With No­var­tis clos­ing in, Re­gen­eron scraps Eylea com­bo drug in a ma­jor set­back

Just a few weeks af­ter No­var­tis $NVS spelled out ex­act­ly why it be­lieves RTH258 can carve out a block­buster chunk of Re­gen­eron’s AMD mar­ket for Eylea, its big ri­val says that a next-gen com­bo won’t be rid­ing to their res­cue.

Ear­ly Mon­day Re­gen­eron $REGN said both Phase II stud­ies of nes­vacum­ab — an an­giopoi­etin2 (Ang2) an­ti­body — in com­bi­na­tion with Eylea failed to beat a so­lo ver­sion of their flag­ship ther­a­py. And that’s forc­ing both Re­gen­eron and its al­lies at Bay­er — which paid $50 mil­lion up­front to part­ner here — to drop Phase III plans.

The com­bi­na­tion “did not pro­vide suf­fi­cient dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion to war­rant Phase III de­vel­op­ment,” Re­gen­eron not­ed in a short state­ment. The da­ta will have to wait for an up­com­ing sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ence.

Re­gen­eron shares dropped 2.5% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing on Mon­day.

The lat­est set­back at Re­gen­eron for their oph­thal­mol­o­gy group comes a lit­tle more than a year af­ter its an­ti-PDGF an­ti­body rin­u­cum­ab com­bined with its block­buster drug failed a Phase II for age-re­lat­ed mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion. There was a slight im­prove­ment in vi­sion, but it wasn’t enough to make a com­mer­cial dif­fer­ence for Re­gen­eron.

Ear­li­er this month, No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief Vas Narasimhan spelled out a key suc­cess for RTH258 from their am­bi­tious late-stage de­vel­op­ment ef­fort. At week 16 the two RTH258 arms had 33% and 35% few­er pa­tients with dam­ag­ing reti­nal flu­id, and at 48 weeks one arm had 41% few­er pa­tients in the dan­ger zone, com­pared to the com­peti­tor. Ac­tive dis­ease was ob­served in 23.5% of brolu­cizum­ab 6 mg pa­tients ver­sus 33.5% of afliber­cept pa­tients in HAWK, and in 21.9% of brolu­cizum­ab pa­tients ver­sus 31.4% of afliber­cept pa­tients in HAR­RI­ER. And there’s a lot at stake, with Re­gen­eron tak­ing in $953 mil­lion in US Eylea sales in Q3.

No­var­tis is bet­ting that mov­ing pa­tients from once every 8 weeks for Re­gen­eron’s flag­ship ther­a­py to a 12-week reg­i­men will win over a big slice of the mar­ket. Re­gen­eron, mean­while, is left with their own pro­gram to demon­strate suc­cess with a quar­ter­ly in­jec­tion of Eylea.

Back-to-back set­backs like this are un­usu­al for Re­gen­eron, which has en­joyed a se­ries of de­vel­op­ment suc­cess­es. CSO and co-founder George Yan­copou­los, though, says it’s hard to im­prove on a drug like Eylea, adding that the com­pa­ny is still hard at it in oph­thal­mol­o­gy.

We ex­pect to re­port re­sults in the first half of 2018 from our EYLEA Phase III study in di­a­bet­ic retinopa­thy, which rep­re­sents a grow­ing pa­tient pop­u­la­tion with sig­nif­i­cant need. We al­so con­tin­ue to in­vest in ad­di­tion­al R&D ap­proach­es in oph­thal­mol­o­gy with the goal of pro­vid­ing new in­no­va­tions to pa­tients with se­ri­ous vi­sion-threat­en­ing dis­eases.

Im­age: Re­gen­eron R&D Chief George Yan­copou­los Get­ty

Tower Bridge in London [Shutterstock]

#UK­BIO19: Join GSK’s Hal Bar­ron and a group of top biotech ex­ecs for our 2nd an­nu­al biotech sum­mit in Lon­don

Over the past 10 years I’ve made a point of getting to know the Golden Triangle and the special role the UK biopharma industry plays there in drug development. The concentration of world class research institutes, some of the most accomplished scientists I’ve ever seen at work and a rising tide of global investment cash leaves an impression that there’s much, much more to come as biotech hubs are birthed and nurtured.

Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

UP­DAT­ED: Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time Monday morning the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation of a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month. In a followup call, Dunsire also noted that the company will likely need 200 to 250 reps for this marketing task on both sides of the Atlantic. And analysts were quick to note that the dealmaking at Lundbeck isn’t done, with another $2 billion to $3 billion available for more deals to beef up the pipeline.

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It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb has a new board po­si­tion to add to the re­sume — and this one is fo­cused on a fa­vorite sub­ject

Scott Gottlieb has another position to add to his lengthy roster of boards and advisory roles in the wake of his departure from the helm of the FDA.

He’ll be joining the advisory board of FasterCures, a think tank which former junk bond king Michael Milken set up to help drive more drugs to the market, looking to accelerate drug R&D. That’s a subject close to the heart of Gottlieb, who blazed a trail at the FDA focused on hustling up the process. That helped endear him to the industry, making him one of the most popular commissioners in FDA history.

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Karyopharm lines up $150 mil­lion cash in­jec­tion to back con­tro­ver­sial drug launch

Karyopharm has entered into a royalty agreement worth up to $150 million to back the launch of their multiple myeloma drug — recently approved by the FDA over the objections of a majority of the agency’s outside experts.

The deal with HealthCare Royalty Partners, worth $75 million now and $75 million once certain regulatory and commercial milestones have been reached, will fund the commercialization of Karyopharm’s oral SINE compound Xpovio (selinexor) for patients with multiple myeloma who have already had at least four prior therapies. The money will help Karyopharm as it markets its newly approved drug and pushes through clinical trials testing the drug on refractory multiple myeloma patients with one to three therapies and patients with treatment-resistant diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. It will give Karyopharm a cushion through mid-2021.

Af­ter a run of CT­LA-4 com­bo fail­ures, sci­en­tists spot­light a way to make it work — in se­lect pa­tients

CTLA-4/PD-(L)1 combinations have been one of the El Dorados of oncology, its promise forever behind that next hill but apparently unattainable after a series of pivotal clinical failures. But researchers at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Technical University of Munich think they may know how to fix what’s wrong and boost the drive to next-gen cancer combos.

In a preclinical animal research program, researchers found that within a cell, checkpoints rely on a specific molecule — RNA-sensing molecule RIG-I — to work. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it has already been identified as a target for boosting immune responses and was subject to at least one Phase I/II trial. Pfizer in December allied itself with Kineta with $15 million upfront and $505 million in potential milestones to develop RIG-I immunotherapies, and three years ago Merck purchased German upstart Rigontec for $137 million upfront and over $400 million in potential milestones for the same purpose.

Pur­due Phar­ma files for bank­rupt­cy as first step in $10B opi­oid set­tle­ment

It’s settled. Purdue Pharma has filed for bankruptcy as part of a deal that would see the OxyContin maker hand over $10 billion in cash and other contributions to mitigate the opioid crisis — without acknowledging any wrongdoing in the protracted epidemic that’s resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The announcement came two weeks after news of a proposed settlement surfaced and largely confirm what’s already been reported.

Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

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