Tom Lynch (Rob Tannenbaum, Endpoints News)

Tom Lynch moves to re­struc­ture Fred Hutch as acad­e­mia, in­dus­try con­tin­ue to push cell ther­a­py in­to sol­id tu­mors

By the time for­mer Bris­tol My­ers Squibb CSO Tom Lynch stepped in to run the Fred Hutch Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter last year, both the po­ten­tial and lim­its of the in­sti­tute’s pre­clin­i­cal re­search had be­come clear.

The in­sti­tute’s re­searchers, in­clud­ing famed vi­rol­o­gist Lar­ry Corey, had helped make CAR-T ther­a­pies a re­al­i­ty, con­tribut­ing ba­sic sci­ence and co-found­ing Juno Ther­a­peu­tics, the cell ther­a­py start­up Cel­gene bought out for $9 bil­lion. But while cell ther­a­pies have now proven an ef­fec­tive — even some­times cu­ra­tive — ther­a­py across mul­ti­ple blood can­cers, the ap­proach has been frus­trat­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to ap­ply to sol­id tu­mors.

Lynch is try­ing to change that. In one of his first ma­jor moves as di­rec­tor — he spent most of his first months deal­ing with the pan­dem­ic — the long­time can­cer re­searcher an­nounced plans to re­struc­ture Fred Hutch’s re­la­tion­ship with two oth­er ma­jor Seat­tle in­sti­tu­tions, Seat­tle Chil­dren’s and UW Med­i­cine, and form the Fred Hutch Can­cer Cen­ter.

The move is de­signed to ac­cel­er­ate clin­i­cal re­search. It will do so, in part, by more di­rect­ly con­nect­ing pa­tients with the new work Hutch’s trans­la­tion­al re­searchers have done on sol­id tu­mors while ex­pand­ing re­searchers’ abil­i­ties to progress in the field. Pre­vi­ous­ly, Lynch said, while many blood can­cer pa­tients were re­ferred to Fred Hutch, most pa­tients with sol­id tu­mors had been treat­ed at UW.

Now, they will be un­der one roof, where pa­tients might get bet­ter ac­cess to new dis­cov­er­ies.

“We have that [depth] cov­ered in vi­rol­o­gy, we have that cov­ered in cell ther­a­pies,” Lynch told End­points News. “We don’t have that same depth in sol­id tu­mors.”

The ex­pan­sion from one of the na­tion’s top can­cer in­sti­tutes is no­table, re­flect­ing the broad­er di­rec­tion in­dus­try and acad­e­mia have tak­en over the last cou­ple years. There are nu­mer­ous hur­dles to get­ting cell ther­a­pies for sol­id tu­mors. Most no­tably, it can be dif­fi­cult to get T cells to pen­e­trate the im­mune-sup­press­ing de­fens­es many sol­id tu­mors sur­round them­selves with. It’s al­so hard to find tar­gets on sol­id tu­mors that won’t al­so send the T cells af­ter healthy tis­sues.

And that’s just the known risks. Ear­li­er this year, one of the most watched sol­id tu­mor cell ther­a­py star­tups, Tmu­ni­ty Ther­a­peu­tics, scrapped their lead prostate can­cer pro­gram af­ter two pa­tients died from un­ex­pect­ed neu­ro­tox­i­c­i­ty.

Yet the pro­found ben­e­fits blood can­cer pa­tients have seen from cell ther­a­pies have sent re­searchers search­ing for cre­ative so­lu­tions, and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and phar­ma com­pa­nies have poured bil­lions of dol­lars in­to new ef­forts.

Lynch said the new struc­ture, which would re­place a pri­or col­lab­o­ra­tion called the Seat­tle Can­cer Care Al­liance, would “in­crease the scope” of what re­searchers such as Hans-Pe­ter Kiem, a promi­nent gene ther­a­py re­searcher, could study. In­di­vid­ual dis­cov­er­ies could be trans­lat­ed as well. He cit­ed a re­cent study from com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gist Robert Bradley show­ing that RNA ther­a­pies could help T cells — and thus cell ther­a­pies — en­ter sol­id tu­mors.

“Not in the next six months — the way we did with Covid vac­cines — but over the next five to 10 years, I think you’re go­ing to see a sig­nif­i­cant ac­cel­er­a­tion in can­cer sci­ence in pa­tients with sol­id tu­mors,” Lynch said.

Adap­tive De­sign Meth­ods Of­fer Rapid, Seam­less Tran­si­tion Be­tween Study Phas­es in Rare Can­cer Tri­als

Rare cancers account for 22 percent of cancer diagnoses worldwide, yet there is no universally accepted definition for a “rare” cancer. Moreover, with the evolution of genomics and associated changes in categorizing tumors, some common cancers are now characterized into groups of rare cancers, each with a unique implication for patient management and therapy.

Adaptive designs, which allow for prospectively planned modifications to study design based on accumulating data from subjects in the trial, can be used to optimize rare oncology trials (see Figure 1). Adaptive design studies may include multiple cohorts and multiple tumor types. In addition, numerous adaptation methods may be used in a single trial and may facilitate a more rapid, seamless transition between study phases.

