Three years lat­er the FDA fi­nal­ly lifts its hold on Ap­tose drug, set­ting the stage for a re­turn to PhIb

Af­ter an al­most three-year halt im­posed by a clin­i­cal hold, Ap­tose Bio­sciences can fi­nal­ly re­sume the Phase Ib tri­al for its MYC in­hibitor.

The San Diego-based biotech $AP­TO ex­plained to­day that the clin­i­cal hold on the tri­al of AP­TO-253 was a con­se­quence of an event re­lat­ed to the in­fu­sion pro­ce­dure, which — a root cause in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­ter­mined — re­sult­ed from “chem­istry and man­u­fac­tur­ing based is­sues.” All of them have now been in­cor­po­rat­ed in an amend­ment to the IND ap­pli­ca­tion.

Giv­en the long drought of good news, in­vestors ap­pear pleased with the an­nounce­ment, send­ing the share price up 18% to $4.48 in pre-mar­ket trad­ing.

William Rice

Ap­tose gave AP­TO-253 to the first pa­tient back in Jan­u­ary 2015 in a dose-es­ca­la­tion study in­volv­ing two types of blood can­cers: re­lapsed or re­frac­to­ry acute myeloid leukemia and high risk myelodys­plas­tic syn­dromes, with up to 15 pa­tients in each group. Not­ing the in­fu­sion prob­lem at a pre­lim­i­nary re­view, the com­pa­ny sus­pend­ed the tri­al in No­vem­ber be­fore the FDA came down with the hold.

“We are ea­ger to re­turn AP­TO-253 back in­to the clin­ic,” said William Rice, chair­man, pres­i­dent and CEO, in a state­ment. “Our un­der­stand­ing of this mol­e­cule has evolved dra­mat­i­cal­ly, and we are ex­cit­ed to de­liv­er a MYC gene ex­pres­sion in­hibitor to pa­tients with de­bil­i­tat­ing hema­to­log­ic ma­lig­nan­cies.”

While clear­ing things with the FDA these past few years, Rice pre­vi­ous­ly said, Ap­tose has been at work clar­i­fy­ing the mech­a­nism of the drug (still its most ad­vanced), in­clud­ing how it in­hibits the ex­pres­sion of the tu­mor growth pro­mot­ing onco­gene MYC. And in light of re­cent da­ta, they may al­so pur­sue pa­tients with B-cell ma­lig­nan­cies in fur­ther stud­ies.

Once screen­ing and dos­ing re­sume, up to 15 clin­i­cal cen­ters are ex­pect­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the tri­al.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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FDA de­lays de­ci­sion on No­var­tis’ po­ten­tial block­buster MS drug, wip­ing away pri­or­i­ty re­view

So much for a speedy review.

In February, Novartis announced that an application for their much-touted multiple sclerosis drug ofatumumab had been accepted and, with the drug company cashing in on one of their priority review vouchers, the agency was due for a decision by June.

But with June less than 48 hours old, Novartis announced the agency has extended their review, pushing back the timeline for approval or rejection to September. The Swiss pharma filed the application in December, meaning their new schedule will be nearly in line with the standard 10-month window period had they not used the priority voucher.

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Bris­tol-My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na read­ies to en­ter PhI­II in Ju­ly, As­traZeneca not far be­hind; EU ready to ne­go­ti­ate vac­cine ac­cess with $2.7B fund

Moderna may soon add another first to the Covid-19 vaccine race.

In March, the mRNA biotech was the first company to put a Covid-19 vaccine into humans. Next month, they may become the first company to put their vaccine into the large, late-stage trials that are needed to prove whether the vaccine is effective.

In an interview with JAMA editor Howard Bauchner, NIAID chief Anthony Fauci said that a 30,000-person, Phase III trial for Moderna’s vaccine could start in July. The news comes a week after Moderna began a Phase II study that will enroll several hundred people.

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José Basel­ga finds promise in new class of RNA-mod­i­fy­ing can­cer tar­gets, lock­ing in 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams with $55M

Having dived early into some of the RNA breakthroughs of the last decades — betting on Moderna’s mRNA tech and teaming up with Silence on the siRNA front — AstraZeneca is jumping into a new arena: going after proteins that modify RNA.

Their partner of choice is Accent Therapeutics, which is receiving $55 million in upfront payment to steer a selected preclinical program through to the end of Phase I. After AstraZeneca takes over, the Lexington, MA-based startup has the option to co-develop and co-commercialize in the US — and collect up to $1.1 billion in milestones in the long run. The deal also covers two other potential drug candidates.

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UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.