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.

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck pulls Keytru­da in SCLC af­ter ac­cel­er­at­ed nod. Is the FDA get­ting tough on drug­mak­ers that don't hit their marks?

In what could be an early shot in the battle against drugmakers that whiff on confirmatory studies to support accelerated approvals, the FDA ordered Bristol Myers Squibb late last year to give up Opdivo’s approval in SCLC. Now, Merck is next on the firing line — are we seeing the FDA buckling down on post-marketing offenders?

Merck has withdrawn its marketing approval for PD-(L)1 inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic small cell lung cancer as part of what it describes as an “industry-wide evaluation” by the FDA of drugs that do not meet the post-marketing checkpoints on which their accelerated nods were based, the company said Monday.

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Bob Nelsen (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

With stars aligned and cash in re­serve, Bob Nelsen's Re­silience plans a makeover at 2 new fa­cil­i­ty ad­di­tions to its drug man­u­fac­tur­ing up­start

Bob Nelsen’s new, state-of-the-art drug manufacturing initiative is taking shape.

Just 3 months after gathering $800 million of launch money, a dream team board and a plan to shake up a field where he found too many bottlenecks and inefficiencies for the era of Covid-19, Resilience has snapped up a pair of facilities now in line for a retooling.

The company has acquired a 310,000-square-foot plant in Boston from Sanofi along with a 136,000-square-foot plant in Ontario to add to a network which CEO Rahul Singhvi says is just getting started on building his company’s operations up. The Sanofi deal comes with a contract to continue manufacturing one of its drugs.

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Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (AP Images)

Pas­cal So­ri­ot cash­es in As­traZeneca’s chips on Mod­er­na for $1.2B cash in­jec­tion

While still working to prove its own Covid-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca has reportedly capitalized on the success of another.

The company has sold off its 7.7% stake in Moderna and turned it into $1.2 billion in cash, according to the Times, beefing up the reserves just as Pascal Soriot is wrapping up his $39 billion acquisition of Alexion and its rare disease pipeline.

AstraZeneca’s stock sale follows a similar move by Merck in December. But like its pharma brethren, the British giant is keeping its R&D collaborations with Moderna.

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Af­ter bail­ing on Covid-19 vac­cines, Mer­ck will team up with J&J to pro­duce its shot as part of un­usu­al Big Phar­ma pact

Merck took a big gamble when it opted to jump into the Covid-19 vaccine race late, and made an equally momentous decision to back out in late January. Now, looking to chip in on the effort, Merck reportedly agreed to team up with one of the companies that has already crossed the finish line.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday is expected to announce a partnership between drugmakers Merck and Johnson & Johnson to jointly produce J&J’s recombinant protein Covid-19 vaccine that received the FDA’s emergency use authorization Saturday, the Washington Post reported.

Ab­b­Vie tees up a biotech buy­out af­ter siz­ing up their Parkin­son's drug spun out of Ke­van Shokat's lab

AbbVie has teed up a small but intriguing biotech buyout after looking over the preclinical work it’s been doing in Parkinson’s disease.

The company is called Mitokinin, a Bay Area biotech spun out of the lab of UCSF’s Kevan Shokat, whose scientific explorations have formed the academic basis of a slew of startups in the biotech hub. One of Shokat’s PhD students in the lab, Nicholas Hertz, co-founded Mitokinin using their lab work on PINK1 suggesting that amping up its activity could play an important role in regulating the mitochondrial dysfunction contributing to Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis and progression.

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Paul Sekhri

The next big biotech su­per­star? Paul Sekhri has some thoughts on that

It occasionally occurs to Paul Sekhri that if they pull this off, his company will be on the front page of the New York Times and a lead story in just about every major news outlet on the planet. He tries not to dwell on it, though.

“I just want to be laser-focused on getting to that point,” Sekhri says, before acknowledging, “Yes, it absolutely crossed my mind.”

Sekhri, a longtime biopharma executive with tenures at Sanofi and Novartis, is now entering year three as CEO of eGenesis, the biotech that George Church protégé Luhan Yang founded to genetically alter pigs so that they can be used for organ transplants. He led them through one megaround and has just closed another, raising $125 million from 17 different investors to push the first-ever (humanized) pig to human transplants into the clinic.

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Fi­bro­Gen shares skid low­er as a sur­prise ad­comm rais­es risks on roxa OK

FibroGen will likely have to delay its US rollout for roxadustat once again.

In an unexpected move, the FDA is convening its Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee to review the NDA in an advisory committee meeting. The date is yet to be confirmed.

Just a few weeks ago, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges predicted that the roxa approval could come ahead of the PDUFA date on March 20 — effusive despite already being let down once by the FDA’s extension of its review back in December. AstraZeneca, which is partnered with FibroGen on the chronic kidney disease-related anemia drug, disclosed regulators had requested further clarifying analyses of clinical data.

In­tro­duc­ing End­pointsF­DA+, our new pre­mi­um week­ly reg­u­la­to­ry news re­port led by Zachary Bren­nan

CRLs. 483s. CBER, CDER and RWE. For biopharma professionals, these acronyms command attention because of the fundamental role FDA plays in drug development. Now Endpoints is doubling down on regulatory coverage, and launching a weekly report focusing on developments out of White Oak, with analysis and insight into what it all means.

Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan. He joins Endpoints from POLITICO, where he covered pharma. Prior to that he was the managing editor for Regulatory Focus, a news publication from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.

UP­DAT­ED: Feds clear the road for J&J to start de­liv­er­ing mil­lions of dos­es of their Covid-19 vac­cine — but frets linger about run­ner-up sta­tus

All the pieces needed to trigger a third wave of Covid-19 vaccine supply to start washing over the US fell neatly into place over the weekend.

After providing for a brief mime of regulatory judiciousness, the FDA stamped their emergency approval on J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine Saturday, adding to the Biden administration’s plan aimed at ending the pandemic in the near term — at least in the US. The CDC came through on Sunday with its stamp of approval and J&J is reportedly expected to start delivering vaccine sometime in the next few days.

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