Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

With new Omi­cron da­ta, Ada­gio halts tri­als for vaunt­ed Covid an­ti­body but sees a path ahead

Last month, Ada­gio shares tanked af­ter re­port­ing its Covid-19 an­ti­body saw a 300-fold re­duc­tion in its abil­i­ty to neu­tral­ize the Omi­cron vari­ant. But late Wednes­day, the biotech changed its tune.

The Till­man Gern­gross out­fit said in a press re­lease the an­ti­body is as sim­i­lar­ly po­tent against Omi­cron as the Vir/Glax­o­SmithK­line and As­traZeneca treat­ments, point­ing to three in vit­ro stud­ies con­duct­ed at in­de­pen­dent labs. Of the four mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body cock­tails au­tho­rized by the FDA, on­ly the Vir/GSK and As­traZeneca an­ti­bod­ies have re­tained any ef­fec­tive­ness against Omi­cron.

Nev­er­the­less, the com­pa­ny said it would halt en­roll­ment in both of its late-stage tri­als, one de­signed to show the an­ti­body can pre­vent Covid-19 and the oth­er to show it can treat it. A spokesper­son said the biotech is look­ing to add a high­er dose arm — pre­vi­ous­ly, the stud­ies test­ed 300 mg vs. place­bo — while the study is paused.

Lau­ra Walk­er

Ada­gio said it will al­so look to see whether it can en­gi­neer the an­ti­body, known as ADG20, for im­proved po­ten­cy, or whether it can com­bine it with an­oth­er an­ti­body to boost ef­fi­ca­cy.

“While find­ings may show that ADG20 has re­duced po­ten­cy against Omi­cron when com­pared to its high po­ten­cy against all oth­er vari­ants of con­cern, in­clud­ing Delta, the da­ta sup­port that ADG20 is among the few mAbs to demon­strate neu­tral­iz­ing ac­tiv­i­ty against the Omi­cron vari­ant,” Ada­gio CSO Lau­ra Walk­er said in a state­ment.

That ac­tiv­i­ty, she added, war­rants fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the Ada­gio an­ti­body. Ada­gio shares $AD­GI were up rough­ly 17% in Thurs­day’s pre-mar­ket ses­sion to $6.80 apiece, though the stock re­mains well be­low its re­cent peak of about $46 af­ter Omi­cron was first de­tect­ed.

Launched in Ju­ly 2020, Ada­gio had raised three-quar­ters of a bil­lion dol­lars over the course of the pan­dem­ic to de­vel­op an ul­tra-po­tent, vari­ant-proof an­ti­body. Pri­or to Omi­cron, the da­ta looked promis­ing.

In its Wednes­day press re­lease, Ada­gio cit­ed a spe­cif­ic mea­sure­ment of neu­tral­iz­ing ac­tiv­i­ty known as IC50. The biotech said one of its ex­per­i­men­tal an­ti­bod­ies, ADG20, hit IC50 lev­els of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 0.4 to 1.1 µg/mL, which is “com­pa­ra­ble” to those of Vir/GSK’s sotro­vimab and As­traZeneca’s AZD7442.

Study preprints as­so­ci­at­ed with Ada­gio’s state­ments back up the biotech’s claims, at least on the sur­face. One preprint not­ed that while ADG20 still ex­pe­ri­enced a “276-fold” re­duc­tion in neu­tral­iz­ing ac­tiv­i­ty against Omi­cron, the an­ti­body was one of on­ly three to gen­er­ate any sort of re­sponse to the vari­ant, per a se­ries of charts (Fig­ure 4) com­par­ing the treat­ments’ po­ten­cies.

An­oth­er preprint re­vealed sim­i­lar find­ings (Fig­ure B) high­light­ing how ADG20, sotro­vimab and two As­traZeneca an­ti­bod­ies proved some­what po­tent against Omi­cron while every­thing else — in­clud­ing each of Lil­ly’s an­ti­bod­ies by them­selves and com­bined, as well as each of Re­gen­eron’s an­ti­bod­ies — spurred lit­tle to no ef­fect. The stud­ies haven’t been peer-re­viewed as Omi­cron da­ta are still rel­a­tive­ly new.

With the new find­ings, Ada­gio is ar­gu­ing its an­ti­body was so po­tent against the orig­i­nal SARS-CoV-2 strain that even such a sharp re­duc­tion against Omi­cron still leaves it with some neu­tral­iz­ing ac­tiv­i­ty. Two oth­er Ada­gio an­ti­bod­ies in the first study, ADG10 and ADG30, lost all po­ten­cy against Omi­cron, how­ev­er.

ZS Per­spec­tive: 3 Pre­dic­tions on the Fu­ture of Cell & Gene Ther­a­pies

The field of cell and gene therapies (C&GTs) has seen a renaissance, with first generation commercial therapies such as Kymriah, Yescarta, and Luxturna laying the groundwork for an incoming wave of potentially transformative C&GTs that aim to address diverse disease areas. With this renaissance comes several potential opportunities, of which we discuss three predictions below.

Allogenic Natural Killer (NK) Cells have the potential to displace current Cell Therapies in oncology if proven durable.

