VIEWS AND ANALYSIS, PHARMACY MARKET
Soligenix, Inc. | December 20, 2022
Soligenix, Inc. a late-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing products to treat rare diseases where there is an unmet medical need, announced today that patient enrollment has been opened for its Phase 2a study evaluating SGX302 in the treatment of mild-to-moderate psoriasis. Psoriasis is an ongoing unmet medical need, with as many as 7.5 million people in the U.S. and 60-125 million people worldwide affected by this incurable disease.
"We are excited to expand synthetic hypericin's development into different cutaneous T-cell diseases such as psoriasis, as a component of our long-term strategy to enhance the value of this unique compound. Given our promising published results with hypericin to date, including a small Phase 1/2 proof of concept clinical trial in mild-to-moderate psoriasis, and the Phase 3 FLASH study in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, where we filed a New Drug Application this month, we are hopeful synthetic hypericin will have a role to play in helping patients suffering from this difficult to treat and chronic disease."
Christopher J. Schaber, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Soligenix
The Phase 2a clinical trial will target enrollment of up to 42 patients ages 18 years or older with mild to moderate, stable psoriasis covering 2 to 30% of their body. In both Parts A and B, all patients will apply the study drug twice per week and will activate the drug with visible light 24 ± 6 hours later using the supplied visible light devices and according to the manufacturer's instructions. Patients will undergo treatments for a total of 18 weeks and, on completion, will be followed for a 4-week follow-up period in which patients will not receive other psoriasis treatments. In Part A, 5-10 patients will be assigned open-label SGX302 at the time of enrollment. Once the tolerability and response to SGX302 has been established, Part B of the protocol will commence. In Part B, patients will be randomized to double-blind treatment groups at a ratio 1:1 of active drug to placebo ointment.
Active dermatologic assessment of treated lesions for adverse events will be performed immediately before and during light treatments. Patients will be assessed for overall disease status through 4 weeks of follow-up. Efficacy endpoints will include the extent of lesion clearance and patient reported quality of life indices. Routine safety laboratories also will be collected.
About Synthetic Hypericin
Visible light-activated synthetic hypericin is a novel, first-in-class, photodynamic therapy that is expected to avoid much of the long-term risks associated with other PDT treatments. Synthetic hypericin is a potent photosensitizer that is topically applied to skin lesions and taken up by cutaneous T-cells. With subsequent activation by safe, visible light, T-cell apoptosis is induced, addressing the root cause of psoriasis lesions. Other PDTs have shown efficacy in psoriasis with a similar apoptotic mechanism, albeit using ultraviolet light associated with more severe potential long-term safety concerns. The use of visible light in the red-yellow spectrum has the advantage of deeper penetration into the skin potentially treating deeper skin disease and thicker plaques and lesions, similar to what was observed in the positive Phase 3 FLASH study in CTCL. Synthetic hypericin or HyBryte™ was demonstrated in this study to be equally effective in treating both plaque and patch lesions in this orphan disease caused by malignant T-cells. In a published Phase 1/2 proof of concept clinical study using synthetic hypericin, efficacy was demonstrated in patients with CTCL.
This treatment approach avoids the risk of secondary malignancies (including melanoma) inherent with both the frequently used DNA-damaging drugs and other phototherapies that are dependent on UV A or B exposure. The use of synthetic hypericin coupled with safe, visible light also avoids the risk of serious infections and cancer associated with the systemic immunosuppressive treatments used in psoriasis.
The Phase 3 FLASH trial enrolled a total of 169 patients with Stage IA, IB or IIA CTCL. The trial consisted of three treatment cycles. Treatments were administered twice weekly in 6-week cycles. In the first double-blind treatment cycle, 116 patients received HyBryte™ treatment and 50 received placebo treatment of their index lesions. A total of 16% of the patients receiving HyBryte™ achieved at least a 50% reduction in their lesions (using the standard Composite Assessment of Index Lesions Severity [CAILS] score) compared to only 4% of patients in the placebo group after just 6 weeks of treatment (p=0.04). Further treatment with HyBryte™ increased the number of treatment successes to 40% and 49% after 12 and 18 weeks, respectively (p<0.0001 for both). Additional analyses also indicated that HyBryte™ is equally effective in treating both plaque (42% treatment response rate after 12 weeks treatment, p<0.0001 relative to placebo treatment in Cycle 1) and patch (37%, p=0.0009) lesions of CTCL, a particularly relevant finding given the historical difficulty in treating plaque lesions. This is also relevant to psoriasis where the lesions can be thicker than the patches observed in CTCL.
