Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘Androgen Receptor Antagonists’

Medivation investors hoping for a windfall will be disappointed to hear that on December 20, 2012 a California judge ruled the company had no rights to what is now known as Aragon Pharmaceuticals’ ARN-509, a next-generation androgen receptor (AR) antagonist for advanced prostate cancer, similar in chemical structure to enzalutamide (Xtandi).

Enzalutamide (formerly MDV3100) was developed in the UCLA laboratory of Drs. Charles Sawyers and Michael Jung and licensed by Medivation from the University of California. Medivation believed their licensing and sponsored research agreements gave them rights to any follow-on compounds. However, instead of giving Medivation first right of refusal, the University licensed what is now ARN-509 to Aragon Pharmaceuticals, a privately-held company whose owners include Sawyers and Jung.

You can read more about ARN-509 on Pharma Strategy Blog: “Is ARN-509 potentially better than MDV-3100?” Sally Church (@MaverickNY) also interviewed Dr Charles Sawyers in May 2011 just before Medivation commenced a lawsuit against the University of California, Sawyers and Jung claiming breach of contractual agreements.

Concern about the ownership of intellectual property rights to ARN-509 has overshadowed Aragon with many thinking Medivation had a strong case. This has likely hindered the ability to raise capital or obtain a potential partner, although Aragon did announce on October 4, 2012 they had raised $50M in series D financing. However, ARN-509 has been slow to move through development and has yet to enter phase 3 clinical trials.

Based on the limited public information available about the lawsuit between Medivation, University of California and Aragon, my thoughts last year were that the case would settle as none of the parties would want a trial that exposed sensitive intellectual property and financial information.

However, in a December 20, 2012 Order, Judge John E. Munter of the Superior Court of California granted summary judgment to The Regents of the University of California on a number of issues, finding that Medivation’s contracts with the University gave them no ownership or licensing rights to ARN-509.

Medivation v University of California IP dispute court docket

Many thanks to biotech investor (@lomu_j) for sharing the news on Twitter – definitely worth following if you do not do so already.

 

Based on the evidence submitted by the parties, Judge Munter decided that the University of California did not breach the Sponsored Research Agreement (SRA) with Medivation.

According to the court Order, the SRA provided that Medivation would have “a time-limited first right to negotiate an option or license, which may be exclusive” with respect to “Subject Inventions” that occurred during a specified performance period i.e. the University of California was required to disclose follow-on compounds such as ARN-509 to Medivation during this time.

However, anyone who has been involved in contractual disputes will know the devil is in the detail, and the court Order explains why Medivation did not prevail, as many had expected.

The SRA defined “Subject Invention” to be an invention that was “first conceived” and “actually reduced to practice” during the performance period which it was agreed would start on November 1, 2005. However, during discovery The Regents of the University of California presented evidence from a research scientist, Dr Samedy Ouk that A52, the compound that became ARN-509, was conceived and reduced to practice prior to this date. You can read more in the following excerpt from Judge Munter’s Order:

Superior Court of California Order excerpt MDVN Aragon ARN-509 dispute

Since the University was only obligated to disclose inventions after November 1, 2005, the court found they did not breach the SRA by failing to give Medivation the right to option or license a compound that was invented prior to this. A close call when you look at the dates, but that is what the parties agreed to in writing.

The court Order discusses several of the claims and disputes between the parties, some of which remain ongoing. It is of course possible that Medivation might appeal, but I was persuaded by Judge Munter’s cogent opinion. In essence the court ruling, unless it is overturned on appeal, means Aragon can move forward unhindered with the development of ARN-509.

Here’s my take from this case:

  1. When negotiating a contract, the devil is in the details. Good contract drafting should avoid the need for future litigation. Negotiating contracts can take months, but it’s never wise to sign anything just for the sake of expediency.
  2. A contractual dispute can occur years after an agreement was signed highlighting the importance of document retention, e.g. laboratory notebooks, especially where intellectual property is involved.
  3. Contracts typically have an integration clause that says what is written reflects the “entire understanding of the parties.” This means a court will only look to what is in written down and not what may have been said or verbally agreed prior to signing the agreement. It’s important to make sure the written contract is clear and unambiguous.
  4. IP litigation can delay a potential competitor and deter others from investing or partnering. By the time ARN-509 makes it to market, the prostate cancer landscape will be more competitive than it is today.  Through the delay Medivation ends up winning irrespective.
  5. Aragon may now be an attractive partner for companies with an established urology/prostate franchise who would like to compete against Medivation.

