Sunday, June 30, 2013

Alnylam Moves to Increased Dosing Frequency as Knockdown Duration Shortens

The ALN-TTR02 phase II results have finally been announced.  The results are consistent with the view that ALN-TTR02 is a strong candidate for becoming RNAi’s first marketed drug.  Having said that, the knockdown efficacy results came short of what one could have expected based on the phase I and non-human primate results and explain why the company has amended the protocol to test increased dosing frequencies.

Non-human primate studies show cumulative dosing

Alnylam had long telegraphed the results for the phase II studies.  They stated that we should expect the clinical results to be essentially the same as what they are seeing with the drug in non-human primates.  I understand that non-human primates are an immensely insightful model system in RNAi Therapeutics development.  Still, making such strong suggestions just weeks before clinical data release seemed a bit odd in that it risked stealing its own thunder.

Anyhow, the non-human primate studies showed the peak and the terminal knockdown (terminal knockdown defined as the knockdown just before repeat dosing) increased with each additional dose administration.  Whereas the peak/terminal knockdown in cycle 1 was ~85%/47% at 0.3mg/kg, they were ~90%/58% in cycle 2 and so on.  This is what Alnylam refers to as with ‘cumulative’ efficacy.

Unfortunately, this was only partially repeated in humans.

Knockdown not as sustained with repeat dosing

The ALN-TTR02 phase II study represented the first opportunity to rigorously test gene knockdown of a SNALP-delivered RNAi Therapeutic following repeat dosing.  Whereas the phase I study in healthy volunteers was a one-dose study, this phase II study was a 2-dose repeat-administration trial in European patients with TTR amyloidosis (FAP form).  In both studies, target gene knockdown could easily be determined by measuring TTR levels in the blood.

In my analysis of the data, I will stick with slide 10 of Alnylam’s slide set which seems to provide the clearest overview of the data.  At the critical 0.3mg/kg dose level, the peak knockdown either remained +/- the same (~80à80% for once-every-4-weeks) or showed evidence of cumulative activity (~80à88% for once-every-3-weeks) when comparing the first with the second dose administration.  While this looks quite good, albeit somewhat less than what was observed in the phase I study, slide 5), the downside surprise comes with the terminal knockdown values.  Here, the knockdown for cycle one (day 28; n=6) was around 75% with tight error bars, but dropped to 60% for cycle two (day 56; n=5) with much more considerable inter-patient variability.  The same was observed for the 0.15mg/kg dose level with ~53% and ~45% reductions after cycle one and two, respectively.

I have no idea where Alnylam is getting the 93% knockdown from that is so prominently mentioned in the press release.  Are they referring to a single patient that achieved such knockdown?    

Once-every-3-weeks to stay on top of competition

You can safely assume that reduced knockdown duration and the fact that the critical phosphorothioate antisense competitor by ISIS/GSK has a ~70% knockdown have driven Alnylam’s decision to amend the ongoing phase II study by including once-every-3-week regimens.
Data for the first such cohort was provided.  As noted above, once-every-3-weeks showed evidence of cumulative peak knockdown activity thus staying on top of the antisense competition.  It is a shame though that the data provided coincidentally ended on day 35, only a week before the important repeat terminal knockdown point.  It is thus not possible to tell whether diminished terminal knockdown is also an issue for the once-every-3-week regimen.

Safety findings largely related to route of administration  

Safety findings were only reported at the 0.3mg/kg level (4 events in 9 patients).  The infusion-related reaction and the 'nuisance' side effect of fever/chills are known for SNALP delivery, but do not appear to be prohibitive.   Unfortunately, there was a serious adverse event due to a misplacing of the infusion needle.  New to me is the finding of polyuria (peeing a lot). 

Based on this profile, Alnylam will try to lower the amount of immune suppression given with the drug.  Immune suppression is given as a precaution to avoid hypersensitivity reactions seen with SNALP-enabled TKM-ApoB.  It seems to me that in introducing the once-every-3-week regimen, Alnylam wants to dial up the product profile by lessening the burden of the immune suppression.

The future of ALN-TTR02

Given the high unmet medical need for FAP patients, ALN-TTR02 should remain on track of making it to the market provided reduced TTR levels indeed translate into a clinical benefit (a low risk at 80% knockdowns).  Some additional warts, however, have been added to the product profile and my main interest as to the future data will be how efficacy and safety is maintained not after just two, but after 3, 4, 5 doses and so on.  

It would also be good to find an explanation for the diminished knockdown duration (e.g. some neutralizing antibodies or a peculiarity of TTR gene regulation?).  Tekmira, the delivery partner which should receive a $5M milestone on the initiation of ALN-TTR02 phase III studies at the end of this year, would be an important ally in answering this question.  This could therefore be an important test of whether the two companies can put aside past differences.



Anonymous said...

Two things:
1.) Assume that ALNY is going with the q3w dosing. That is the relevant comparator here

2.) Look at ISIS graphs of their knockdown for 300mg dose (which is the dose they have moved ahead with in their pivotal study). At 300mg ISIS never gets more than 75% knockdown at any point in time. At the Q3w dose, ALNY gets over 75% knockdown from day 10 onward. In fact, the average knockdown from day 10 on for the q3w dose looks to be around 81-82%+, compared to ISIS which only gets 75% knockdown at day 29. Even if we assume, after the second q3w dose, that the graph follows the trend of the 0.3mg q4w dose, the knockdown at day 40 is likely going to be 76-77%.

Cumulative knockdown over the duration of the dosing period is what counts, and ALNY at the q3w dose should have around 81%, compared to 75% or less for ISIS

Nick P said...

From Tekmira investor perspective, whats your take? did this help, hurt or stay the same with validating SNALP. Will this be enough for potential partners sitting on the sidelines to dip their toes with TKMR SNALP delivery?
thanks, Nick Pearson

Dirk Haussecker said...

Tekmira...believe data should be neutral for Tekmira stock. Potential partners would want to see even longer dosing if not already sold on tech.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't sound good for Alnylam. If Marina Biotech could get the oral CEQ508 further along and show equal or better efficacy I think it would be a big advantage for Marina.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't sound too good for Tekmira either. Who wants more frequent dosing? Patients don't want that. They would put up with it until the oral CEQ508 was available.

Anonymous said...

Dirk, Don't you think you should disclose that you have a short position on Alnylam stock?

Terry Chrisomalis said...

so is more dosing leveraged to reduce safety. I mean more dosing could end up with more efficacy of the drug but could also increase side effects. I hope they make it work!

By Dirk Haussecker. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended for distribution to or use by any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of, or located in any locality, state, country or other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to law or regulation or which would subject the author or any of his collaborators and contributors to any registration or licensing requirement within such jurisdiction. This blog expresses only my opinions, they may be flawed and are for entertainment purposes only. Opinions expressed are a direct result of information which may or may not be accurate, and I do not assume any responsibility for material errors or to provide updates should circumstances change. Opinions expressed in this blog may have been disseminated before to others. This blog should not be taken as investment, legal or tax advice. The investments referred to herein may not be suitable for you. Investments particularly in the field of RNAi Therapeutics and biotechnology carry a high risk of total loss. You, the reader must make your own investment decisions in consultation with your professional advisors in light of your specific circumstances. I reserve the right to buy, sell, or short any security including those that may or may not be discussed on my blog.