Amgen shares hit after analysts expose buried FDA trial halt

Thursday, Amgen posted what appeared to be a fairly innocuous update about its drug Kyprolis and other pipeline assets, but a deeper read turned up a nasty surprise.  About midway through its release, the U.S. biopharma revealed matter-of-factly that a phase 1 dose escalation clinical trial for its drug AMG 397, an oral small molecule MCL1 inhibitor, in blood cancers has been hit with a clinical hold. The hold was handed out by the FDA given a “safety signal for cardiac toxicity.” And that’s not all: After AMG 397 showed some potential safety issues, Amgen has voluntarily halted enrollment for another early-stage test for AMG 176, given that it too is an MCL-1 inhibitor. This is a big deal for Amgen’s pipeline, given these programs are seen as among the company’s more promising emerging oncology developments. Shares in the company were down nearly 1% after the news was brought into the public consciousness through analysts at SVB Leerink. In a note to clients headed “Did One of the Key Oncology Pipeline Pillars Just Crack?” the firm notes that while the exact nature of this cardiac signal in the trial was not disclosed, “animal studies suggest that loss of MCL-1 activity can be associated with sudden onset heart failure.

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Nimbus Therapeutics Announces Expansion of Its Immunology Drug Discovery Pipeline

Nimbus Therapeutics | January 08, 2024

Nimbus Therapeutics, LLC a biotechnology company that designs and develops breakthrough medicines through its powerful computational drug discovery engine, announced the advancement and expansion of its pipeline with the addition of discovery programs targeting innate immunity pathways. These programs, targeting the salt-inducible kinase (SIK) family and cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS), represent promising opportunities to leverage Nimbus’ industry-leading computational and structure-based drug design expertise to develop highly selective, potent medicines addressing areas of significant unmet need. "Building on the success of our TYK2 program, we are broadening our drug discovery engine to unlock new difficult-to-drug targets with compelling biology,” said Peter Tummino, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Nimbus. “SIK and cGAS are critical targets in highly prevalent diseases that are well suited to Nimbus’ structure-based drug design approach. We look forward to advancing our discovery and development programs across oncology, immunology, and metabolism to deliver transformative medicines to patients.” Nimbus is advancing its Phase 1/2 trial (NCT05128487) of NDI-101150, a small molecule inhibitor of hematopoietic progenitor kinase 1 (HPK1), and has reported positive dose escalation data showing potential monotherapy clinical benefit for patients with solid tumors. Furthermore, the company expects to initiate IND-enabling activities this year for its oncology program targeting Werner syndrome helicase (WRN). In collaboration with Eli Lilly and Company, Nimbus continues to progress the development of novel targeted therapies that activate AMPK to potentially treat a broad range of metabolic disorders. Nimbus continues to expand its platform capabilities with ongoing investments in cutting-edge technology for drug discovery. Alongside proprietary computational tools which the company has developed in-house, Nimbus’ platform leverages state-of-the-art technology through collaborations such as its recently announced partnership with Anagenex, a leader in generative AI for drug design. Jeb Keiper, M.S., MBA, Nimbus’ Chief Executive Officer, will provide an overview of the company’s progress and pipeline and anticipated milestones for 2024 and beyond at the 42nd Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference on Monday, January 8, 2024 at 7:30 am PT. About Nimbus Therapeutics Nimbus Therapeutics is a clinical-stage, structure-based drug discovery company developing novel small molecule medicines designed to act against well-validated but difficult-to-drug targets implicated in multiple human diseases. Nimbus combines leading-edge computational technologies with a tailored array of machine learning-based predictive modeling approaches. Nimbus’ pipeline includes a clinical-stage HPK1 inhibitor for the treatment of cancer (NCT05128487), as well as a diverse portfolio of preclinical programs focused on cancer, autoimmune conditions, and metabolic diseases. Nimbus is headquartered in Boston, Mass.