In a subset of patients evaluated during their third treatment cycle, it was demonstrated that HyBryte™ is not systemically available, consistent with the general safety of this topical product observed to date. At the end of Cycle 3, HyBryte™ continued to be well tolerated despite extended and increased use of the product to treat multiple lesions.
Psoriasis is a chronic, non-communicable, itchy and often painful inflammatory skin condition for which there is no cure. Psoriasis has a significantly detrimental impact on patients' quality of life, and is associated with cardiovascular, arthritic, and metabolic diseases, as well as psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression and suicide. Many factors contribute to development of psoriasis including both genetic and environmental factors. The lesions develop because of rapidly proliferating skin cells, driven by autoimmune T-cell mediated inflammation. Of the various types of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis is the most common and is characterized by dry, red raised plaques that are covered by silvery-white scales occurring most commonly on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. Approximately 80% of patients have mild-to-moderate disease. Mild psoriasis is generally characterized by the involvement of less than 3% of the body surface area (BSA), while moderate psoriasis will typically involve 3-10% BSA and severe psoriasis greater than 10% BSA. Between 20% and 30% of individuals with psoriasis will go on to develop chronic, inflammatory arthritis (psoriatic arthritis) that can lead to joint deformations and disability. Studies have also associated psoriasis, and particularly severe psoriasis, with an increased relative risk of lymphoma, particularly CTCL. Although psoriasis can occur at any age, most patients present with the condition before age 35.
Treatment of psoriasis is based on its severity at the time of presentation with the goal of controlling symptoms. It varies from topical options including PDT to reduce pain and itching, and potentially reduce the inflammation driving plaque formation, to systemic treatments for more severe disease. Most common systemic treatments and even current topical photo/photodynamic therapy such as UV A and B, carry a risk of increased skin cancer.
Psoriasis is the most common immune-mediated inflammatory skin disease. According to the World Health Organization Global Report on Psoriasis 2016, the prevalence of psoriasis is between 1.5% and 5% in most developed countries, with some suggestions of incidence increasing with time. It is estimated, based upon review of historic published studies and reports and an interpolation of data that psoriasis affects 3% of the U.S. population or more than 7.5 million people. Current estimates have as many as 60-125 million people worldwide living with the condition. The global psoriasis treatment market was valued at approximately $15 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach as much as $40 billion by 2027.
About Soligenix, Inc.
Soligenix is a late-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing products to treat rare diseases where there is an unmet medical need. Our Specialized BioTherapeutics business segment is developing and moving toward potential commercialization of HyBryte™ as a novel photodynamic therapy utilizing safe visible light for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. With a successful Phase 3 study completed, regulatory approval is being sought and commercialization activities for this product candidate are being advanced initially in the U.S. Development programs in this business segment also include expansion of synthetic hypericin into psoriasis, our first-in-class innate defense regulator technology, dusquetide for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, including oral mucositis in head and neck cancer, and proprietary formulations of oral beclomethasone 17,21-dipropionate for the prevention/treatment of gastrointestinal disorders characterized by severe inflammation including pediatric Crohn's disease.
FogPharma | November 28, 2022
FogPharma®, a biopharmaceutical company pioneering a new class of precision medicines that could ultimately prove applicable to the vast majority of therapeutic targets, including those previously considered “undruggable,” announced a $178 Million Series D financing. The financing round includes new investors ARCH Venture Partners, Milky Way Investments and Fidelity Management & Research Company and existing investors VenBio Partners, Deerfield Management, GV, Cormorant Asset Management, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Invus, Farallon Capital Management, HBM Healthcare Investments, Casdin Capital, and PagsGroup, also participated.
