Vivek Ra­maswamy’s Urovant claims a big win in PhI­II — but ques­tions linger about a cheap gener­ic and their brand­ed ri­val

Af­ter the great Ax­o­vant im­plo­sion that swept away its high­ly tout­ed Alzheimer’s drug, Roivant chief Vivek Ra­maswamy need­ed one of the biotechs in his fast-grow­ing league of drug de­vel­op­ers to win a big Phase III tri­al. Based on to­day’s top-line re­lease for Urovant’s Phase III uri­nary in­con­ti­nence drug vibegron, the team is claim­ing that vic­to­ry and prep­ping an ap­pli­ca­tion for the FDA.

But there are some lin­ger­ing ques­tions about the cheap gener­ic that was used as an ac­tive com­para­tor in the study, and it’s dri­ving the biotech’s stock in­to the red Tues­day morn­ing.

Urovant’s drug hit sta­tis­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance for both co-pri­ma­ry end­points and all 7 sec­on­daries when com­pared against a place­bo. But the drug was al­so test­ed along­side an old gener­ic drug called toltero­dine. And there the re­search showed that vibegron “achieved nu­mer­i­cal­ly bet­ter ef­fi­ca­cy that toltero­dine.”

In the slide show pre­sen­ta­tion this morn­ing, the com­pa­ny went on to il­lus­trate the specifics of the com­para­tor arms ver­sus place­bo, but re­searchers did not run a p val­ue for the Urovant drug against the gener­ic. But they were rel­a­tive­ly close, as you can see here:

Source: Urovant

Urovant’s drug cut in­stances of in­con­ti­nence by 2 from a base­line of 3.43, achiev­ing a clear win over the 1.4 drop in the place­bo arm. Toltero­dine, though, came much clos­er at 1.8. Both drugs beat the place­bo with sta­tis­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

For uri­na­tion fre­quen­cy, there was a sim­i­lar spread. The place­bo arm hit a drop of 1.3, with a neg­a­tive 1.8 for vibegron and -1.6 for toltero­dine. Vibegron hit sta­tis­ti­cal dif­fer­ence ver­sus place­bo, toltero­dine did not. But there was no di­rect com­par­i­son of the ex­per­i­men­tal drug and the cheap place­bo.

In their an­nounce­ment back in 2012, Astel­las post­ed these re­spons­es for Myr­be­triq.

Myr­be­triq 25 mg, in­con­ti­nence episodes were re­duced by 1.36 episodes from a base­line of 2.65, a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion of 0.40 vs. place­bo in 12 weeks. The num­ber of uri­na­tions was re­duced by 1.65 uri­na­tions from a base­line of 11.68, a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion of 0.47 vs. place­bo in 12 weeks.

Myr­be­triq 50 mg, in­con­ti­nence episodes were re­duced by 1.49 episodes from a base­line of 2.71, a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion of 0.40 vs. place­bo in 12 weeks.  Num­ber of uri­na­tions was re­duced by 1.75 uri­na­tions from a base­line of 11.70, a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion of 0.55 vs. place­bo in 12 weeks.

You can be sure that an­a­lysts will al­so be fill­ing in the blanks by ex­trap­o­lat­ing the head-to-head com­par­isons them­selves.

Urovant’s pitch is built around demon­strat­ing a bet­ter safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy pro­file than the an­ti­cholin­er­gics — like toltero­dine, where there’s been a link with de­men­tia — and the block­buster drug Myr­be­triq (mirabegron), which was launched by Astel­las back in 2012. Vibegron is a be­ta-3 drug, like Myr­be­triq, which is backed by patents that ex­pire in 2023 — about 3 years af­ter Urovant could ex­pect an ap­proval.

Giv­en that this drug is in­tend­ed for a mass mar­ket with mil­lions of pa­tients, teas­ing out the specifics of how a new, brand­ed drug com­pares to well es­tab­lished mar­ket­ed drugs would be cru­cial to its longterm suc­cess or fail­ure on the mar­ket. 

Biren Amin

Urovant, which has a mar­ket cap of $442 mil­lion, is let­ting it all ride on this Phase III. Ra­maswamy nabbed the drug from Mer­ck with a small, $25 mil­lion up­front — one of a slate of deals he struck ear­ly on as he grabbed ther­a­pies that had been side­lined at the ma­jors and aimed them for quick cat­a­lysts.

Big gam­ble? Jef­feries’ Biren Amin not­ed that a clear win here would be worth a 100% spike in the stock, with a neg­a­tive out­come elim­i­nat­ing up to half of its mar­ket cap.

That’s not what hap­pened, though. Af­ter pop­ping up 20% be­fore the bell, the stock turned south, plung­ing to a mi­nus 17% as in­vestors tried to sort out the re­sults for them­selves.


Im­age: Vivek Ra­maswamy at the US-Chi­na Bio­phar­ma In­no­va­tion & In­vest­ment Sum­mit, 2018. PHARM­CUBE, END­POINTS

UP­DAT­ED: A small, ob­scure biotech just won big with their IPO. In this mar­ket. Are you kid­ding me?

How could a small, largely unknown biotech that emerged from stealth mode just months ago with early-stage cancer programs jump onto Wall Street in the middle of a Category 6 financial hurricane and sail through with a $165 million IPO?

And what does that mean for the rest of the industry waiting to see just how much damage global lockdowns will wreak on clinical development?

