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.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data is messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data is exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Livingston, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Med scientist who helped shine a light on some of the key molecular drivers of breast and ovarian cancer, died unexpectedly last Sunday.

One of the senior leaders at Dana-Farber during his nearly half century of work there, Livingston was credited with shedding light on the genes that regulate cell growth, with insights into inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that helped lay the scientific foundation for targeted therapies and earlier detection that have transformed the field.

David Lockhart, ReCode Therapeutics CEO

Pfiz­er throws its weight be­hind LNP play­er eye­ing mR­NA treat­ments for CF, PCD

David Lockhart did not see the meteoric rise of messenger RNA and lipid nanoparticles coming.

Thanks to the worldwide fight against Covid-19, mRNA — the genetic code that can be engineered to turn the body into a mini protein factory — and LNPs, those tiny bubbles of fat carrying those instructions, have found their way into hundreds of millions of people. Within the biotech world, pioneers like Alnylam and Intellia have demonstrated just how versatile LNPs can be as a delivery vehicle for anything from siRNA to CRISPR/Cas9.

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Bris­tol My­ers pledges to sell its Ac­celeron shares as ac­tivist in­vestors cir­cle Mer­ck­'s $11.5B buy­out — re­port

Just as Avoro Capital’s campaign to derail Merck’s proposed $11.5 billion buyout of Acceleron gains steam, Bristol Myers Squibb is leaning in with some hefty counterweight.

The pharma giant is planning to tender its Acceleron shares, Bloomberg reported, which add up to a sizable 11.5% stake. Based on the offer price, the sale would net Bristol Myers around $1.3 billion.

To complete its deal, Merck needs a majority of shareholders to agree to sell their shares.

Leen Kawas (L) has resigned as CEO of Athira and will be replaced by COO Mark Litton

Ex­clu­sive: Athi­ra CEO Leen Kawas re­signs af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion finds she ma­nip­u­lat­ed da­ta

Leen Kawas, CEO and founder of the Alzheimer’s upstart Athira Pharma, has resigned after an internal investigation found she altered images in her doctoral thesis and four other papers that were foundational to establishing the company.

Mark Litton, the company’s COO since June 2019 and a longtime biotech executive, has been named full-time CEO. Kawas, meanwhile, will no longer have ties to the company except for owning a few hundred thousand shares.

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Some can­cer pa­tients now have to find oth­er op­tions as Bris­tol My­er­s' Abrax­ane falls in­to short­age from man­u­fac­tur­ing woes

When Beth Hogan, a metastatic pancreatic cancer patient, showed up for her infusion at Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven, CT on Oct. 11, she said she was informed that day that she would not be receiving Bristol Myers Squibb’s Abraxane, part of her combo treatment, because of a shortage.

“I was told we don’t know when you can have it,” she told Endpoints News via email, adding that she doesn’t expect to receive any Abraxane this coming Monday at her treatment appointment either, and she doesn’t know when things will change.

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (Credit: World Economic Forum/Valeriano Di Domenico)

Up­dat­ed: Bio­gen sells just $300K worth of Aduhelm in Q3, as ques­tions on long-term vi­a­bil­i­ty re­main

Barely anyone is accessing Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s treatment, with the company reporting just $0.3 million in Aduhelm sales in the third quarter. Although investors will be looking to the longer term, when CMS may decide to cover the drug and open the floodgates for more reimbursement, use of the drug is currently stalled.

Since June, when the FDA first signed off on the drug under its accelerated pathway, Biogen said Wednesday that it’s sold a total of $2 million worth of Aduhelm. That’s a far cry from the peak Wall Street sales estimate of about $9 billion in annual sales, and even a ways away from the sell-side consensus of about $17 million in Q3 sales.

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Eli Lil­ly or­dered to pay roy­al­ties on block­buster di­a­betes drugs, though ex­act dam­ages are un­clear

A federal court found Eli Lilly in breach of a royalty agreement with an Arizona company, likely sending the case — which deals with Lilly’s blockbuster diabetes drugs — to a trial.

The Arizona District Court ordered Lilly to pay the royalties to Tucson, AZ-based Research Corporation Technologies, per an opinion delivered Tuesday, stemming from a 1990 agreement involving materials used in manufacturing Lilly’s insulin products. Lilly had agreed to pay a 2% royalty on worldwide sales, and the exact amount of damages will be determined in a trial, Judge Scott Rash wrote.