Third time the charm? An­a­lyst says a mar­ket­ing de­ci­sion is “im­mi­nent” for Sarep­ta’s Duchenne drug eteplirsen

Every­thing that hap­pens at Sarep­ta – re­al or imag­ined – is grounds for de­bate and ram­pant spec­u­la­tion on Twit­ter. So it’s no sur­prise that when Baird an­a­lyst Bri­an Sko­r­ney is­sued a note late last week say­ing that the FDA’s de­ci­sion on Sarep­ta’s con­tro­ver­sial drug eteplirsen is “im­mi­nent,” the on­line ker­fuf­fle that fol­lowed in­clud­ed plen­ty of taunts, tantrums and tears.

Some nec­es­sary back­ground: Sarep­ta’s NDA for eteplirsen has fa­mous­ly been de­layed twice. The first de­lay came af­ter FDA in­sid­ers round­ly crit­i­cized the drug for fail­ing to show signs of ef­fi­ca­cy. The sec­ond came with their sec­ond sal­vo that took apart Sarep­ta’s coun­ter­at­tack on a point-by-point ba­sis. Both re­views cas­ti­gat­ed the biotech for fail­ing to heed re­peat­ed ad­vice on run­ning a big­ger, bet­ter study. And then there was an ex­pert pan­el vote against an ap­proval, based on the agency’s over­whelm­ing­ly neg­a­tive view.

For any oth­er drug at any oth­er com­pa­ny, that would have been it. The CRO let­ter would have been a fore­gone con­clu­sion.

But that’s not Sarep­ta ($SRPT).

The com­pa­ny – which care­ful­ly in­te­grat­ed the full-throat­ed sup­port of the pa­tient com­mu­ni­ty with some of the most in­flu­en­tial ad­vo­cates in DC — has de­fied re­peat­ed fore­casts of a like­ly re­jec­tion on­ly to be giv­en an­oth­er chance. Their third chance has come in the form of an FDA re­quest for biop­sy in­for­ma­tion on 13 pa­tients. And the gen­er­al be­lief is that if the com­pa­ny can of­fer bio­mark­er ev­i­dence that the drug is pro­duc­ing the dy­s­trophin these boys lack, the agency will go ahead with an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval.

Bri­an Sko­r­ney, Baird an­a­lyst

“We be­lieve that right now, some­one, whether at Sarep­ta or the FDA, is look­ing at base­line and 48-week West­ern blots for 13 PRO­MOVI pa­tients,” Sko­r­ney not­ed. “At this point, we think the de­ci­sion should be pret­ty cut and dry: if the base­line blots show no band, and the vast ma­jor­i­ty of the 48-week blots show a (dy­s­trophin) band, we pre­dict a rapid ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for eteplirsen.”

Es­sen­tial­ly, the FDA has been cre­at­ing a new ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval path­way for drugs that stir wide­spread sup­port tied to per­sis­tent lob­by­ing ef­forts. Whether they give Sarep­ta a green light now or not, few biotechs – es­pe­cial­ly in rare, lethal dis­eases – will ig­nore the role of a pas­sion­ate and mo­ti­vat­ed pa­tient pop­u­la­tion in gar­ner­ing spe­cial reg­u­la­to­ry con­sid­er­a­tion for their treat­ment.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing will be the fo­cus on plen­ty more out­raged Tweets in the days, months and years ahead.

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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#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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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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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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Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.