Al Sandrock (Biogen via YouTube)

Wav­ing off re­cent PhII flop, Bio­gen trum­pets ear­ly pos­i­tive Alzheimer's da­ta for an­ti-tau an­ti­sense

Even as Bio­gen ex­ecs scram­bled to de­fend Aduhelm and paint a rosy fu­ture the drug promis­es to un­leash, R&D chief Al San­drock re­as­sured an­a­lysts dur­ing a re­cent earn­ings call that his team had more Alzheimer’s tricks.

In par­tic­u­lar, he em­pha­sized his be­lief in tau as a po­ten­tial tar­get — even though go­suranemab, the lead an­ti-tau an­ti­body, had just failed a Phase II study.

“Where­as we have dis­con­tin­ued the BI­IB092 pro­gram, we are con­tin­u­ing the de­vel­op­ment of BI­IB080, our an­ti­sense oligonu­cleotide, which aims to re­duce the pro­duc­tion of all forms of tau both in­tra and ex­tra­cel­lu­lar,” he said.

Now, the drug has de­cent ini­tial re­sults to re­port, al­beit on a bio­mark­er that’s yet to be con­clu­sive­ly linked to cog­ni­tive ben­e­fit.

In a Phase Ib place­bo-con­trolled study de­signed to test mul­ti­ple as­cend­ing dos­es, Bio­gen said BI­IB080 (al­so known as IO­N­IS-MAP­TRx) met the pri­ma­ry ob­jec­tive of safe­ty and tol­er­a­bil­i­ty among pa­tients with mild Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Fur­ther­more, in­ves­ti­ga­tors ob­served dose-de­pen­dent de­creas­es in the con­cen­tra­tion of tau in the cere­brospinal flu­id over the three-month treat­ment pe­ri­od, which per­sist­ed dur­ing the six-month post-treat­ment fol­lowup.

Frank Ben­nett

In pa­tients re­ceiv­ing BI­IB080, there were dose-de­pen­dent de­creas­es in the con­cen­tra­tion of to­tal-tau in CSF eight weeks post-last dose (Day 141) with a mean per­cent­age re­duc­tion of 30 per­cent, 40 per­cent and 49 per­cent in the low, medi­um and high dose groups treat­ed every four-weeks, re­spec­tive­ly, and 42 per­cent in the group treat­ed every 12 weeks.

In to­tal, 46 pa­tients re­ceived the full reg­i­men, al­though three with­drew be­fore the post-treat­ment pe­ri­od was up.

Al­though tau has wide­ly been con­sid­ered the next most promis­ing tar­get af­ter be­ta amy­loid, no drug­mak­er has been able to prove it as such in clin­i­cal tri­als. On the con­trary, oth­er Big Phar­ma play­ers have con­ced­ed fail­ures and scrapped pro­grams.

Bio­gen, though, was clear­ly will­ing to take an­oth­er gam­ble, sign­ing on to Io­n­is’ ef­fort as ear­ly as 2017 and pay­ing $45 mil­lion in cash two years lat­er to out­right li­cense BI­IB080.

And as the com­pa­ny has learned with Aduhelm, the FDA is more than will­ing to ap­prove an Alzheimer’s drug based on a bio­mark­er, no mat­ter how con­tro­ver­sial, on a hodge­podge of mixed clin­i­cal ev­i­dence. The amy­loid prece­dent, which reg­u­la­tors have sig­naled could ap­ply to oth­er de­vel­op­ers, could well have im­pli­ca­tions for tau too.

Frank Ben­nett, Io­n­is’ CSO and fran­chise leader for neu­ro­log­i­cal pro­grams, went as far as to bet on tau as a “root cause” of Alzheimer’s.

“Bio­gen is en­cour­aged by the re­sults of this tri­al, and we look for­ward to our con­tin­ued re­search in fu­ture clin­i­cal stud­ies with this promis­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al as­set,” San­drock said in a state­ment.

What Will it Take to Re­al­ize the Promise and Po­ten­tial of Im­mune Cell Ther­a­pies?

What does it take to get to the finish line with a new cancer therapy – fast? With approvals in place and hundreds of immune cell therapy candidates in the pipeline, the global industry is poised to create a fundamental shift in cancer treatments towards precision medicine. At the same time, unique challenges associated with cell and process complexity present manufacturing bottlenecks that delay speed to market and heighten cost of goods sold (COGS) — these hurdles must be overcome to make precision treatments an option for every cancer patient. This series of articles highlights some of the key manufacturing challenges associated with the production of cell-based cancer therapies as well as the solutions needed to transcend them. Automation, process knowledge, scalability, and assured supply of high-quality starting material and reagents are all critical to realizing the full potential of CAR-based therapies and sustaining the momentum achieved in recent years. The articles will highlight leading-edge technologies that incorporate these features to integrate across workflows, accelerate timelines and reduce COGS – along with how these approaches are enabling the biopharmaceutical industry to cross the finish line faster with new treatment options for patients in need.