Proceeds from the Series D financing will be used to advance and accelerate FogPharma’s growing pipeline of hyperstabilized α-helical (Helicon™) polypeptide therapeutics, a proprietary new class of drugs designed to overcome the limitations of today’s precision medicines with broad applicability to the vast majority of disease targets and therapeutic areas. FogPharma’s lead Helicon polypeptide development candidate, FOG-001, a first-and-only-in-class direct TCF-blocking β-catenin inhibitor with potential applicability to significant cancer patient populations, is expected to enter clinical development in mid-2023. In addition, FogPharma is advancing other first-in-class programs against important, biologically validated cancer targets that have remained elusive to other approaches including TEAD, NRAS, Pan-KRAS, ERG and Cyclin E1.
“FogPharma continues to make rapid progress on our moonshot mission to achieve universal druggability – a world where no targets are off-limits to medicine. We believe that Helicon polypeptides, a compelling new therapeutic modality, represent the future of precision medicine. We are thrilled by the support of our investors and will continue to build our platform capabilities, product pipeline which aims to address a significant percentage of cancer patient populations, and our phenomenal team across all levels as we aim to create one of the most impactful new classes of drugs in history.”
Gregory Verdine, Ph.D., founder, chairman and chief executive officer of FogPharma
In connection with the Series D Financing, Rick Klausner, M.D., has been appointed to FogPharma’s board of directors. In addition, Dr. Verdine has been appointed as chairman of the board.
“The team at FogPharma is building an unprecedented new therapeutic modality and robust pipeline with the potential to make a meaningful difference in the lives of cancer patients,” said Dr. Klausner. “I am excited to join the board of directors and be part of something special particularly at this important time as FogPharma continues to impressively scale its science, team, operations and infrastructure, with the goal of advancing its first Helicon polypeptide therapeutic into the clinic.”
Dr. Klausner is currently the founder and chief scientist of Altos Labs and founder and chairman of Lyell Immunopharma. Dr. Klausner was founder and director of Juno Therapeutics and founder and director of GRAIL. He is also the chairman of Sonoma Biotherapeutics and co-founder and chairman of Lifemine Therapeutics. Previously, Dr. Klausner served as senior vice president, chief medical officer and chief opportunity officer of Illumina Corporation and as executive director for global health for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Klausner was appointed by Presidents Clinton and Bush as the eleventh director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute between 1995 and 2001. Dr. Klausner served as chief of the Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as well as a past president of the American Society of Clinical Investigation. He has served in senior advisory roles to the U.S., Norwegian, Qatari and Indian governments.
About FogPharma’s Universal Druggability Platform and Helicon™ Polypeptide Therapeutics
Existing drug classes are limited in both reach and applicability, with more than 80% of known human protein disease targets considered “undruggable” because they are beyond the reach of both antibodies and small molecules.
FogPharma’s Helicon peptide drug discovery engine integrates directed evolution, proprietary α-helix conformational hyperstabilization chemistry, highly multiplexed drug optimization technology, artificial intelligence including deep learning and machine learning, structure-based drug discovery, cancer genomics and biology, and multiscale manufacturing to rapidly discover Helicon polypeptide therapeutics. This novel therapeutic modality combines the targeting strength and specificity of antibodies with the broad tissue distribution, intracellular target engagement and oral dosing optionality of small molecules to address the limitations of today’s precision medicines and reach the most difficult targets – achieving universal druggability.
FogPharma’s lead Helicon polypeptide development candidate, FOG-001, a first-and-only-in-class direct TCF-blocking β-catenin inhibitor. Dysregulation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway has been shown to occur in at least 20% of all human cancers. In the U.S. alone, FOG-001 has the potential to become a new treatment option for >1 million patients suffering from a broad range of intractable cancers.
In biochemical and cellular studies, FOG-001 has been shown to potently, precisely and selectively disrupt the interaction of β-catenin with its obligate downstream transcription factor, TCF. Preclinical studies have demonstrated the ability of FOG-001 to cause tumor growth inhibition and regression by disrupting β-catenin-dependent signaling.
FOG-001 is the inaugural member of FogPharma’s TCF-Catenix family of direct-acting β-catenin antagonists and combines key features that distinguish it from previously reported Wnt/β-catenin pathway modulators: FOG-001 acts inside the cell, where it directly binds the key oncogenic driver β-catenin; and FOG-001 blocks TCF-β-catenin engagement at the most downstream node in the canonical Wnt pathway, thus abrogating the signal transmission mechanism by which most, if not all, known Wnt pathway mutations are believed to drive oncogenesis.
