Pfizer's Xeljanz matches immunosuppressant combo in rheumatoid arthritis study

fiercepharma | June 13, 2019

Pfizer’s troubled JAK inhibitor Xeljanz has had its share of hiccups after pulmonary embolism fears derailed the drug’s higher dose in rheumatoid arthritis. Now, Pfizer is hoping for better results using Xeljanz to treat RA patients who wean off immunosuppressants. Patients treated with a solo Xeljanz dose after 24 weeks of combo therapy with Xeljanz and anti-rheumatic methotrexate showed roughly the same disease activity at 48 weeks as patients who stayed on the immunosuppressant, Pfizer said. Those findings are part of a late-breaking data set from a double-blind phase 3/4 trial set to be presented Saturday at the European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR) meeting in Madrid. The drugmaker touted the data as the first of its kind to show noninferiority for a solo JAK inhibitor in RA after withdrawal from methotrexate, a powerful oral immunosuppressant often used in cancer treatment. “From a clinical perspective, these results give physicians data to help inform the decision to take appropriate patients off methotrexate,” Stanley Cohen, of Dallas’ Metroplex Clinical Research Center, said.

Spotlight

Algernon Pharmaceuticals CEO Christopher Moreau joined Steve Darling from Proactive to share news the company has announced its subsidiary, Algernon NeuroScience has dosed the first subject in the Phase 1 DMT clinical stroke study.


Other News
VIEWS AND ANALYSIS, PHARMACY MARKET

Soligenix Initiates Phase 2 Clinical Trial of SGX302 (synthetic hypericin) for the Treatment of Mild-to-Moderate Psoriasis

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. About Psoriasis 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.

Read More

BUSINESS INSIGHTS, PHARMACY MARKET

Annogen Announces Research Project with Pfizer to Test Non-coding Genetic Sequences

Annogen | December 14, 2022

Annogen, the Amsterdam based biotech company behind the SuRE™ technology for the functional annotation of the non-coding part of the genome, today announced it has begun a research project with Pfizer to functionally test tens of thousands of disease-related non-coding sequence variants for their effect on gene regulation. The results may contribute to drug discovery by identifying functionally relevant non-coding variants that play a central role in diseases. More than 95 percent of disease- and trait-related variants are found in the non-coding genome. However, identifying the important causal variants amongst the thousands of non-functional ones is a major challenge, as non-coding variant functionality cannot be deduced from sequence alone. Using its SuRE™ methodology, Annogen can obtain a functional read-out for up to millions of non-coding variants in parallel. “We are very proud of this research project with Pfizer. We believe the non-coding part of the genome represents a huge opportunity for drug discovery that has been largely overlooked. We are now working with several top-tier biopharma companies on a broad array of projects, which demonstrates the interest in the SuRE™ platform and the AIM™ service for gene & cell therapy, drug discovery, and recombinant protein production”. Joris van Arensbergen, Annogen’s founder and CEO, is pleased to establish another project in this field About Annogen At Annogen we use our SuRE™ technology to identify regulatory DNA elements to be used for controlled gene expression valuable for gene & cell therapy, as well as for recombinant protein production. In addition, we offer the AIM™ service to identify favorable gene insertions and their expression levels for more than 100,000 integrations in parallel. These approaches enable researchers to qualitatively interpret the non-coding genome in humans, animals and plants.

Read More

BUSINESS INSIGHTS, PHARMACY MARKET

insitro Appoints Philip Tagari, Industry-Leading Scientist and Drug Hunter, as Chief Scientific Officer