Matt Gline (L) and Pete Salzmann

UP­DAT­ED: Roivant bumps stake in Im­muno­vant with a $200M deal. But with M&A off the ta­ble, shares crater

Roivant has worked out a deal to pick up a chunk of stock in its majority-owned sub Immunovant $IMVT, but the stock buy falls far short of its much-discussed thoughts about buying out all of the 43% of shares it doesn’t already own.

Roivant, which recently inked a SPAC move to the market at a $7 billion-plus valuation, has forged a deal to boost its ownership in Immunovant by 6.3 points, ending with 63.8% of the biotech’s stock following a $200 million injection. That cash will bolster Immunovant’s cash reserves, giving it a $600 million war chest to fund a slate of late-stage studies for its big drug: the anti-FcRn antibody IMVT-1401.

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Sanofi preps a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar buy­out of an mR­NA pi­o­neer af­ter falling be­hind in the race for a Covid-19 jab — re­port

It looks like Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson is dead serious about his intention to vault directly into contention for the future of mRNA vaccines.

A year after paying Translate Bio a whopping $425 million in an upfront and equity payment to help guide the pharma giant to the promised land of mRNA vaccines for Covid-19, Sanofi is reportedly ready to close the deal with a buyout.

Translate’s stock $TBIO soared 78% after the market closed Monday. A spokesperson for Sanofi declined to comment on the report, telling Endpoints News that the company doesn’t comment on market rumors.

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Alan Hirzel, Abcam

Drug sup­pli­er Ab­cam brings a long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor in house as part of $340M buy­out pact

BioVision has supplied Abcam with research tools since 1999, and now the two are making it official as part of a merger unveiled Monday.

Abcam will buyout BioVision as part of a $340 million acquisition deal to bring aboard the supplier’s biochemical and cell-based assays for biological research, as well as recombinant proteins, antibodies and enzymes.

The deal will give Abcam control of BioVision’s portfolio and allow for both the expansion of research existing areas of focus such as oncology, neuroscience and epigenetics and preparation to expand into new products. As a part of the deal, Abcam will develop and supply products and services to NKY, the previous owner of BioVision and receive support for ongoing development and commercialization of in vitro diagnostic products.

Tib­so­vo clears an­oth­er hur­dle for Servi­er, but can it make Agios' old drug prof­itable?

When European regulators saw the data Agios used to win US approval for their AML drug Tibsovo, they sent the more than decade-old biotech back to the drawing board. A single, single-armed trial was not going to cut it.

On Monday, though, the drug’s new owners announced it had cleared a more rigorous study. In a randomized, Phase III trial of certain newly diagnosed patients, those who received a combination of Tibsovo and chemotherapy lived longer than those who received a combination of placebo and chemotherapy. Those patients also had higher response rates and complete remission rates.

UP­DAT­ED: Watch out Glax­o­SmithK­line: As­traZeneca's once-failed lu­pus drug is now ap­proved

Capping a roller coaster journey, AstraZeneca has steered its lupus drug anifrolumab across the finish line.

Saphnelo, as the antibody will be marketed, is the only treatment that’s been approved for systemic lupus erythematosus since GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta clinched an OK in 2011. The British drugmaker notes it’s also the first to target the type I interferon receptor.

Mirroring the population that the drug was tested on in late-stage trials, regulators sanctioned it for patients with moderate to severe cases who are already receiving standard therapy — setting up a launch planned for the end of August, according to Ruud Dobber, who’s in charge of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceuticals business unit.

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Not all mR­NA vac­cines are cre­at­ed equal. Does it mat­ter?; Neu­ro is back; Pri­vate M&A af­fair; 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.

As part of our broader and deeper drive, Endpoints has been pairing webinars with our special reports to cover more angles on a given topic. In conjunction with Max Gelman’s neuroscience feature, Kyle Blankenship moderated an insightful panel to discuss where the field is headed. You can register to watch it on demand here.

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Bris­tol My­ers pulls lym­phoma in­di­ca­tion for Is­to­dax af­ter con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al falls flat

Amid an industrywide review of cancer drugs with accelerated approval, Bristol Myers Squibb had to make the tough call last month to yank an approval for leading I/O drug Opdivo after flopping a confirmatory study. Now, a second Bristol Myers drug is on the chopping block.

Bristol Myers has pulled aging HDAC inhibitor Istodax’s indication in peripheral T cell lymphoma after a Phase III confirmatory study for the drug flopped on its progression-free survival endpoint, the drugmaker said Monday.

Rick Pazdur (via AACR)

FDA's on­col­o­gy head Rick Paz­dur de­fends the ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval path­way, claim­ing it is 'un­der at­tack'

The FDA is sounding the alarm over its accelerated approval pathway as backlash continues over the recent nod in favor of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, and an ODAC meeting on six such approvals that could potentially be pulled from the market — two of which already have.

“Do you think accelerated approval is under attack? I do,” Rick Pazdur, head of FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, said at a Friends of Cancer Research webinar on Thursday.

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