Ve­rastem wins break­through nod for com­bo ther­a­py in ovar­i­an can­cer; EMA picks up speedy re­view of Bio­Mar­in's gene ther­a­py

Ve­rastem has earned the FDA’s break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion for its nov­el RAF/MEK in­hibitor VS-6766 as a com­bo ther­a­py with in-house FAK in­hibitor de­fac­tinib to treat sec­ond-line, re­cur­rent low-grade serous ovar­i­an can­cer re­gard­less of KRAS mu­tant sta­tus, the com­pa­ny said Mon­day.

The com­bi­na­tion is be­ing test­ed in the in­ves­ti­ga­tor-ini­ti­at­ed Phase I/II FRAME tri­al, where ear­ly re­sults showed an ORR of 52% with KRAS mu­tant ORR at 70%, KRAS wild-type ORR at 44%, and KRAS sta­tus un­de­ter­mined ORR at 0%. The most com­mon side ef­fects seen in the study were rash, cre­a­tine ki­nase el­e­va­tion, nau­sea, hy­per­biliru­bine­mia and di­ar­rhea.

Ve­rastem’s drug takes a nov­el dual-tar­get ap­proach to the RAS path­way, which is im­pli­cat­ed in can­cer re­cur­rence with about 30% of all can­cer tu­mors ex­press­ing mu­tant RAS.

Ve­rastem is al­so test­ing the VS-6766 alone and com­bi­na­tion with de­fac­tinib as part of the phase II reg­is­tra­tion RAMP 201 study. — Kyle Blanken­ship

EMA grants Bio­Marin’s re­quest for a speedy re­view of gene ther­a­py

The Eu­ro­pean Med­i­cines Agency will speed­i­ly re­view Bio­Marin’s val­oc­toco­gene rox­a­parvovec, a gene ther­a­py to treat se­vere he­mo­phil­ia A, with an opin­ion ex­pect­ed in the first half of next year, the com­pa­ny said.

With the EMA agree­ing to give the ther­a­py a clos­er look, Bio­Marin said it plans to sub­mit an as­so­ci­at­ed mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion by June, based on piv­otal Phase III da­ta that in­cludes one-year fol­low-up re­sults as well as four and three years of fol­low-up from an on­go­ing Phase I/II dose es­ca­la­tion study.

Mean­while, Bio­Marin al­so ex­pects to sub­mit two-year fol­low-up safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta from that Phase III test to the FDA, with a po­ten­tial re­sub­mis­sion of its ap­pli­ca­tion sched­uled for Q2 2022.

The FDA shot down Bio­Marin’s ap­pli­ca­tion for the ther­a­py back in Au­gust, cit­ing the need to see that two-year fol­low-up da­ta. — Kyle Blanken­ship

Francesco De Ru­ber­tis’ lega­cy play Centes­sa sets terms for $285M IPO

Ahead of an ex­pect­ed IPO lat­er this week, Centes­sa is set­ting terms for what it hopes is a mas­sive raise.

The com­pa­ny ex­pects to see $285 mil­lion come in with the raise, of­fer­ing 15 mil­lion shares at a price range of $18 to $20. At the mid­point of that range, Centes­sa would have a mar­ket val­ue of about $1.8 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal.

Centes­sa comes from the mind of Francesco De Ru­ber­tis, mak­ing a lega­cy play for a 10-in-1 hold­ing com­pa­ny. His vi­sion re­volves around tak­ing the as­set-cen­tric mind­set that he’s been preach­ing at Medicxi over the years and rolling up a bunch of biotech up­starts in­to one out­fit.

They’ll be go­ing for­ward with­out Mon­cef Slaoui, the for­mer GSK ex­ec and Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief fol­low­ing a “sub­stan­ti­at­ed” sex­u­al ha­rass­ment case for which he sub­se­quent­ly apol­o­gized. — Max Gel­man

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Dipal Doshi, Entrada Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex just found the next big ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ thing for the pipeline — at a biotech just down the street

Back in the summer of 2019, when I was covering Vertex’s executive chairman Jeff Leiden’s plans for the pipeline, I picked up on a distinct focus on myotonic dystrophy Type I, or DM1 — one of what Leiden called “two diseases (with DMD) we’re interested in and we continue to look for those assets.”