The biggest ques­tions fac­ing gene ther­a­py, the XLMTM com­mu­ni­ty, and Astel­las af­ter fourth pa­tient death

After three patients died last year in an Astellas gene therapy trial, the company halted the study and began figuring out how to safely get the program back on track. They would, executives eventually explained, cut the dose by more than half and institute a battery of other measures to try to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Then tragically, Astellas announced this week that the first patient to receive the new regimen had died, just weeks after administration.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

As­traZeneca touts Imfinzi im­munother­a­py com­bos for lung can­cer in push to dri­ve PD-L1 drug up­take

Facing the big dogs in the PD-(L)1 space, AstraZeneca has taken its own contender Imfinzi into blockbuster territory in its four years on the market but sees even bigger things for the drug. Combinations could be the key, and early results from a mid-stage test are adding some fuel to that strategy.

Imfinzi combined with one of two investigational immunotherapies — a CD73 antibody dubbed oleclumab or an anti-NGK2a named monalizumab — topped Imfinzi alone in terms of overall response and progression-free survival in patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors had not worsened during concurrent chemoradiation, according to interim data from the Phase II COAST trial set to be presented at #ESMO21.

Amgen VP of R&D David Reese

Am­gen rolls out da­ta for KRAS in­hibitor com­bo study in col­orec­tal can­cer, hop­ing to move on from ug­ly ear­ly re­sults

With the first win for its KRAS inhibitor sotorasib in hand, Amgen is pushing ahead with an aggressive clinical plan to capitalize on its first-to-market standing. The drugmaker thinks combinations — in-house or otherwise — could offer a path forward, and one early readout from that strategy is bearing fruit.

A combination of Amgen’s sotorasib and its EGFR inhibitor Vectibix posted an overall response rate of 27% in 26 patients with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) with the KRAS-G12C mutation, according to data from the larger Phase Ib/II CODEBREAK 101 study set to present at this weekend’s virtual ESMO Congress.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 117,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Gri­fols drops $1B on Ger­man hold­ing com­pa­ny in con­tin­ued plas­ma push

One Spanish biotech is beefing up its plasma therapy operations, and on Friday, it announced that it’s doing so in a billion-dollar deal.

Grifols is now the largest shareholder of Biotest, a company valued at more than $1.8 billion. By teaming up, the two will try to increase the number of plasma therapies available and increase patient access around the world, Grifols said in a press release.

The company did so by acquiring holding company Tiancheng Pharmaceutical, the Germany-based owner of nearly 90% of Biotest shares, for nearly $1.27 billion. Grifols now owns nearly 90% of Biotest voting rights and almost 45% of the total share capital of Biotest.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Eu­ro­pean study finds that Gilead­'s Covid-19 an­tivi­ral remde­sivir shows no clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Gilead’s remdesivir — or Veklury, as it’s marketed in the US — raked in around $2.8 billion last year as the only FDA-approved antiviral to treat Covid-19. But new data from a European study suggest the drug, which has been given to about half of hospitalized Covid patients in the country, has no actual benefit.

The open-label DisCoVeRy trial enrolled Covid-19 patients across 48 sites in Europe to test a handful of treatments, including remdesivir, lopinavir–ritonavir, lopinavir–ritonavir and interferon beta-1a, and hydroxychloroquine. To participate, patients had to show symptoms for seven days and require oxygen support. A total of 429 patients were randomized to receive remdesivir plus standard of care, while 428 were assigned to standard of care alone.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 117,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Covid-19 roundup: FDA re­veals boost­er ad­comm ques­tion; Eli Lil­ly's an­ti­body cock­tail cleared for pre­ven­tion

The FDA released briefing documents this week from the agency and Pfizer each outlining their arguments for today’s Covid-19 booster shot adcomm, but one thing conspicuously missing was the question on which panel members would be voting. But late Thursday night, regulators published that question.

Adcomm members will be asked whether or not the safety and efficacy data from Pfizer/BioNTech’s original Phase III study “support approval” of a booster shot at least six months after the second dose in individuals older than 16. The question notably excludes the real-world data from Israel and other analyses that Pfizer and the Biden administration had said would be a centerpiece of their arguments for boosters.

A Pfiz­er part­ner wel­comes ex-ADC Ther­a­peu­tics CMO Jay Fein­gold to the team; Amid tough sled­ding, Im­muno­vant choos­es Eli Lil­ly alum as CFO

→ Last week we told you about the CMO revolving door at ADC Therapeutics, as Joseph Camardo replaced the departing Jay Feingold. The next opportunity for Feingold in the CMO slot has opened up at antibody-drug conjugate and mAb developer Pyxis Oncology, which has added several new execs and scientific advisory board members in recent months, including ex-Immunovant CFO Pamela Yanchik Connealy. Before his tenure at ADC, Feingold was Daiichi Sankyo’s VP of US medical affairs and chairman of the Global Medical Affairs Oversight Committee. Within weeks in March, Pyxis struck a licensing deal with Pfizer for two of its ADCs and raked in $152 million from a Series B round.

Ali Tehrani, Zymeworks CEO

Zymeworks squares up with Her­ceptin af­ter HER2 bis­pe­cif­ic aces mid-stage test in esophageal can­cer

Roche’s Herceptin has long stood as standard of care across multiple advanced cancers, but a suite of next-gen players are looking to beat the aging giant at its own game. In HER2-expressing esophageal cancer, BeiGene partner Zymeworks thinks its bispecific antibody could have the juice to get it done.

Zymeworks’ bispecific antibody zanidatamab, combined with one of two chemotherapy regimens, posted an overall response rate of 75% in patients with advanced gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma (GEA) who had not previously received a HER2-targeted cancer therapy, the Vancouver-based biotech said Thursday.