the tri­al de­sign,” Moul­der added. “Peo­ple an­tic­i­pat­ed ni­ra­parib would be suc­cess­ful in germline BR­CA mu­ta­tion.” But there was some con­tro­ver­sy over what in­ves­ti­ga­tors would like­ly see in the oth­er two groups, with con­sid­er­able skep­ti­cism about the nongermline group re­gard­less of HRD sta­tus.

Run­ning the board with pos­i­tive out­comes was not ex­pect­ed.

“It’s as good as we could ever hope for,” says the CEO. “It is pret­ty com­pelling.”

To pro­vide some added con­text for the da­ta, the FDA ap­proved As­traZeneca’s Lyn­parza (ola­parib) af­ter an ad­vi­so­ry board turned their thumbs down on an ap­proval for ovar­i­an can­cer in 2014. The phar­ma gi­ant’s drug failed a Phase III study on over­all sur­vival, but the turn­around team at AZ felt they had a clear shot at an ap­proval any­way.

“This tri­al (for ola­parib) has prob­lems,” FDA can­cer chief Richard Paz­dur con­ced­ed in the pan­el dis­cus­sion at the time. If in­ves­ti­ga­tors had “pris­tine ev­i­dence of a 7-month ad­van­tage in PFS, we wouldn’t be here.”

Now ni­ra­parib takes the lead among a group of PARP in­hibitors jock­ey­ing for a lead po­si­tion in sev­er­al can­cer types, with J&J tak­ing over the de­vel­op­ment of the drug for prostate can­cer and Tesaro pur­su­ing new in­di­ca­tions for oth­er can­cer types. As­traZeneca has new da­ta com­ing out soon, but there’s al­so con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion for Medi­va­tion’s ta­la­zoparib, which Sanofi has been an­gling to snatch in a $9.3 bil­lion takeover at­tempt. (Sanofi tried and failed, in this field with ini­parib) Then there’s ru­ca­parib, Clo­vis’ newest lead drug in the wake of ro­ci’s im­plo­sion at the FDA’s doorsteps. And Ab­b­Vie has veli­parib in the clin­ic.

Clo­vis will be put to the test once again, as all the play­ers in this field look to po­si­tion them­selves in a hy­per-com­pet­i­tive field.

For Tesaro, a new drug launch for ni­ra­parib would give the biotech a sec­ond drug to mar­ket, fol­low­ing ro­lap­i­tant’s ap­proval, as it beefs up staff from 300 to about 400 em­ploy­ees.

“Next year with a ni­ra­parib launch, we’ll in­crease our com­mer­cial pres­ence 25-30%,” Moul­der told me in a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion. “Then we’ll be ful­ly scaled for mul­ti­ple prod­ucts.”

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Justin Klee (L) and Joshua Cohen, Amylyx co-CEOs (Cody O'Loughlin/The New York Times; courtesy Amylyx)

Ad­vo­cates, ex­perts cry foul over Amy­lyx's new ALS drug, cit­ing is­sues with price, PhI­II com­mit­ment

Not 24 hours after earning the first ALS drug approval in five years, Amylyx Pharmaceuticals’ Relyvrio is already drawing scrutiny. And it’s coming from multiple fronts.

In an investor call Friday morning, Amylyx revealed that it would charge about $158,000 per year, a price point that immediately drew backlash from ALS advocates and some outside observers. The cost reveal had been highly anticipated in the immediate hours after Thursday evening’s approval, though Amylyx only teased Relyvrio would cost less than previously approved drugs.

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Land­mark Amy­lyx OK spurs de­bate; Some... pos­i­tive? Alzheimer's da­ta; Can­cer tri­al bot­tle­neck; Sanofi's CRISPR bet; 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.

After brief stops in Paris and Boston, John Carroll and the Endpoints crew are staying on the road in October with their return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London. The hybrid event fireside chats and panels on mRNA, oncology and the crazy public market. We hope you can join him there.

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Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

Up­dat­ed: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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#AAO22: J&J’s first look at com­mon eye dis­ease port­fo­lio pads the case for PhII of gene ther­a­py

CHICAGO — While the later-stage drug developers in the geographic atrophy field are near the finish line, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen is taking a more deliberate route, with a treatment that it hopes to be a one-time fix.

The Big Pharma will take its Hemera Biosciences-acquired gene therapy into a Phase II study later this year in patients with GA, a common form of age-related macular degeneration that impacts about five million people worldwide. To get there, Janssen touted early-stage safety data at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual conference Saturday morning, half a day after competitors Apellis and Iveric Bio revealed their own more-detailed Phase III analyses.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Up­dat­ed: Al­ny­lam re­in­forces APOL­LO-B patisir­an da­ta be­fore head­ing to the FDA

Weeks after uncorking some mostly positive data for patisiran in transthyretin-mediated (ATTR) amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, Alnylam is bolstering its package with new exploratory and subgroup data before shipping it off to regulators.

The RNAi drug maintained “generally consistent” benefits in efficacy and quality of life across several prespecified subgroups at month 12, Alnylam announced on Friday afternoon, including age, baseline tafamidis use, ATTR amyloidosis type, baseline six-minute walk test score and others.

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Jerome Durso, Intercept Pharmaceuticals CEO

In­ter­cep­t's OCA fails a PhI­II NASH tri­al, rais­ing fresh doubts about its years­long quest for an OK

Intercept Pharmaceuticals has run into another big setback in its yearslong quest to win an approval for OCA in NASH. The biotech put out word Friday morning that its Phase III REVERSE study failed the primary endpoint for the liver disease, sending its share price into a tailspin.

There was no significant improvement in fibrosis among the patients suffering from cirrhosis who were treated with obeticholic acid, with investigators hunting for a minimum 1-stage histological improvement in the disease after 18 months of therapy.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

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