insitro | December 02, 2022

insitro, a machine learning-powered drug discovery and development company announced that Philip Tagari has been appointed as chief scientific officer. Tagari joins insitro following a 24-year career at Amgen, where he has led the organization's research platforms for over a decade as vice president, research - therapeutic discovery. “I am deeply excited to partner with Philip on insitro’s journey to build a transformative biology platform for the efficient discovery and development of effective medicines for patients in need. Philip brings unparalleled experience in drug development, including building and utilizing cutting-edge platforms, profound scientific expertise across therapeutic areas and modalities, and most importantly, the humility and courage to transcend the drug discovery status quo and do things differently.” Daphne Koller, Ph.D., founder and CEO of insitro Tagari joins a cross-functional team of experts in biology and technology at insitro, part of a uniquely collaborative culture that spans the boundaries of both fields. “Philip’s inspiring track record of fusing science and technology to build innovative platforms and leading therapeutic programs from bench to approval will guide us in the next step of insitro’s journey, as we deploy our expertise to identify exciting new targets and design therapeutic molecules,” said Koller. “insitro is completely redefining our understanding of disease biology and developing novel therapeutic strategies for a variety of grievous illnesses. Using machine learning on genetics and multi-modal phenotypic data at scale from human cohorts and cellular systems, their cutting edge laboratories are rapidly generating differentiated approaches to currently intractable unmet needs,” Tagari said. “I’m thrilled to partner with Daphne and insitro’s world-class scientists and technologists in achieving a patient-driven vision brought to life in a different kind of drug company.” Tagari joins insitro in early 2023 from Amgen, where he has held a variety of roles since 1998, and served as vice president, research - therapeutic discovery, since 2012. During his time at Amgen, Tagari built and led a global organization of over 600 scientists that delivered numerous experimental and marketed therapies in neurology, inflammation, cardiovascular disease and oncology. Throughout his career, which includes a decade at Merck and research positions at McGill University and Oxford University, Tagari made significant contributions toward multiple first-in-class, disease-modifying, life-changing therapies including Lumakras, Repatha, Singulair, Aimovig, Evenity, Tarlatamab, Acapatamab, Efavaleukin alfa, and AMG 133. With more than 30 years of research experience, he brings expertise across neurobiology, metabolic disease, hematology/oncology, immunology and inflammation, cell and molecular biology, antibody discovery and biologics engineering, medicinal, peptide and oligonucleotide chemistry, analytical chemistry and biochemistry, structural biology, pharmacokinetics, safety pharmacology, laboratory automation and information technologies. Tagari has published or contributed to more than 70 peer-reviewed publications. “I had the privilege of working with Philip for more than 15 years, first at Merck, and thereafter at Amgen, and can say unequivocally that he ranks among the most accomplished, and most innovative, scientific leaders in the industry,” said Roger M. Perlmutter, M.D., Ph.D., currently president, chief executive officer, and chairman of Eikon Therapeutics, Inc., (formerly EVP R&D both at Amgen and at Merck), and is a member of insitro’s Board of Directors. “With Philip as chief scientific officer and partner to Daphne, insitro will be well positioned to ensure that insights from its machine learning-enabled discovery platform contribute to the development of important new medicines that will make a meaningful difference for patients.” About insitro insitro is a data-driven drug discovery and development company using machine learning and data at scale to transform the way that drugs are discovered and developed for patients. insitro is developing predictive machine learning models to discover underlying biologic states based on human cohort data and in-house generated cellular data at scale. These predictive models are being brought to bear on key bottlenecks in pharmaceutical R&D to advance novel targets and patient biomarkers, design therapeutics and inform clinical strategy. insitro is advancing a wholly owned and partnered pipeline of biologic insights and molecules in metabolism and neuroscience. Since formation in mid 2018, insitro has raised over $700 million from top tech, biotech, and crossover investors, and from collaborations with pharmaceutical partners.