While many are excited about ARN-509 in advanced prostate cancer, it must be noted that Aragon have yet to show that ARN-509 is more effective than enzalutamide in patients. A phase 3 clinical trial of ARN-509 in the post-docetaxel prostate cancer setting will not be easy given it will most likely require comparison to the current standard of care (Xtandi or Zytiga) and not placebo.

The prostate cancer market remains a dynamic one with multiple new products in development and the potential for combination approaches. The forthcoming ASCO GU meeting in Orlando, from February 14-18, 2013 is worth watching for new updates.

Update May 29, 2013: Medivation announces they will appeal decision in favor of Aragon

According to the SEC filing that @ColfaxCapital kindly shared the link to last month on twitter, Medivation have not unsurprisingly announced they will appeal the California court decision in favor of Aragon.

The Medivation SEC 8-K filing notes that the appeal was filed on April 15, 2013 and will most likely take 12-18 months, so a California Court of Appeals decision is not expected until sometime in 2014.

There is also ongoing litigation between the University of California and Medivation over whether the company has to make royalty payments to the University when it receives commercial milestone payments from Astellas and a trial on this issue is scheduled for July 2013. Another trial over Medivation’s allegations of fraud against Dr Jung is set to start in October 2013.

There’s still plenty of legs left in this story and a time to go before we have a definitive outcome given that any trial decisions will most likely also be appealed in due course.

Update June 17, 2013: Johnson & Johnson announces acquisition of Aragon Pharmaceuticals with $650M upfront payment

J&J have this morning announced the acquisition of Aragon, and the rights to ARN-509 in a deal with a $650M upfront payment and contingent milestone payments of upto $350M.

Here’s a link to the press release published on the WSJ.

 

One of the late-breaking abstracts (not yet published) that I am looking forward to at the forthcoming annual Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO 2012) in Vienna is on ODM-201 (Orion Pharma):

LBA25-PR:  ARADES trial: A first-in-man, open-label, phase I/II safety, pharmacokinetic, and proof-of-concept study of ODM-201 in patients (pts) with progressive metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC)

ODM-201 is a new antiandrogen from Finnish company, Orion Pharma, and is being developed in partnership with Endo Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ENDP).

Orion Pharma LogoIn a corporate presentation, Orion Pharma describe ODM-201 as:

  • Potentially best-in-class antiandrogen
  • Does not enter brain in preclinical models
  • No testosterone increase in animal models
  • Well tolerated

“We are studying and developing an anti-androgen with qualities that currently cannot be found in any of our or our competitors’ drugs”

says Mika Mustonen (@MikaMustonen), Head of Oncology, Research and Development at Orion in an article, “Pursuing a targeted drug for prostate cancer” published by the company. Mustonen says:

“The research on our new drug candidate, ODM-201, suggests that we may be able to provide patients with a new alternative for the treatment of prostate cancer.”

Of note, is Orion’s focus on biomarkers, which may help predict which patients are more likely to respond to the therapy. According to Mustonen:

“Biomarkers increase the chance of success.  By following them we can study topics that have not been considered before in this type of research.  We can predict different phases of the disease, survey any safety risks associated with the drug and find out what kind of patients benefit most from the drug.”

At ESMO 2012 (Twitter hashtag #ESMO12) I expect we will hear preliminary data from the ARADES 3104001 phase 1 dose escalation study (NCT01317641) with ODM-201.

According to clinicaltrials.gov this multicenter, non-randomized clinical trial is being undertaken at sites in Finland, Czech Republic, France, United Kingdom and the United States.

After 12 weeks in the phase 1 dose escalation study, patients with stable disease can continue treatment in a phase 2 extension study on the safety and tolerability of ODM-201 (NCT01429064).

As of May 2012, Orion Pharma reported that the ARADES 3104001 phase II expansion component had 105 patients enrolled, with 3 dose levels to be expanded.

Company senior management have told me they “are very excited about the ODM-201 data,” to be presented at ESMO. I have not seen the data, but presume the results will be positive. After all, company executives don’t get excited about negative data!

Is there a market for a new antiandrogen?

Although Medivation are first to market with their androgen receptor (AR) inhibitor, enzalutamide/MDV3100 (Xtandi) that does not mean that other companies will not be able to make in-roads into the market with cheaper or more effective AR antagonists.

In a Pharma Strategy Blog interview with Sally Church, Dr Charles Sawyers noted that Aragon’s ARN-509 (another AR inhibitor in development) is “more potent” than enzalutamide and “might produce a higher percentage of responders or longer duration of response.”

Medivation recently announced that enzalatumide is available in the United States for patients with metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer previously treated with docetaxel.