The biotech is a company called Zentalis. The crew there nabbed an $85 million crossover round late last year — notably waiting 5 years before waving the numbers around to attract attention, according to my read of a FierceBiotech story. Perceptive joined in, but the syndicate was not in general the kind of marquee affair that gets tongues wagging.

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Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day attends a meeting with the President and other biopharma leaders at the White House on March 2, 2020 (AP Photo)

Ramp­ing up glob­al pro­duc­tion of remde­sivir, Gilead CEO Dan O’Day de­tails plans to dis­trib­ute 1.5M dos­es to fight Covid-19 — for free

Gilead is still some days away from turning the card on its first round of data on remdesivir’s ability to fight severe cases of Covid-19, but the big biotech is ramping up an emergency supply of a million courses of therapy as it starts free distribution of the drug to tens of thousands of patients under their compassionate use and expanded access program as well as clinical trials.

In his latest open letter posted over the weekend, Gilead CEO Dan O’Day outlined how the company has been successful in cutting production time on remdesivir while repurposing some of their own facilities and turning to contract manufacturers to build a near-term supply of 1.5 million doses. They are still working on efficacy and dosing, but that supply could cover 140,000 courses of treatment. That supply, he added, would be more widely available following a potential approval.

Bob Nelsen at the Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH chief Bob Nelsen has $1.5B to prove 2 sim­ple points: ‘We’re in the most in­no­v­a­tive time ever’ and in­vestors are stay­ing

ARCH co-founder and managing director Bob Nelsen has a well known yen for the home run swing, betting big on potentially transformative meds and tech and the biotech teams he helps bring together. He thrives and bleeds on the cutting edge. And now Nelsen and the ARCH group have debuted 2 big funds to prove that this is the time for the best of biotech to shine — deadly pandemic be damned.

Two new funds, ARCH Venture Fund X and ARCH Venture Fund X Overage, gathered a combined $1.46 billion. And that’s a record. ARCH Venture Fund IX and ARCH Venture Fund IX Overage closed in 2016 with a combined $1.1 billion. ARCH Venture Fund VIII and ARCH Venture Fund VIII Overage closed in 2014 with a combined $560 million.

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Have a new drug that promis­es to fight Covid-19? The FDA promis­es fast ac­tion but some de­vel­op­ers aren't hap­py

After providing an emergency approval to use malaria drugs against coronavirus with little actual evidence of their efficacy or safety in that setting, the FDA has already proven that it has set aside the gold standard when it comes to the pandemic. And now regulators have spelled out a new approach to speeding development that promises immediate responses in no uncertain terms — promising a program offering the ultimate high-speed pathway to Covid-19 drug approvals.

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Once fu­ri­ous over No­var­tis’ da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion scan­dal, the FDA now says it’s noth­ing they need to take ac­tion on

Back in the BP era — Before Pandemic — the FDA ripped Novartis for its decision to keep the agency in the dark about manipulated data used in its application for Zolgensma while its marketing application for the gene therapy was under review.

Civil and criminal sanctions were being discussed, the agency noted in a rare broadside at one of the world’s largest pharma companies. Notable lawmakers cheered the angry regulators on, urging the FDA to make an example of Novartis, which fielded Zolgensma at $2.1 million — the current record for a one-off therapy.

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Covid-19 roundup: GSK, Am­gen tai­lor R&D work to fit the coro­n­avirus age; Doud­na's ge­nomics crew launch­es di­ag­nos­tic lab

You can add Amgen and GSK to the list of deep-pocket drug R&D players who are tailoring their pipeline work to fit a new age of coronavirus.

Following in the footsteps of a lineup of big players like Eli Lilly — which has suspended patient recruitment for drug studies — Amgen and GSK have opted to take a more tailored approach. Amgen is intent on circling the wagons around key studies that are already fully enrolled, and GSK has the red light on new studies while the pandemic plays out.

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In a stun­ning set­back, Amarin los­es big patent fight over Vas­cepa IP. And its high-fly­ing stock crash­es to earth

Amarin’s shares $AMRN were blitzed Monday evening, losing billions in value as reports spread that the company had lost its high-profile effort to keep its Vascepa patents protected from generic drugmakers.

Amarin had been fighting to keep key patents under lock and key — and away from generic rivals — for another 10 years, but District Court Judge Miranda Du in Las Vegas ruled against the biotech. She ruled that:
(A)ll the Asserted Claims are invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C.§ 103. Thus, the Court finds in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s remaining infringementclaim, and in their favor on their counterclaims asserting the invalidity of the AssertedClaims under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

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Aaron Royston, venBio

In­vest­ing in the time of coro­n­avirus: the good, the bad and the hope­ful, as biotech VC firms close funds worth $3B

Apart from disrupting biopharma R&D and regulatory timelines, the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably ravaged financial markets and eroded investor risk appetite. Investing in the time of coronavirus feels reckless, but if biotech venture funds are any indication, the time is ripe.

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Drug dis­cov­ery in the age of coro­n­avirus

Developing new drugs is incredibly hard. That’s why, despite superhuman efforts from the industry, we’re still looking at 12-18 months minimum before we can realistically hope for a vaccine for Covid-19, and probably months before there’s a proven viable drug treatment.

But our increasing ability to begin to industrialize the drug discovery and development process through an engineering approach means that we have more hope for speeding up this process than ever before — and not just to defeat coronavirus, but to benefit the development of all new medicines in the future.