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Andelyn Biosciences and Armatus Bio Partner to Manufacture Suspension-Based AAV Gene Therapy for Rare Neurological Disease

Andelyn Biosciences, Inc. | January 16, 2024

Andelyn Biosciences, Inc., a pioneering and patient-focused cell and gene therapy Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO), has partnered with Armatus Bio to accelerate manufacturing of their gene therapy treatment for Charcot-Marie-Tooth Type 1A (CMT1A), a rare genetic neurological disease associated with independence-limiting disability and risk of fatal complications that has no approved therapies today. The partnership will seek to maximize program efficiency and speed to clinical studies of this novel, precision approach. As part of the agreement, Armatus will leverage Andelyn's extensive experience in adeno-associated virus (AAV) production and its proprietary suspension platform for development activities, plasmid manufacturing, and viral vector toxicology and GMP clinical manufacturing. The partnership strengthens the working relationship and offers great hope for patients suffering from neuromuscular disease. Both organizations, located in the well-established and growing biotech hub of Columbus, Ohio, are aligned in their belief that the rise of gene therapies will continue to advance human health. Matt Niloff, Chief Commercial Officer at Andelyn Biosciences said, "We are extremely moved by Armatus Bio's commitment to address the urgent unmet needs in CMT1A and are impressed by its innovative therapeutic technology for the disease. We look forward to scaling up the process in our program-specific, configurable suspension platform, and accelerating the therapy into the clinic with the highest degree of quality." "Andelyn has demonstrated its strong capabilities in manufacturing complex genetic medicines with high quality and consistency, which will be critical to accelerating our development efforts," said Brian Price, PhD, Chief Technical Officer of Armatus. "We look forward to collaborating with Andelyn on this program as we work toward supporting this population that urgently awaits innovative solutions." From its time-tested experience, Andelyn is proud to offer its clients exceptional development, plasmid production, and quality manufacturing at its three Columbus, Ohio facilities. Andelyn is advancing client discoveries and manufacturing life-altering cell and gene therapies for rare and prevalent diseases. About Andelyn Biosciences, Inc. Andelyn Biosciences is a full-service cell and gene therapy CDMO focused on the development, characterization and production of viral vectors for gene therapy. With more than 20 years of experience, Andelyn's deep scientific expertise has resulted in the production of cGMP material for more than 450 clinical batches and 75 global clinical trials. Operating out of three Columbus, Ohio facilities, Andelyn supports its clients in developing curative cell and gene therapies from concept through plasmid development and manufacturing, process development, and cGMP clinical and commercial manufacturing. Andelyn's versatile capabilities include cGMP manufacturing capacity for both adherent and suspension processes up to a 2,000-liter capacity. An advanced digital model, quality system, full regulatory support and supply chain vertical integration help Andelyn accelerate the development and manufacturing of its clients' innovative cell and gene therapies. About Armatus Bio Armatus Bio is a privately held late preclinical stage biotechnology innovator leveraging vectorized RNAi to address urgent unmet medical needs in genetically-driven neurological diseases. Based in Columbus, Ohio, the company is led by a seasoned team with expertise in drug development and delivery, and partnered with world renowned experts in vector biology, genomics, and neurology. The company's lead candidate for Charcot Marie Tooth Type 1A (CMT1A) has received Orphan Drug Designation and Rare Pediatric Drug Designation, and is advancing toward IND-enabling studies. The company is also developing a preclinical vectorized RNAi asset for the rare neuromuscular disease Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD).

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Jnana Therapeutics Announces Positive Clinical Proof of Concept Achieved with JNT-517, a Potential First-in-Class Oral Treatment for PKU