At a price of $7,450 a month, however, Xtandi is considerably higher than Johnson & Johnson’s Zytiga.  This aggressive premium pricing strategy opens the door to competitors who may offer equally effective, but less expensive drugs.

The prostate cancer market remains a dynamic one and very much one to watch over the next few years.

I look forward to learning more about ODM-201 at ESMO 2012.

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Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, so it was good news this morning when Medivation & Astellas issued a press release that showed positive data from the phase 3 AFFIRM trial for MDV3100.

MDV3100 produced a 4.8-month advantage in median overall survival compared to placebo.

The estimated median survival for men treated with MDV3100 was 18.4 months compared with 13.6 months for men treated with placebo.

MDV3100 provided a 37 percent reduction in risk of death compared to placebo (Hazard Ratio=0.631).

To put the 4.8 month survival advantage in context, this compares favorably with 3.9 months for abiraterone (Hazard Ratio =0.646), in the COU-AA-301 trial.

Positive data was expected given the sound scientific rationale behind MDV3100 and the preliminary data (abstract 4501) presented at the ASCO annual meeting this year. J Clin Oncol 29: 2011 (suppl; abstr 4501).

The drug has a high affinity for the androgen receptor (AR) that is highly expressed on prostate cancer cells.  You can read an excellent interview on Pharma Strategy Blog with Charles Sawyers, who was one of the co-inventors.

MDV3011 blocks the androgen receptor (AR) from moving into the nucleus and activating growth genes and is a more complete inhibitor of AR than bicalutamide.

One hot topic of conversation at ASCO was the potential to combine MDV3100 (androgen receptor blocker) with abiraterone acetate (Zytiga) (androgen synthesis inhibitor), thereby shutting down upstream and downstream activity of the driving receptor in advanced prostate cancer.  The scientific rationale for this appears sound, so it is likely that a combination clinical trial may well be done to test this hypothesis at some point in the future.

MDV3100 has a significant advantage over abiraterone acetate (Zytiga) in that concomitant steroids are not required. Daily steroids have their side effects.  Urologists in particular will be attracted to MDV3100 and its ease of use.

Clinical trials in prostate cancer are ongoing with a multitude of new emerging therapies including TAK-700, Cabozantinib (XL184), radium-223 chloride (Alpharadin), BPX-101, Prostvac-VF, ipilumumab, Custirsen (OGX-011), dasatinib (Sprycel), lenalidomide (Revlimid) and ARN-509 to name but a few.

It is a therapeutic area with a lot going on after very little activity for a decade. The positive interim data for MDV3100 announced today is good news for prostate cancer patients, and we await presentation of the data next year.

Medivation and Astellas plan to hold a pre-NDA meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in early 2012, so US approval could be possible later next year.

Launch of Zytiga (abiraterone acetate) at 2011 annual meeting of American Urological Association (AUA) in Washington DCThe market for prostate cancer therapies is set to expand from $1 billion currently to $5 billion by 2015, according to analysts reported by this morning’s Washington Post/Bloomberg news.  This is perhaps no surprise given the recent approval of abiraterone acetate (Zytiga®) from Ortho Biotech (JNJ).

New clinical data on prostate cancer clinical trial results is expected at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago this weekend from many of the prostate cancer therapies in development such as MDV3100, TAK700, ARN-509, cabozantinib (XL184), ipilimumab, custirsen (OGX-11), BPX-101, alpharadin, denosumab (Xgeva®) and Prostvac-VF.

Indeed, one could argue that prostate cancer is becoming a competitive marketplace.  Any emerging biotechnology company that is not already developing a prostate cancer drug is likely to find it a hard market in which to create a blockbuster.  By the time any drug comes to market, there will be incumbents with effective products who have captured market share.

Prostate cancer is an exciting market to watch from a marketing strategy and patient perspective, as several companies potentially bring new products to market over the next few years.

However, the bottom line is that patients will live longer as a result of all the innovation that is taking place.  Not only that but physician education and awareness of how to treat this disease is also likely to improve as they seek out knowledge on new therapies and treatments.  This to many will make a major difference.  At the recent American Urological Association (AUA) annual meeting, the sessions on treatment of prostate cancer were standing room only.  There is clearly a demand for knowledge out there as the treatment paradigms change.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is also innovation taking place in terms of improved diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.  Whether we should screen all men for PSA remains a controversial topic, although use of risk calculators do appear to offer less false positives.  Indeed, calculating risk is going to be one of the key areas that primary care physicians and urologists need to focus on, particularly in the light of the PIVOT trial data that was presented at AUA, showing radical prostatectomy (with risks including incontinence and erectile dysfunction) was not better than watchful waiting in low-risk, early stage disease.

