Watch out be­low: Der­mi­ra ax­es ac­ne drug af­ter a cat­a­stroph­ic PhI­II fail­ure

Der­mi­ra set it­self up for one of the big stock $DERM cat­a­lysts of Q1 with its Phase III ac­ne stud­ies for DRM01. And it got knocked down — hard — Mon­day morn­ing as it re­port­ed the late-stage pro­gram had suf­fered a cat­a­stroph­ic fail­ure.

Tom Wig­gans, Der­mi­ra

The pri­ma­ry end­points for the two stud­ies showed that the re­sults for the drug close­ly mir­rored the place­bo arm, leav­ing the com­pa­ny with noth­ing to show for it. Der­mi­ra ex­ecs say they will now close down the pro­gram and move on.

That wasn’t what the stock touts want­ed to hear. Shares were oblit­er­at­ed in the rout, drop­ping more than 70%.

DRM01 is de­signed to re­duce the pro­duc­tion of se­bum, find­ing a new way to treat the skin con­di­tion by pre­vent­ing the oily buildup that trig­gers an out­break. That prospect — though hard­ly a tough un­met med­ical need in the biotech world — whipped up con­sid­er­able spec­u­la­tive move­ment on the stock price.

Some an­a­lysts quick­ly ac­knowl­edged their bad sig­nals. Umer Raf­fat at Ever­core ISI not­ed:

This is a name that I had flagged as car­ry­ing 65% prob­a­bil­i­ty go­ing in­to the Ph 3 tri­al based on our pri­or analy­sis + the con­sis­ten­cy of DRM01’s da­ta from ph2a + 2b… clear­ly that didn’t pan out.  I clear­ly stand cor­rect­ed.

Fail­ure did not come cheap for Der­mi­ra, which re­cruit­ed 1,500 pa­tients for the stud­ies. But the com­pa­ny does have oth­er drugs to turn to, in­clud­ing DRM04, which is sup­posed to re­duce sweat­ing in kids. The biotech al­so bought le­brik­izum­ab from Roche af­ter the phar­ma gi­ant pro­duced some dis­ap­point­ing da­ta for the drug, now be­ing stud­ied for atopic der­mati­tis.

“We are sur­prised and ex­treme­ly dis­ap­point­ed by the re­sults of the Phase III pro­gram,” said Tom Wig­gans, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Der­mi­ra. “This is dis­ap­point­ing not on­ly for the com­pa­ny, but al­so for pa­tients who are liv­ing with this con­di­tion and der­ma­tol­o­gists who have been look­ing for nov­el ther­a­pies to treat them.”

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (Moderna via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: NI­AID and Mod­er­na spell out a 'ro­bust' im­mune re­sponse in PhI coro­n­avirus vac­cine test — but big ques­tions re­main to be an­swered

The NIAID and Moderna have spelled out positive Phase I safety and efficacy data for their Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 — highlighting the first full, clear sketch of evidence that back-to-back jabs at the dose selected for Phase III routinely produced a swarm of antibodies to the virus that exceeded levels seen in convalescent patients — typically in multiples indicating a protective response.

Moderna execs say plainly that this first stage of research produced exactly the kind of efficacy they hoped to see in humans, with a manageable safety profile.

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Trans­port Sim­u­la­tion Test­ing for Your Ther­a­py is the Best Way to As­sure FDA Ex­pe­dit­ed Pro­gram Ap­proval

Modality Solutions is an ISO:9001-registered biopharmaceutical cold chain engineering firm with unique transport simulation capabilities that support accelerated regulatory approval for biologics and advanced therapeutic medicinal products (ATMP). Our expertise combines traditional validation engineering approaches with regulatory knowledge into a methodology tailored for the life sciences industry. We provide insight and execution for the challenges faced in your cold chain logistics network.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio Therapeutics CEO

An­ti­body leg­end Till­man Gern­gross is el­bow­ing his way in­to the Covid-19 R&D cru­sade: 'I don’t see this end­ing any­time soon'

One of the most influential — and outspoken — scientists at work in the field of antibody discovery is jumping into the frenzied race to create new therapeutics to treat and prevent Covid-19. And he’s operating with the conviction that the current outbreak now once again spreading like wildfire will create plenty of demand for what he has in mind.

