Treve­na ham­mered again as the FDA spurns their con­tro­ver­sial pain drug — but Acel­Rx gets a green light

The FDA ev­i­dent­ly man­aged to sur­prise the die-hard sup­port­ers of Treve­na to­day by re­ject­ing their con­tro­ver­sial pain drug oliceri­dine — send­ing their shares $TRVN down 34% in a deep plunge in­to pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry.

Ac­cord­ing to the biotech — which gets to out­line what the agency is de­mand­ing ahead of its next re­view — the FDA is de­mand­ing a lot more safe­ty da­ta. That in­cludes more da­ta on QT pro­lon­ga­tion and a big­ger safe­ty data­base for the drug. The “FDA al­so re­quest­ed cer­tain ad­di­tion­al non­clin­i­cal da­ta and val­i­da­tion re­ports.”

Max­ine Gowen, ex-CEO of Treve­na

The FDA wasn’t say­ing no to every new pain drug, though, de­spite its con­cerns about the opi­oid epi­dem­ic that has spurred alarm from coast to coast. Acel­Rx came up with their long-await­ed ap­proval for Dsu­via (ARX-04), dri­ving the stock $ACRX up 16%.

Their drug won a lop­sided pan­el re­view vote, but still drew flak as crit­ics pounced on the in­tro­duc­tion of an­oth­er pow­er­ful pain med that could be ripe for abuse. In a state­ment, FDA chief Scott Got­tlieb coun­tered his crit­ics by not­ing the need for a non-IV opi­oid as well as the de­fense de­part­ment’s de­mand for a ther­a­py that would be ben­e­fi­cial on the bat­tle­field.

Treve­na plans to con­tin­ue to plug along in search of an OK, but the pen­ny stock price in­di­cates the fierce head­winds they face af­ter the agency’s in­ter­nal re­view of­fered a harsh as­sess­ment of the drug’s safe­ty and mixed ef­fi­ca­cy re­sults.

A pan­el re­view fol­lowed up with a vote against ap­proval, of­fer­ing all the writ­ing on the wall need­ed for most an­a­lysts.

Treve­na still faces ac­cu­sa­tions that the com­pa­ny mis­led in­vestors about their in­ter­ac­tions with the FDA over their de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

At­tor­neys at Bern­stein Lieb­hard ac­cused Treve­na ex­ecs, specif­i­cal­ly ex-CEO Max­ine Gowen — who stepped down a few days ago — of mis­lead­ing in­vestors about an end-of-Phase II meet­ing with the FDA. At the time, they not­ed, Gowen said in a May 2, 2016 re­lease that she was “very pleased” with the out­come of its dis­cus­sions with the FDA about oliceri­dine (TRV130) and that they had reached a gen­er­al agree­ment about the Phase III de­sign. The agency, though, out­lined some deep prob­lems the FDA had with that study in their re­view of the drug.

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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San Diego cou­ple charged with steal­ing trade se­crets, open­ing Chi­nese biotech as DOJ crack­down con­tin­ues

A San Diego couple has been charged with stealing trade secrets from a US hospital and opening a business based off those secrets in China as the controversial industry-wide crackdown on alleged corporate espionage continues. On the same day, the Department of Justice announced they had arrested Beijing representative Zhongsan Liu for allegedly trying to obtain research visas for government recruiters.

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Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

UP­DAT­ED: Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time Monday morning the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation of a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month. In a followup call, Dunsire also noted that the company will likely need 200 to 250 reps for this marketing task on both sides of the Atlantic. And analysts were quick to note that the dealmaking at Lundbeck isn’t done, with another $2 billion to $3 billion available for more deals to beef up the pipeline.

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Tower Bridge in London [Shutterstock]

#UK­BIO19: Join GSK’s Hal Bar­ron and a group of top biotech ex­ecs for our 2nd an­nu­al biotech sum­mit in Lon­don

Over the past 10 years I’ve made a point of getting to know the Golden Triangle and the special role the UK biopharma industry plays there in drug development. The concentration of world class research institutes, some of the most accomplished scientists I’ve ever seen at work and a rising tide of global investment cash leaves an impression that there’s much, much more to come as biotech hubs are birthed and nurtured.

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen pulls the plug on prized IPF drug from $562M+ Stromedix buy­out

One of Biogen’s attempts to branch out has flopped as the biotech scraps a mid-stage program for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

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Warts for the win: Aclar­is' lead drug clears piv­otal study

Aclaris Therapeutics has found a way to get rid of the warts and all.

The company — which earlier this month decided to focus on its arsenal of kinase inhibitors — on Monday unveiled positive data from a pivotal study testing its lead experimental drug for use in common warts.

The drug, A-101, was tested in a 502-patient study called THWART-2 — patients enrolled had one to six warts before qualifying for the trial. Patients either self-administered A-101 topical solution or a vehicle twice a week over a two-month period. A higher proportion of patients on the drug (a potent hydrogen peroxide topical solution) saw their warts disappear at day 60, versus the vehicle (p<0.0001) — meeting the main goal of the study.  Each secondary endpoint also emerged in favor of A-101, the company said.

Charles Nichols, LSU School of Medicine

Could psy­che­delics tack­le the obe­si­ty cri­sis? A long­time re­searcher in the field says his lat­est mouse study sug­gests po­ten­tial

Psychedelics have experienced a renaissance in recent years amid a torrent of preclinical and clinical research suggesting it might provide a path to treat mood disorders conventional remedies have only scraped at. Now a preclinical trial from a young biotech suggests at least one psychedelic compound has effects beyond the mind, and — if you believe the still very, very early hype — could provide the first single remedy for some of the main complications of obesity.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Ac­celeron drops a de­vel­op­ment pro­gram as #2 drug fails to spark func­tion­al ben­e­fits in pa­tients with a rare neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ail­ment

Acceleron is scrapping a muscular dystrophy development program underway for its number 2 drug in the pipeline after pouring over some failed mid-stage secondary data.

Gone is the ACE-083 project in patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Their drug hit the primary endpoint on building muscle but flopped on key secondaries for functional improvements in patients, which execs felt was vital to the drug’s success.