However, a presentation I am looking forward to at ASCO 2011 is on circulating tumor cells (CTC) and whether these can be a prognostic or even a predictive biomarker.   Both the phase III MDV3100 and abiraterone acetate clinical trials captured CTC data.  It will be exciting news at ASCO 2011 if circulating tumor cells that require only a blood sample offer an improvement over PSA not only for detection of prostate cancer, but in monitoring the disease over time.

I will be at ASCO 2011 this weekend, and look forward to writing more on prostate cancer from the conference!

The 102nd Annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) ended yesterday in Orlando, and it was only the diehards who kept going till the last session of the last day for an update on “Novel Androgen Receptor Antagonists.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is a lot of excitement in the prostate cancer field at the moment with three new therapies approved last year (cabazitaxel, sipuleucel-T, denosumab), and more expected over the next two years (abiraterone acetate, MDV3100, cabozantinib/XL-184).

What I took from the AACR session I attended, is that there are also other products in the pipeline that are worth watching.  Below is a list of some of the products that were mentioned. It’s not intended to be a comprehensive review of the prostate cancer landscape, only my notes and thoughts on some of the new products that the speakers touched upon.

Abiraterone Acetate: The postive phase III trial results were reported last year at ESMO and ASCO GU, and the approval of this drug is currently being considered by the FDA.  Approval is expected shortly, and possibly in time for launch at the forthcoming annual meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) meeting in Washington, DC.

Abiraterone (brand name Zytiga) inhibits the enzymes (17-alpha hydroxylase and C17, 20 lyase) responsible for adrenal androgen formation.

The phase III results were impressive in very sick patients who were close to the end of their lives in very advanced disease.  Overall survival increased from 10.9 to 14.8 months in the second line chemotherapy setting post docetaxel.  It’s expected that the results will be more dramatic pre-chemotherapy.

Once the FDA approval is obtained, it’s hard to see how oncologists will not consider abiraterone instead of cabazitaxel in the second-line chemotherapy setting.  An easily taken pill with fewer less side effects may be a more convenient option for elderly or frail men with prostate cancer.  Abiraterone’s approval will not be good news for sanofi-aventis.

I also expect we will see significantly off-label usage of abiraterone pre-chemotherapy by urologists as they seek to maintain hormone-sensitivity in their patients after several lines of anti-hormonal therapies.  There is a phase III trial ongoing in this setting that is expected to show promising data by the end of the year.

However, it’s a good strategy to come market as soon as possible to provide wider access to patients in need, and the post-docetaxel second line setting allowed the overall survival benefit to be shown before the pre-chemo data would be available.

However, what I learned at the meeting is that abiraterone acetate may not be the best product in the long term.  Currently it requires the corticosteroid, prednisone, to be given at the same time to attenuate the mineralocorticoid effects.  Questions that were raised in the AACR session about long-term treatment with abiraterone included, “Must a corticosteroid be given concurrently?” and “What about hypertension?”

Other questions remain, such as possible development of resistance to abiraterone. Often the first drug to market is not the best, and it’s possible that second generation new products in the pipeline may be better than abiraterone and delay the time to resistance further.

However, what abiraterone does have is first mover advantage and depending on the pricing strategy adopted by Johnson & Johnson, the ability to capture market share earlier.  It will be interesting to see what happens with this drug, but it’s certainly an exciting time for patients with prostate cancer.

TAK-700: This drug from Takeda/Millennium is a more potent inhibitor of C17α-hydroxylase than abiraterone.  One of the panelists at AACR believed that TAK-700 “may in the long run surplant abiraterone acetate due to less need for mineralocorticoids.” TAK 700 entered phase III clinical trials late last year.

MDV3100:  This drug is being developed by Medivation/Astellas and is also in phase III trials, with data expected by the end of this year or early 2012.  It has a high affinity for the androgen receptor. However, what came across in the AACR presentation by Howard Scher, was his view that the second compound developed by Charles Sawyers, ARN-509 may be better than MDV3100.

ARN-509: This drug from Aragon Pharmaceuticals is in phase I/II clinical trials and is definitely one to watch.  As Dr Scher pointed out, ARN-509 is more potent than MDV3100 and I expect we will see publication of more data on ARN-509 in the near future.

If you are interested in prostate cancer, AACR are offering webcasts and podcasts of scientific sessions this year.  Further information can be found on their website.  AACR have also announced a scientific special session on “Advances in Prostate Cancer Research” from February 6-9 2012.  It’s certainly an interesting and exciting time in this field as new products become available, something that is likely to make a real difference to how this disease is treated.

 

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