Today, Leiden’s successor at the helm of Vertex, CEO Reshma Kewalramani, is plunking down $250 million in cash to go the extra mile on DM1. The lion’s share of that is for the upfront, with a small reserve for equity in a deal that lines Vertex up with a neighbor in Seaport that has been rather quietly going at both of Vertex’s early disease targets with preclinical assets.

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WIB22: Am­ber Salz­man had few op­tions when her son was di­ag­nosed with a rare ge­net­ic dis­ease. So she cre­at­ed a bet­ter one

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

Amber Salzman’s life changed on a cold, damp day in Paris over tiny plastic cups of lukewarm tea.

She was meeting with Patrick Aubourg, a French neurologist studying adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, a rare genetic condition that causes rapid neurological decline in young boys. It’s a sinister disease that often leads to disability or death within just a few years. Salzman’s nephew was diagnosed at just 6 or 7 years old, and died at the age of 12.

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Ahead of ad­comm, FDA rais­es un­cer­tain­ties on ben­e­fit-risk pro­file of Cy­to­ki­net­ic­s' po­ten­tial heart drug

The FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss whether Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug can safely reduce the risk of cardiovascular death and heart failure in patients with symptomatic chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil and in development for more than 15 years, has seen mixed results, with a first Phase III readout from November 2020 hitting the primary endpoint of reducing the odds of hospitalization or other urgent care for heart failure by 8%. But it also missed a key secondary endpoint analysts had pegged as key to breaking into the market.

Ab­b­Vie slapped with age dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit, fol­low­ing oth­er phar­mas

Add AbbVie to the list of pharma companies currently facing age discrimination allegations.

Pennsylvania resident Thomas Hesch filed suit against AbbVie on Wednesday, accusing the company of passing him over for promotions in favor of younger candidates.

Despite 30 years of pharma experience, “Hesch has consistently seen younger, less qualified employees promoted over him,” the complaint states.

Rami Elghandour, Arcellx CEO

Up­dat­ed: Gilead, Ar­cel­lx team up on an­ti-BC­MA CAR-T as biotech touts a 100% re­sponse rate at #ASH22

Gilead and Kite are plunking down big cash to get into the anti-BCMA CAR-T game.

The pair will shell out $225 million in cash upfront and $100 million in equity to Arcellx, Kite announced Friday morning, to develop the biotech’s lead CAR-T program together. Kite will handle commercialization and co-development with Arcellx, and profits in the US will be split 50-50.

Concurrent with the deal, Arcellx revealed its latest cut of data for the program known as CART-ddBCMA, ahead of a full presentation at this weekend’s ASH conference — a 100% response rate among patients getting the therapy. Investors jumped at the dual announcements, sending Arcellx shares $ACLX up more than 25% in Friday’s morning session.

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WIB22: Lead­ing NK cell re­searcher re­flects on roots in Iran, the UK and Texas

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

In a small but widely-cited 11-person study published in NEJM in 2020, seven patients saw signs of their cancer completely go away after getting a new therapy made from natural killer cells. The study was one of the earliest to provide clinical proof that the experimental treatment method had promise.

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WIB22: Chas­ing af­ter ever-evolv­ing sci­ence takes a drug hunter across the pond

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

Like many scientists, Fiona Marshall would tell you that she loved the natural world growing up — going to look at crabs running around the beach near her childhood home, pondering about the tides. But one thing about biology, in particular, stood out: It was constantly changing, and changing very quickly.

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Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (UKBIO19)

Au­to­lus tips its hand, bags $220M as CAR-T show­down with Gilead looms

The first batch of pivotal data on Autolus Therapeutics’ CAR-T is in, and execs are ready to plot a path to market.

With an overall remission rate of 70% at the interim analysis featuring 50 patients, the results set the stage for a BLA filing by the end of 2023, said CEO Christian Itin.

Perhaps more importantly — given that Autolus’ drug, obe-cel, is going after an indication that Gilead’s Tecartus is already approved for — the biotech highlighted “encouraging safety data” in the trial, with a low percentage of patients experiencing severe immune responses.