Despite being early in development, Allogenic NKs are proving to be an attractive new treatment paradigm in oncology. The question of durability of response with allogenic therapies is still an unknown. Fate Therapeutics’ recent phase 1 data for FT516 showed relatively quicker relapses vs already approved autologous CAR-Ts. However, other manufacturers, like Allogene for their allogenic CAR-T therapy ALLO-501A, are exploring novel lymphodepletion approaches to improve persistence of allogenic cells. Nevertheless, allogenic NKs demonstrate a strong value proposition relative to their T cell counterparts due to comparable response rates (so far) combined with the added advantage of a significantly safer AE profile. Specifically, little to no risk of graft versus host disease (GvHD), cytotoxic release syndrome (CRS), and neurotoxicity (NT) have been seen so far with allogenic NK cells (Fig. 1). In addition, being able to harness an allogenic cell source gives way to operational advantages as “off-the-shelf” products provide improved turnaround time (TAT), scalability, and potentially reduced cost. NKs are currently in development for a variety of overlapping hematological indications with chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-Ts) today, and the question remains to what extent they will disrupt the current cell therapy landscape. Click for more details.

Graphic: Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

What kind of biotech start­up wins a $3B syn­di­cate, woos a gallery of mar­quee sci­en­tists and re­cruits GSK's Hal Bar­ron as CEO in a stun­ner? Let Rick Klaus­ner ex­plain

It started with a question about a lifetime’s dream on a walk with tech investor Yuri Milner.

At the beginning of the great pandemic, former NCI chief and inveterate biotech entrepreneur Rick Klausner and the Facebook billionaire would traipse Los Altos Hills in Silicon Valley Saturday mornings and talk about ideas.

Milner’s question on one of those mornings on foot: “What do you want to do?”

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FDA+ roundup: FDA's neu­ro­science deputy de­parts amid on­go­ing Aduhelm in­ves­ti­ga­tions; Califf on the ropes?

Amid increased scrutiny into the close ties between FDA and Biogen prior to the controversial accelerated approval of Aduhelm, the deputy director of the FDA’s office of neuroscience has called it quits after more than two decades at the agency.

Eric Bastings will now take over as VP of development strategy at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, the company said Wednesday, where he will provide senior clinical and regulatory leadership in support of Ionis’ pipeline.

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CBO: Medicare ne­go­ti­a­tions will ham­per drug de­vel­op­ment more than pre­vi­ous­ly thought

As President Biden’s Build Back Better Act — and, with it, potentially the Democrats’ last shot at major drug pricing reforms in the foreseeable future — remains on life support, the Congressional Budget Office isn’t helping their case.

The CBO last week released a new slide deck, outlining an update to its model on how Medicare negotiations might take a bite out of new drugs making it to market. The new model estimates a 10% long-term reduction in the number of new drugs, whereas a previous CBO report from August estimated that 8% fewer new drugs will enter the market over 30 years.

Joshua Brumm, Dyne Therapeutics CEO

FDA or­ders DMD tri­al halt, rais­ing ques­tions about a whole class of promis­ing drugs

Dyne Therapeutics’ stock took a nasty hit this morning after the biotech put out word that the FDA had slapped a clinical hold on their top program for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. And now speculation is bouncing around Biotwitter that there could be a class effect at work here that would implicate other drug developers in the freeze.

Dyne execs didn’t have a whole lot to say about why the FDA sidelined their IND for DYNE-251 in DMD while “requesting additional clinical and non-clinical information for” the drug.

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Sec­ondary patents prove to be key in biosim­i­lar block­ing strate­gies, re­searchers find

While the US biosimilars industry has generally been a disappointment since its inception, with FDA approving 33 biosimilars since 2015, just a fraction of those have immediately followed their approvals with launches. And more than a handful of biosimilars for two of the biggest blockbusters of all time — AbbVie’s Humira and Amgen’s Enbrel — remain approved by FDA but still have not launched because of legal settlements.

Hal Barron (GSK via YouTube)

GSK R&D chief Hal Bar­ron jumps ship to run a $3B biotech start­up, Tony Wood tapped to re­place him

In a stunning switch, GlaxoSmithKline put out word early Wednesday that R&D chief Hal Barron is exiting the company after 4 years — a relatively brief run for the man chosen by CEO Emma Walmsley in late 2017 to turn around the slow-footed pharma giant.

Barron is being replaced by Tony Wood, a close associate of Barron’s who’s taking one of the top jobs in Big Pharma R&D. He’ll be closer to home, though, for GSK. Barron has been running a UK and Philadelphia-based research organization from his perch in San Francisco.

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Chamath Palihapitiya and Pablo Legorreta

Bil­lion­aires Chamath Pal­i­hapi­tiya and Pablo Legor­re­ta hatch an $825M SPAC for cell ther­a­py biotech

Three years after Royalty Pharma chief Pablo Legorreta led a group of investors to buy up a pair of biotechs and create a new startup called ProKidney, the biotech is jumping straight into an $825 million public shell created by SPAC king and tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya.

ProKidney was founded 6 years ago but really got going at the beginning of 2019 with the $62 million acquisition of inRegen, which was working on an autologous — from the patient — cell therapy for kidney disease. After extracting kidney cells from patients, researchers expand the cells in the lab and then inject them back into patients, aiming to restore the kidneys of patients suffering from CKD.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (Credit: World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard)

An un­ortho­dox pro­pos­al for Bio­gen's Medicare-man­dat­ed Aduhelm tri­al

Biogen has gone full blitz since Medicare announced it would only cover its new Alzheimer’s drug when used in clinical trials, accusing the agency of discriminating against Alzheimer’s patients and trying to get physicians to change regulators’ minds.  Critics, meanwhile, cheered what they see as a necessary wall protecting payers and patients from an unproven and unsafe drug.

Far less attention, though, has gone to what a Medicare-funded clinical trial would actually look like. Biogen has operated as if it would be a standard late-stage Alzheimer’s trial, enrolling a couple thousand patients and giving half placebo.

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