FogPharma is a biopharmaceutical company pioneering the discovery and development of Helicon™ polypeptides. Through this novel therapeutic modality, FogPharma aims to address the limitations of existing drug classes and achieve universal druggability – a world where no targets are off-limits to new medicines. Spun out of Harvard University by pioneering academic scientist and successful biotech company builder Dr. Gregory Verdine, FogPharma is advancing a broad pipeline of Helicon polypeptide therapeutics against important and biologically validated cancer targets that have remained elusive to other approaches, with the goal of providing new targeted treatment options for significant cancer patient populations. FogPharma is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., and has raised more than $360 million to date from leading life sciences investors.
Feinstein Institutes | November 29, 2022
Peptides, short sections of proteins made up of chains of amino acids, are an important area of new drug development due to their potential for increased specificity and fewer side effects. Their main drawback is the rapid degradation by the body’s own enzymes, which has led to the need to develop longer-lasting peptide alternatives. Azapeptides are one type of peptide alternative that has shown great potential as therapeutics, exemplified by the HIV drug, Atazanavir.
A new paper published in the journal Nature Communications by researchers at The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research details proprietary reagents and methods that can selectively replace only those amino acids known to be targeted by enzymes with more stable versions to create azapeptides.
The paper, authored by Yousef Al-Abed, PhD, co-director of the Institute of Bioelectronic Medicine at the Feinstein Institutes, describes the proprietary building blocks and method used to conduct systematic and robust peptide editing, replacing targeted amino acids with aza-amino acids to form more stable and efficient azapeptides. The azapeptides created could expedite the novel therapies to treat many diseases and conditions, including metabolic disease, influenza, pulmonary arterial hypertension, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and irritable bowel diseases, among others.
The paper, titled “Thiocarbazate building blocks enable the construction of azapeptides for rapid development of therapeutic candidates,” provides multiple examples of azapeptide construction, screening, and selection using a known peptide inhibitor of inflammation and bradykinin.
“Peptides as drug candidates are easy to discover yet difficult to develop as final drugs because of their fast degradation in our body. A technology that circumvents these problems inherent to native peptides will change the future landscape of drug discovery. Our technology provides a platform of tools that enable minimal modification of any peptide at highly prone degradation sites, thereby increasing its life span in our body, allowing it more time to find its target and neutralize it.”
Through peptide editing, going from peptide to azapeptide, using methods that Dr. Al-Abed and his team detail in the new paper, scientists can create potential therapies that have enhanced characteristics compared to natural peptides, like longer stabilities in a more efficient manner. Dr. Al-Abed and his team have precisely engineered thiocarbazates (a novel functional group) in the proprietary process to achieve an almost universal and more efficient means to selectively replace amino acids in a peptide chain.
“Peptide drugs are a crucial resource for patients and the global pharmaceutical industry,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes and Karches Family Distinguished Chair in Medical Research. “Dr. Al-Abed and his team invented a fully automated chemical strategy using novel chemistry to make new peptide drugs which is an important new avenue for peptide drug discovery.”
About the Feinstein Institutes
The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest health care provider and private employer in New York State. Home to 50 research labs, 3,000 clinical research studies and 5,000 researchers and staff, the Feinstein Institutes raises the standard of medical innovation through its five institutes of behavioral science, bioelectronic medicine, cancer, health innovations and outcomes, and molecular medicine. We make breakthroughs in genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and are the global scientific leader in bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine.
VIEWS AND ANALYSIS
Altamira Therapeutics Ltd | December 01, 2022
Altamira Therapeutics Ltd. a company dedicated to developing therapeutics that address important unmet medical needs, today provided a business update and reported its first half 2022 financial results.
“We continue to make good progress with the transformation of Altamira into an RNA delivery technology company. We are optimistic of reaching an agreement to divest or partner our Bentrio nasal spray for key markets in North America and Europe by year end. Last month, we agreed to divest part or all of our inner ear therapeutics programs to a European family office. Following some delay and under slightly amended terms, we expect that transaction to close in December.
