Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

Posts tagged ‘biotech market strategy’

This weekend I will be at the annual meeting of The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Fort Lauderdale.

I’m excited about attending because earlier in my career I worked at Alcon Laboratories on European IDE clinical trials for three novel intra-ocular lenses.

ARVO is the ophthalmology equivalent of AACR and is where scientists involved in drug, device research meet to discuss new findings and early stage research.

The title of meeting is “Visionary Genomics.”  After listening to the plenary session at the recent AACR annual meeting by Lynda Chin on how insights from cancer genomics are translating into personalized medicine, I’m looking forward to seeing the impact of genomics on vision research.

Sunday’s ARVO/Alcon keynote presentation is from Roderick McInnes who is the Canada Research Chair in Neurogenetics at McGill University in Montreal.

A presentation that is already generating some advance interest is Sunday’s presentation of the results from the Comparison of Age Related Macular Degeneration Treatments Trials (CATT).

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in those over 65 in the United States, with over 7 million people estimated to be at risk.  Once you have AMD in one eye, you have a 43% risk of developing it in the other eye over a  five year period, a scary statistic!

The first CATT clinical trial is between bevacizumab (Avastin®) and ranibizumab (Lucentis®), both similar anti-VEGF inhibitors that are derived from the same monoclonal antibody.  It will be interesting to see whether the data supports the current practice of off-label use of bevacizumab given its lower cost compared to ranibizumab.

The findings from this data will also potentially impact aflibercept (VEGF-Trap) that is being co-developed by Bayer and Regeneron.  In February, Regeneron submitted a biologics license application (BLA) to the FDA for the use of VEGF-Trap in wet AMD.

The initial results from the aflibercept phase III AMD trial announced late last year showed a non-inferiority to ranibizumab.  If aflibercept is approved and comes to market in 2012, depending on the CATT results, it may have to compete on price against off-label bevacizumab in AMD.  Whether a more convenient injection once every two months for VEGF-Trap (compared to monthly for Lucentis) is sufficient to justify a price premium, it will be interesting to watch the market dynamics in this space.

You can find more about the meeting on the ARVO conference website and they have also put up a blog for the meeting.   The theme of my blog posts over the next few days will be ophthalmology related, and I expect to be live tweeting from ARVO 2011 on Sunday and Monday.  I’ll also be aggregating tweets from the meeting (hashtag #ARVO11) on this blog.

 

Earlier this month the Michael J Fox Foundation (MJFF) announced that Vancouver based Allon Therapeutics had been able to improve motor function and brain pathology in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

MJFF funded this research with Allon Therapeutics. The preclinical study results are published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience.

What makes this data interesting is that it adds further support to the potential efficacy of the company’s lead product, davunetide, in a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders.

Davunetide (AL-108) is a microtubule-interacting peptide based on an eight amino acid sequence, Asn-Ala-Pro-Val-Ser-Ile-Pro-Gln, single letter code NAPVSIPQ (NAP) derived from activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP). It has been shown to have neuroprotective properties.

Davunetide can be administered by IV or intranasally and crosses the blood/brain barrier. It is effective at promoting neurite growth, restoring transmission between nerve cells and untangling some of the damage seen in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. References to the scientific publications and mechanism of action can be found on the Allon Therapeutics website.

Currently it is being developed for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), schizophrenia cognitive impairment and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Davunetide is in a phase 3 clinical trial for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a subtype of FTD.

The company’s strategy is to pursue a fast-track to market in a small indication such as PSP. This is makes a lot of sense for a small biotechnology company with limited funding.  Successful approval in PSP will significantly increase the value of the company and improve the terms of any future licensing/partnering deals.

The hope for davunetide is that it will prevent disease progression in disorders such as AD and provide neuroprotective prophylaxisis prior to surgery that carries a high risk of memory loss e.g. heart bypass and coronary artery graft surgery (CABG).

While davunetide may not be a cure for AD, being able to slow down disease progression is something that has considerable value.  Given that new imaging biomarkers are likely to provide the opportunity to detect AD much earlier, the market opportunity for early treatment is set to increase.

Many families and caregivers would welcome a drug that delays further cognitive decline and memory loss in their loved ones.

On the basis of the promising preclinical results, I think we can expect to see further clinical research on davenutide in Parkinson’s Disease.

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