Read More

BUSINESS INSIGHTS, PHARMACY MARKET

Novo Nordisk & ATLATL announce winners in their joint program EntreStar

Novo Nordisk & ATLATL | December 06, 2022

Novo Nordisk Research Centre China and ATLATL jointly announce the winners of EntreStar program. Hangzhou DNano MetaBio and Modit Medicine stood out among all participants and won the awards. The two winners will be given priority access to one of ATLATL’s nation-wide facilities in China, and a prize of CNY 500K RMB each to pay for the ATLATL facilities and services. They are also entitled to mentoring by relevant experts of Novo Nordisk. There will be no strings attached for the two companies. Founded in 2022, Hangzhou DNano MetaBio Technology has been focusing on the design of nucleic acid nanocarriers with customized functions and great potential in clinical translation. The team has rich experience in nucleic acid structure design, which enables them to accurately regulate the organ-targeting ability and the on-demand drug release performance of the nanocarriers. “It’s our great honour to participate in EntreStar. We look forward to exploring collaboration opportunities with the community. Meanwhile, it is very much appreciated that we can receive guidance and help from Novo Nordisk’s experts in relevant fields, so that our company can develop in a healthy way.” Dr. Baoquan DING, President & Chief Scientist of DNano expressed his hopes in the award ceremony, Modit Medicine Inc., founded in 2022, is a biotech company focusing on RNA editing and therapeutics. The company owns cutting-edge and propriety RNA modification and editing methodologies and is devoted to the development of novel platform technologies. Instead of manipulating DNA sequences, technologies of Modit Medicine Inc. correct genetic errors at the RNA level, thereby providing opportunities for safe, efficacious and innovative therapeutics to treat human rare diseases, cancers, etc. Dr. Chengqi YI, Founder of Modit Medicine and Boya Professor of Peking University, commented on his participation, “By participating in the EntreStar program, Modit Medicine Inc. hopes to learn from global pharma about their insights on technology platform and marketing strategies in gene therapy, as well as to seek and form potential collaborations with Novo Nordisk. We also appreciate advice and suggestions from ATLATL about useful tips for start-up companies to connect with government and industry.” Dr. Dan HAN, President of NNRCC, shared her remarks: “We see great potential in the novel concepts proposed by DNano and Modit. By leveraging knowledge and experiences in our global organisation, we hope that Novo Nordisk can help pushing their research projects forward more effectively. As a Novo Nordisk affiliate in China, we partner with brilliant minds via INNOVO® program to facilitate translational research, with EntreStar initiative as its latest addition.” Dr. Pengcheng ZHU, Founder of ATLATL Innovation Center, commented on the role ATLATL plays: “It is my greatest pleasure to help make the EntreStar winners thrive at ATLATL’s platform, with access to global resources, such as our partners like Novo Nordisk. The ATLATL Innovation Center is a world-class scientific hub for the life sciences. We streamline the elements of R&D to improve resource utilization, and revolutionize the traditional asset-heavy investment model into an asset-light operation model. I am looking forward to collaborating with even more leading biopharmaceuticals and bringing success to these talented people.” About Novo Nordisk Novo Nordisk is a leading global healthcare company, founded in 1923 and headquartered in Denmark. Our purpose is to drive change to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic diseases. We do so by pioneering scientific breakthroughs, expanding access to our medicines, and working to prevent and ultimately cure disease. Novo Nordisk employs about 49,300 people in 80 countries and markets its products in around 170 countries. Novo Nordisk Research Centre China founded in 1997, takes pride in being the first research centre established by a multinational pharmaceutical company in China. With a focus on protein and peptide therapeutics, NNRCC has full capabilities and rich experiences in drug discovery research. About ATLATL The ATLATL Innovation Center is a world-class scientific hub for global life sciences. ATLATL streamlines the elements of R&D to improve resource utilization and revolutionizes the traditional asset-heavy investment model into an asset-light operation model. This much more time and cost-efficient model originated in Boston and continues to be optimized from 2017 onwards in China. ATLATL provides not only state-of-the-art facilities and professional operational management but also many R&D platforms staffed with scientists and project managers specializing in various fields. By collaborating with leading biopharma ATLATL integrates global resources to stimulate innovative developments. ATLATL currently has R&D platforms in Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, etc., leveraging the uniqueness of each site to help innovators quickly reach the next milestone.

Read More