Illustration: Ipsa Jain
Hello and welcome to MedNess where we bring you the news from healthcare market. We are excited to announce the brand new section known as MedNess Focus, led by Abhinav Dey, Ph.D. that will be published every alternate week. Stay tuned for that next week where he will “Focus” on Novartis’ CAR-T therapy BLA! We are also excited to introduce MedEurope this week, led by Czuee Morey, Ph.D. For other in-depth coverage, please subscribe to @Club SciWri (www.sciwri.club)
FDA grants approval to Gilead Hep C drugs for pediatric patients
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted approval to supplemental applications for two Hep C drugs; Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir and sofosbuvir) for use in pediatric population ages 12 to 17 or weighing at least 35 kg. The drugs are approved to treat hepatitis C in adolescents without cirrhosis or with compensated cirrhosis. Harvoni gained approval for treating pediatric patients with genotype 1, 4, 5 or 6 hepatitis C virus (HCV), while Sovaldi was approved for treating pediatric patients with genotype 2 or 3, in combination with ribavirin. Both of these drugs were previously approved to treat hepatitis C virus (HCV) in adults. The supplemental approval came in as a win for both the medical field and business investment field. These two drugs are the direct-acting antiviral agents approved for the pediatric patients. Direct acting antivirals are efficient in curing HCV in most cases. These agents prevent the virus from multiplying thus reducing the amount of HCV in the body. Alternatively, the supplemental approval of Sovaldi and Harvoni also came in as a relief to the slumping Gilead sales (Fierce Pharma)
MedNess: Gilead Sciences tops HCV and HIV treatment market. However; recently, the patent battles and competition from the rivals has given tough time to Gilead’s stocks. While investors have been worried about Gilead’s cranking cash flow, the expanded label approval of Gilead Sciences star HCV drugs; Sovaldi and Harvoni should provide a sigh of relief. There was a slight increase in the stock price after the expanded drug approval use (seeking alpha and The Motley Fool).
FDA rejects Merck’s plea to drop cardiovascular risks from sitagliptin label
The FDA sent a complete response letter to Merck rejecting the drug maker’s appeal to include outcomes from its TECOS trial. This heart study showed that Merck’s drugs used for the treatment of diabetes; Januvia and its related combos Janumet and Janumet XR had “no signal” of heart failure (FiercePharma).
MedNess: Merck has been facing competition with Eli Lilly’s and Boehringer Ingelheim’s SGL2 medicine Jardiance and Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 Victoza which have shown to reduce the combined risks of heart attack, stroke, and death from the cardiovascular disease. Amongst these rivals, Merck wanted to follow suit. The stock prices of Merck fell after the letter on Friday (Investor’s.com).
FDA authorizes 23andMe Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk tests
The FDA approved the marketing of genetic health risk analysis. The results of these tests will provide information directly to customers without requiring physician’s prescription.
The genetic health risk tests can detect a genetic predisposition to 10 diseases including Parkinson’s disease, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and Gaucher disease. But there are certainly gray areas with the testing system. The tests are designed to provide information on genetic predisposition that can help make lifestyle changes, but the results are not expected to be entirely valid or “fully penetrant.” This implies, even if a person is shown to be at higher risk genetically, he or she might never develop a disease in their lifetime and vice versa. In addition, the reports provided by these test results will be independent of the family history. This is particularly concerning as for some diseases; family predisposition might increase the risk in general. Therefore, customers are advised beforehand to not to rely on the test results completely and not to get emotionally upset with the unfavorable test results (STAT).
NIH’s Zika vaccine enters Phase 2 trial amongst budget cut frenzy
The Phase 2 trial testing a Zika vaccine, developed by scientists at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), began at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. The phase 2 study results are expected by the end of this year.
The clinical trial involves a DNA-based vaccine, lacking a live Zika virus, but from which proteins are placed into small pieces of DNA. NIAID is a part of the NIH and is obviously affected by President Trump’s recent budget proposal cut. However, given the importance of this study, the institute has dedicated $100 million funding for the Phase 2 work. If the Phase 2 study is successful, NIAID will partner with commercial sources to bear the costs of larger Phase 3 trials (STAT)
Novartis CAR-T therapy BLA granted FDA priority review
Novartis announced that the US Food and Drug Administration has accepted the company’s first Biologics License Application (BLA) filing and granted the priority review for CTL019 (tisagenlecleucel-T) in relapsed and in relapsed and refractory pediatric and young adult patients with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). CTL019 is an investigational chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy. The priority review designation is expected to shorten the anticipated review time to six months.
In the Phase II ELIANA study, 82% (41 of 50) of patients infused with CAR-T cells achieved either complete remission or complete remission with incomplete blood count recovery after three months. The study enrolled patients globally across the US, EU, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
CAR-T therapy, one of the most controversial treatments involving gene therapy, utilizes reengineered patient’s T cells. These T cells (immune system’s killer cells) are filtered from patients blood and altered in the lab and injected back intravenously making it a “living drug.”(Novartis.com)
MedNess: After the announcement, Novartis shares were little changed but the shares of the company making CTL019 raw materials, Oxford BioMedica, rose by more than 4.5 percent. Alternatively, Kite Pharma, Novartis’ rival in CAR-T race, also submitted a rolling application for their chimeric antigen receptor T cell candidate. Rolling applications are allowed for promising new drugs. Kite’s application could be accepted early putting behind Novartis’. Therefore, the winner of the CAR-T race will set the price of the therapy and subsequently the stocks (Reuters and Nasdaq).
MedEurope by Czuee Morey, Ph.D.
Astellas Pharma expands its portfolio to women’s health by acquiring Belgian biotech Ogeda
Japanese Astellas Pharma announced its plans to acquire privately owned, clinical-stage drug discovery company Ogeda. The acquisition comes three months after Ogeda achieved positive results from a Phase IIa study of fezolinetant (ESN364), its lead drug candidate. Fezolinetant is a potential non-hormonal treatment for menopause-related vasomotor symptoms (MR-VMS) such as hot flushes and night sweats and is an antagonist of the GPCR known as tachykinin receptor neurokinin3 (NK3). The phase II data showed statistically significant reduction in both frequency and severity of menopausal hot flushes versus placebo in 80 women.
Astellas’ offer consists of €500 million ($530 million) upfront followed by an additional €300 million ($318 million) if Ogeda meets its development and regulatory milestones. Astellas will also benefit from a few pre-clinical assets under investigation for autoimmune diseases and ulcerative colitis. The companies expect the deal to close in the second quarter, at which point Ogeda will serve as an Astellas subsidiary. This acquisition will help to expand Astellas’ pipeline that is primarily focused on oncology.
MedNess: The global MR-VMS market was valued at US$3.77 bn in 2014 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 3.7% from 2015 to 2023 to reach US$5.28 bn by 2023. Ogeda is also running Phase II trials with the lead candidate to treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and uterine fibroids. Other companies developing neurokinin antagonists are UK based NeRRe Therapeutics for a range of conditions from sex hormone imbalances to opiate use and US-based Millendo Therapeutics for polycystic ovarian syndrome, both in Phase II.
Astellas stock, which trades on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, was up about 2% to ¥1,492 ($13.39) on Monday morning after the announcement.
(PRNewsWire, Labiotech.eu, Seeking Alpha)
About the author:
Imit Kaur is a freelance medical writer, editor and an active science blogger. She pursued her PhD in Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry from University of Utah. She is experienced in the field of oncology, hematology, pharmacology, nanotechnology and drug development.