Dartmouth professor and Adimab CEO Tillman Gerngross tells me he’s raised $50 million from a group of close VCs to spin out a new company — Adagio Therapeutics — with a full C-suite team assembled to hire up a staff and keep rolling toward the clinic.

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Full Bril­in­ta study re­sults show the blood thin­ner re­duces rate of sec­ondary stroke

AstraZeneca once projected its Brilinta drug to peak at $3.5 billion in sales, and though the blood thinner never reached that lofty goal, it received the latest positive signs in a string of recent good news.

The pharma released full details from its THALES study Thursday morning, which measured the effects of Brilinta and aspirin against aspirin alone in treating patients who had an acute ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack. When taken twice daily with once-a-day aspirin for 30 days, the Brilinta combo reduced the risk of stroke and death by 17 percent, meeting the primary endpoint of the study.

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Who are the women blaz­ing trails in bio­phar­ma R&D and lead­ing the fight against Covid-19? Nom­i­nate them for End­points' spe­cial re­port

One of the many inequalities the pandemic has laid bare is the gender imbalance in biomedical research. A paper examining Covid-19 research authorship wondered out loud: Where are the women?

It’s a question that echoes beyond our current times. In the biopharma world, not only are women under-represented in R&D roles (particularly at higher levels), their achievements and talents could also be undermined by stereotypes and norms of leadership styles. The problem is even more dire for women of color.

Norbert Bischofberger, Kronos CEO

Gilead­'s ex-R&D chief Bischof­berg­er heads back to the biotech gi­ant to pick up a pair of late-stage drugs that had been put aside

Norbert Bischofberger knows entospletinib well.

Back during his long, blockbuster run as head of R&D at Gilead, researchers had once held some high hopes for this drug. But to make it work, he and the team felt it would need a new companion diagnostic to identify patients. There was talk of a combo approach to give it more punch. But the market was small, making them wonder if it would be worth going through a lengthy development cycle to get it through a pivotal.

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The $1B Mer­ck-Bay­er drug that di­vid­ed car­di­ol­o­gists in March gets pri­or­i­ty re­view

Three months after Merck published in the New England Journal of Medicine data that left doctors and investors divided over just how well its experimental heart drug worked, the FDA has handed that drug priority review. A decision is now due by January 20, 2021.

Merck first announced the drug, known as vericiguat, as a Phase III success last November. In 2016, Merck had paid $1 billion upfront for US rights to the Bayer-developed drug. Early projections foresaw a few hundred million a year in sales, but the unspecified late-stage success raised the possibility for far more. After all, Novartis’s flagship heart drug, Entresto, was earning $1.7 billion per year and was expected to reach up to $4 billion in annual sales.

GSK’s Shin­grix leader Guil­laume Pfe­fer has jumped on board Flag­ship to helm a biotech hy­brid as Afeyan’s lat­est CEO-part­ner

After spending 4 years in a senior post with GlaxoSmithKline’s star team positioning Shingrix for a blockbuster approval, Guillaume Pfefer is headed back to the biotech world — in style.

Pfefer has signed on to join Noubar Afeyan’s busy group of partners at Flagship, and he’s taking the helm of an upstart — which today is being merged with another Flagship startup — with some grand plans of its own. The announcement this morning notes that Pfefer will run Kintai Therapeutics, one of the grads of the Flagship labs.

Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci (AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Rus­sia hack­ers tar­get US, UK vac­cine and drug re­searchers; Fau­ci fires back at White House cam­paign to un­der­mine him

Russia has tried to steal a Covid-19 vaccine and therapeutics researcher from pharmaceutical and academic institutions in the US, UK and Canada, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said Thursday.

The NCSC said that hacking attempts came from a group known as APT129, also known as “Cozy Bear,” that “almost certainly operate as part of Russian intelligence services.” The Canadian Communication Security Establishment, US Department for Homeland Security, the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, and the National Security Agency shared the assessment, the NCSC said.

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