Treve­na forges plan to take once-re­ject­ed opi­oid across fin­ish line, af­ter 'pro­duc­tive' FDA meet­ing

Tiny Treve­na may have a new lease on life for its con­tro­ver­sial opi­oid painkiller — re­ject­ed by the FDA last No­vem­ber cit­ing the dearth of drug safe­ty da­ta — fol­low­ing a scathing in­ter­nal staff cri­tique and lop­sided ex­pert pan­el re­view.

The com­pa­ny’s shares $TRVN swelled near­ly 120% on Mon­day af­ter Treve­na said the agency had agreed that the drug’s ex­ist­ing safe­ty data­base would suf­fice for a par­tic­u­lar dose of the drug — help­ing forge a path for­ward for the biotech to re­sub­mit its mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion.

The IV in­jec­tion, oliceri­dine, was de­vel­oped to help adult pa­tients man­age mod­er­ate to se­vere acute pain. It is de­signed to in­duce a sim­i­lar anal­gesic ef­fect as mor­phine, but work faster and re­duce the messy side ef­fects of se­da­tion, res­pi­ra­to­ry de­pres­sion and slow­ing gas­troin­testi­nal motil­i­ty. But mixed tri­al re­sults and gaps in safe­ty da­ta in­clud­ing QT in­ter­val da­ta — the time the heart mus­cle takes to recharge be­tween beats — prompt­ed the reg­u­la­tor to even­tu­al­ly re­ject the opi­oid in ear­ly No­vem­ber. At the time, the agency asked for a big­ger safe­ty data­base for the drug, as well as “cer­tain ad­di­tion­al non­clin­i­cal da­ta and val­i­da­tion re­ports”.

Car­rie Bour­dow

On Mon­day, Treve­na said its cur­rent safe­ty da­ta would sup­port la­bel­ing at a max­i­mum dai­ly dose of 27 mg, and that the FDA had agreed that the com­pa­ny con­duct a study (in­clud­ing place­bo- and pos­i­tive-con­trol arms) in healthy vol­un­teers to amass the re­quest­ed QT in­ter­val da­ta.

The Chester­brook, Penn­syl­va­nia-based drug de­vel­op­er in­tends to sub­mit a pro­to­col and analy­sis plan to the FDA short­ly and, up­on re­ceipt of reg­u­la­to­ry feed­back, ex­pects to ini­ti­ate the study in the first half of 2019. The com­pa­ny added it does not need any more ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta to re­sub­mit its mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion for the drug, but did not pro­vide any de­tails on when that re­sub­mis­sion could be ex­pect­ed.

CEO Car­rie Bour­dow said she was “en­cour­aged by the pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sion” with the FDA in a state­ment.

Max­ine Gowen

Back in 2016, un­der the be­hest of CEO Max­ine Gowen, Treve­na had sug­gest­ed an end-of-Phase II meet­ing with the FDA had cul­mi­nat­ed in a gen­er­al agree­ment about the Phase III de­sign for oliceri­dine, and that Gowen was “very pleased” with the dis­cus­sion. But it was on­ly last year that it was re­vealed that the FDA had in fact in­di­cat­ed oth­er­wise — the agency had dis­agreed with pro­posed dos­ing and the pri­ma­ry end­point in the late-stage pro­gram. This rev­e­la­tion prompt­ed at­tor­neys at Bern­stein Lieb­hard to ac­cuse Treve­na ex­ecs, par­tic­u­lar­ly for­mer CEO Max­ine Gowen, of mis­lead­ing in­vestors for rough­ly two years.

FDA pol­i­cy dic­tates it must not re­lease any in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ed to dis­cus­sions with drug spon­sors un­til a drug is up for re­view. Com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb had ini­tial­ly made promis­es to arm the agency to re­veal more in­for­ma­tion, for in­stance the reg­u­la­tor’s rea­son­ing be­hind is­sued CRLs, but that has not come to fruition.

Mean­while, the FDA’s ap­proval of an­oth­er opi­oid amidst a na­tion­al cri­sis of opi­oid abuse, mis­use and ad­dic­tion that kills about 130 Amer­i­cans each day will like­ly cause more fric­tion. Acel­Rx’s $ACRX ap­proval for its opi­oid Dsu­via last year sparked a flur­ry of in­tense crit­i­cism, even prompt­ing a mem­ber of the FDA’s own ex­pert pan­el to call out the agency’s at­ti­tude to­ward opi­oids as “will­ful blind­ness that bor­ders on the crim­i­nal.

A New Fron­tier: The In­ner Ear

What happens when a successful biotech venture capitalist is unexpectedly diagnosed with a chronic, life-disrupting vertigo disorder? Innovation in neurotology.