Jnana Therapeutics, Inc. | February 02, 2024

Jnana Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company leveraging its next-generation chemoproteomics platform to discover medicines for challenging-to-drug targets, today announced positive, statistically significant interim results from its ongoing clinical study of JNT-517 in individuals with phenylketonuria (PKU). JNT-517, a small molecule inhibitor of the phenylalanine (Phe) transporter SLC6A19, is being evaluated as a potential first-in-class oral treatment for PKU across all ages and genotypes. On the basis of these positive interim results, Jnana has adapted the Phase 1b trial design to support the potential for accelerated progression of JNT-517. “There is an urgent need for an oral, safe, and efficacious therapy for the more than 60% of individuals with PKU not currently on therapy. Across the spectrum of mild to severe disease, our results demonstrate a robust, sustained reduction in blood Phe levels, the registrational endpoint for PKU, giving us high confidence in the path forward for JNT-517,” said George Vratsanos, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Head of R&D at Jnana Therapeutics. “We are also encouraged by this validation of the power of our RAPID platform to discover small molecules with compelling clinical benefit against challenging-to-drug targets.” JNT-517 is being studied in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in individuals with mild to severe PKU. Following a 28-day screening period focused predominantly on ensuring an average blood Phe level of >600µM, study participants were randomized with no run-in period to 75mg of JNT-517 twice daily (BID) or placebo. The planned interim analysis was based on 13 participants, eight dosed with JNT-517 and five dosed with placebo over 28 days, and demonstrated the following results JNT-517 led to a statistically significant (p=0.0019 vs. placebo) mean blood Phe reduction from baseline of 51%, measured per-protocol at day 28. A high response rate was seen where seven of eight (88%) treated participants achieved >30% reduction in blood Phe from baseline; five of eight (63%) achieved >45% reduction; and two of eight (25%) achieved >65% reduction. A robust response was seen across participants treated with JNT-517 irrespective of baseline blood Phe levels, which ranged from 593µM to 1,526µM with a mean of 1,124µM. A rapid onset of effect was observed with significant blood Phe reduction achieved within seven days after commencing dosing, which was sustained through the full 28 days of dosing. JNT-517 was safe and well tolerated with no serious adverse events and no clinically significant changes in laboratory parameters, consistent with the safety profile demonstrated in the Phase 1a healthy volunteer study. "JNT-517 represents a completely new therapeutic approach that could transform the current treatment paradigm in PKU, in particular for individuals with severe, or classical, PKU where there is the highest unmet medical need,” said Cary O. Harding, M.D., study investigator and Professor of Molecular and Medical Genetics at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine. “I am encouraged by the clinical results to date and look forward to working with Jnana and the PKU community to continue to advance this program.” Based on these interim results, Jnana has adapted the protocol of the ongoing trial to include dose exploration. Jnana expects topline data from the second dose cohort in mid-2024 and plans to submit full data from the two dose cohorts for presentation at a scientific meeting in the second half of 2024. Jnana anticipates the company will engage regulators in the second half of 2024 and seek to advance JNT-517 directly into a pivotal Phase 3 study in the first half of 2025. JNT-517 Phase 1b Clinical Trial The ongoing clinical program includes a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluating the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, and effect on blood and urinary Phe of JNT-517 dosed over a four-week period in individuals diagnosed with PKU. The study dosed its first participant with PKU in August 2023 and is enrolling individuals aged 18 to 65 at clinical sites in the United States and Australia. For more information about the study, please see clinicaltrials.gov (NCT05781399). About JNT-517 JNT-517 is a selective small molecule inhibitor of the Phe transporter SLC6A19 that has the potential to be a first-in-class oral therapy used to treat any person with PKU, regardless of age or genotype. JNT-517 acts at a novel, cryptic allosteric site to block kidney reabsorption of Phe and offers a promising new approach to reduce blood Phe levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted JNT-517 Rare Pediatric Disease Designation in late 2022. About PKU PKU is a rare inherited metabolic disorder caused by a deficiency of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH). This enzyme is required for the breakdown of phenylalanine (Phe), an amino acid found in all protein-containing foods. When PAH is deficient or defective, Phe accumulates to abnormally high levels in the blood. If left untreated, toxic levels of Phe in the blood can result in progressive and severe neurological impairment and neuropsychological complications. The SLC transporter SLC6A19 is responsible for kidney reabsorption of Phe back into the bloodstream, and the inhibition of SLC6A19 offers a novel, oral approach for the treatment of PKU by facilitating urinary excretion of excess Phe. About Jnana Therapeutics Jnana Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biotechnology company leveraging its next-generation RAPID chemoproteomics platform to discover medicines for highly validated, challenging-to-drug targets to treat diseases with high unmet needs. Jnana is focused on developing first- and best-in-class therapies to treat a wide range of diseases, including rare diseases and immune-mediated diseases. Jnana’s wholly owned lead program, JNT-517, which targets an allosteric site on the phenylalanine transporter SLC6A19, is a potential first-in-class oral approach for the treatment of PKU, a rare genetic metabolic disease. Located in Boston, Jnana brings together scientific leaders in small molecule drug discovery and development, a highly experienced management team, and the backing of leading life science investors Bain Capital Life Sciences, RA Capital Management, Polaris Partners, Versant Ventures, Avalon Ventures, Pfizer Ventures, and AbbVie Ventures.

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