Thomas Meyer, Altamira Therapeutics’ founder, Chairman and CEO
“Heading towards 2023, we look forward to focusing exclusively on the many emerging opportunities in the fast-growing RNA therapeutics market. We are increasingly well positioned to advance our RNA delivery technology throughout 2023.”
As Altamira is going through the final stages of a major corporate transformation, management intends to hold its next investor call upon finalization of its partnering / divestiture projects. On that call, the Company will also provide its outlook for 2023.
RNA delivery platform update
Altamira continued to make solid progress with the development of its patented, peptide-based platform for RNA delivery to extrahepatic tissues. In recent months, the RNA team led by Chief Development Officer Covadonga Pañeda, Ph.D., and Chief Scientific Officer Samuel Wickline, MD, have advanced various projects, including selection and optimization of siRNA sequences, formulation, process development and manufacturing. Starting with project AM-401 for the treatment of KRAS-driven tumors, the Company added a second project, AM-411 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. AM-411 nanoparticles comprise siRNA targeting NF-kB a key checkpoint in RA inflammation.
The Company is developing both AM-401 and AM-411 with the objective of out-licensing the drug products at a later stage. They serve as a “showcase” for the application of Altamira’s RNA delivery technology; the Company’s strategy will be to out-license the technology to pharma and biotech companies for use with their own RNA molecules. In this context, Altamira has been intensifying its efforts to raise awareness about OligoPhore/SemaPhore within science and industry.
In recent months, members of Altamira’s leadership team gave oral presentations at multiple international conferences, highlighting the ability to deliver RNA molecules to extrahepatic tissues and achieve efficient and rapid endosomal release inside target cells. Concurrently, further data on RNA delivered with Altamira’s delivery technology has been published by independent research groups in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Altamira anticipates entering into its first partnering agreements in 2023.
Earlier today, Altamira reported that its licensee and distribution partner Nuance Pharma has launched Bentrio nasal spray in Hong Kong to help provide protection against airborne viruses as well as allergens. This will be the first step to distributing Bentrio in the other Nuance-licensed territories which is comprised of mainland China, Macau and South Korea.
As part of its strategy to focus exclusively on RNA delivery, Altamira has been in discussions with several well-established OTC consumer health companies for the partnering of Bentrio. Those discussions intensified following the 510(k) clearance of the product by the FDA and have advanced well, including due diligence by interested parties. The Company anticipates entering into a partnering transaction before year end. In the context of those partnering discussions, Altamira suspended preparations for launching the product in the US on its own as well as pausing major marketing initiatives in Europe. This restraint provides the prospective strategic partner for Bentrio with maximum flexibility to fit the product into its business plan.
Beginning in early October, the Bentrio nasal spray was relaunched in Europe for allergic rhinitis. Previously, the Company had ceased marketing the product for the indication of viral infection in the EU and Switzerland although Bentrio’s mode of action is the same regardless of whether it provides a barrier against airborne virus or allergen particles. This had been demonstrated in various relevant in vitro assays. However, certain countries and regions require specifically clinical performance data to clear Bentrio for this indication, in particular related to COVID-19. Such data are expected to become available through the COVAMID trial.
In September, Altamira announced that it had reached its extended enrollment target of 160 confirmed subjects in its COVAMID clinical investigation to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of its Bentrio nasal spray in patients with acute COVID-19. The read-out of top-line data remains on track for the current quarter. The Company plans to seek an expansion of its product label to also include viral infections in those countries requiring supportive clinical data.
In September, the Company also announced that its “NASAR” clinical trial in seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) resumed enrollment as the new pollen season started in Australia. The NASAR trial is expected to enroll a total of 100 patients suffering from SAR and is designed to compare the safety and efficacy of Bentrio against a (control) saline nasal spray. The primary endpoint will be the comparison of the reflective Total Nasal Symptom Score under treatment with Bentrio against control.
The NASAR trial was initiated in the fall of 2021. It was suspended in spring 2022 as the pollen season came to an end before the enrollment target could be met. Interim data from the trial were used in support of the 510(k) clearance of Bentrio by the US FDA. Unless an interim analysis performed upon reaching 50% of the enrollment target to check the validity of the statistical powering assumptions requires a change to the target size of 100 patients, the Company expects to complete enrollment into the NASAR trial by year-end or in early 2023 with a read-out of top-line data in late 1Q-23.