That venture capitalist was Jay Lichter, Ph.D., and after learning there was no FDA-approved drug treatment for his condition, Ménière’s disease, he decided to create a company to bring drug development to neurotology. Otonomy was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to finding new drug treatments for the hugely underserved community living with balance and hearing disorders. Helping patients like Jay has been the driving force behind Otonomy, a company heading into a transformative 2020 with three clinical trial readouts: Phase 3 in Ménière’s disease, Phase 2 in tinnitus, and Phase 1/2 in hearing loss. These catalysts, together with others in the field, highlight the emerging opportunity in neurotology.
Otonomy is leading the way in neurotology
Neurotology, or the treatment of inner ear neurological disorders, is a large and untapped market for drug developers: one in eight individuals in the U.S. have moderate-to-severe hearing loss, tinnitus or vertigo disorders such as Ménière’s disease.1 With no FDA-approved drug treatments available for these conditions, the burden on patients—including social anxiety, lower quality of life, reduced work productivity, and higher rates of depression—can be significant.2, 3, 4

Joe Jimenez, Getty

Ex-No­var­tis CEO Joe Jimenez is tak­ing an­oth­er crack at open­ing a new chap­ter in his ca­reer — and that in­cludes a new board seat and a $250M start­up

Joe Jimenez is back.

The ex-CEO of Novartis has taken a board seat on Century Therapeutics, the Versant and Bayer-backed startup focused on coming up with a brand new twist on cell therapies for cancer — a field where Jimenez made his mark backing the first personalized CAR-T approved for use.

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Can we make the an­tibi­ot­ic mar­ket great again?

The standard for-profit model in drug development is straightforward. Spend millions, even billions, to develop a medicine from scratch. The return on investment (and ideally a tidy profit) comes via volume and/or price, depending on the disease. But the string of big pharma exits and slew of biotech bankruptcies indicate that the model is sorely flawed when it comes to antibiotics.

The industry players contributing to the arsenal of antimicrobials are fast dwindling, and the pipeline for new antibiotics is embarrassingly sparse, the WHO has warned. Drugmakers are enticed by greener pastures, compared to the long, arduous and expensive path to antibiotic approval that offers little financial gain as treatments are typically priced cheaply, and often lose potency over time as microbes grow resistant to them.

Top Har­vard chemist caught up in FBI’s 'T­hou­sand Tal­ents' drag­net, ac­cused of ly­ing about Chi­nese con­nec­tions, pay

The FBI’s probe into the alleged theft of R&D secrets by Chinese authorities has drawn Harvard’s top chemist into its net.

The agency accused Charles M. Lieber, who chairs the university’s chemistry and chemical biology department, with lying about his involvement in China’s Thousand Talents campaign, which was established as a way of drawing in innovators from around the world. And the scientist, 60, was charged with making false statements about his ties to China.

The US attorneys office in Boston also announced charges against two Chinese nationals for helping the Chinese government.

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Eye­ing a trio of tri­al ini­ti­a­tions, Jim Wilson's gene ther­a­py start­up woos Bruce Gold­smith from Deer­field as CEO

Passage Bio — Jim Wilson’s self-described “legacy company” — has wooed a seasoned biotech executive to steer the clinical entry of its first three gene therapy programs.

Bruce Goldsmith jumps to the helm of Passage after a brief CEO stint at Civetta, a cancer-focused startup he helped launch while a venture partner at Deerfield. He takes over from OrbiMed partner and interim chief Stephen Squinto, who will now lead the R&D team.

The FTC and New York state ac­cuse Mar­tin Shkre­li of run­ning a drug mo­nop­oly. They plan to squash it — and per­ma­nent­ly ex­ile him

Pharma bro Martin Shkreli was jailed, publicly pilloried and forced to confront some lawmakers in Washington riled by his move to take an old generic and move the price from $17.50 per pill to $750. But through 4 years of controversy and public revulsion, his company never backed away from the price — left uncontrolled by a laissez faire federal policy on a drug’s cost.

Now the FTC and the state of New York plan to pry his fingers off the drug once and for all and open it up to some cheap competition. And their lawsuit is asking that Shkreli — with several years left on his prison sentence — be banned permanently from the pharma industry.

UP­DAT­ED: Ac­celeron res­ur­rects block­buster hopes for so­tater­cept with pos­i­tive PhII — and shares rock­et up

Acceleron $XLRN says that its first major trial readout of 2020 is a success.

In a Phase II study of 106 patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), Acceleron’s experimental drug sotatercept hit its primary endpoint: a significant reduction in pulmonary vascular resistance. The drug also met three different secondary endpoints, including the 6-minute walking test.

“We’re thrilled to report such positive topline results from the PULSAR trial,” Acceleron CEO Habib Dable said in a statement. The company said in a conference call they plan on discussing a Phase III trial design with regulators.

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Short at­tack­er Sahm Ad­ran­gi draws crosshairs over a fa­vorite of Sanofi’s new CEO — with PhII da­ta loom­ing

Sahm Adrang Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale chief Sahm Adrangi took a lengthy break from his series of biotech short attacks after his chief analyst in the field pulled up stakes and went solo. But he’s making a return to drug development this morning, drawing crosshairs over a company that’s one of new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson’s favorite collaborators.

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Amber Saltzman (Ohana)

Flag­ship's first ven­ture of 2020 is out, and it's all about sperm

A couple years ago, Amber Salzman got a call as she was returning East full-time after a two-year stint running a gene therapy company in California.

It was from someone at Flagship Pioneering, the deep-pocketed biotech venture firm. They had a new company with a new way of thinking about sperm. It had been incubating for over a year, and now they wanted her to run it.

“It exactly fit,” Salzman told Endpoints News. “I just thought I had to do something.”