Tuesday, October 8, 2013

ISIS/GSK and Tekmira Come Out with HBV Knockdown Plans

If you did not appreciate the value the pharmaceutical industry has come to place on the HBsAg knockdown concept for achieving a functional cure for chronic Hepatitis B (HBV) infection, the last two days will have woken you up. 

Yesterday, ISIS Pharmaceuticals reported that it had received a $7M milestone payment related to the development of an antiviral RNaseH development candidate (ISIS-GSK3Rx, aka ISIS-HBVRx) which, although undisclosed for competitive reasons, hasgot to be for HBV.  And today, Tekmira publicly announced that they will file an IND for an HBV-RNAi candidate in 2014 while hinting at the partnering potential of such a treatment candidate.

Arrowhead Research is thus not alone in their efforts any more.  Coincidentally, Arrowhead reported today the completion of their enrollment of the phase I single-dose, healthy volunteer study with ARC520, their DPC-delivered candidate for chronic HBV.  Accordingly, the dose escalation was able to run through all the pre-planned 6 dose cohorts up to the top dose of 2.0mg/kg. 

Apparently, there were no signs of significant dose-related toxicities.  The only finding of concern among the 36 volunteers, 24 of which received drug, was 2 cases of lightheadedness of uncertain clinical relevance.  As these occurred at the highest dose, it seems that the company suspects that it could have been drug-related although the study remains blinded for follow-up.

A dose of 2mg/kg without any serious adverse events or dose-limiting toxicities is a great start for DPC delivery technology.  This is especially the case when one considers that the single-molecule subQ version of DPC that I hope will form the basis for the upcoming pipeline candidates, except for the next one perhaps, will be much more potent than the two-molecule version of intravenously delivered ARC520 based on the non-human primate data presented at last year's OTS meeting.

With 2mg/kg of ARC520, I further believe that HBsAg knockdowns of over 90% are likely.  The biggest challenge going forward with this program will be setting a knockdown goal and getting the dose and dose frequency right.

For more about increasingly lively HBsAg knockdown for the treatment of chronic HBV, please follow my HBV Knockdown Blog.

Also today: Tekmira and Arrowhead Research Rapidly Filling Pipeline

In addition to chronic HBV, Tekmira further disclosed development plans for candidates addressing Marburg infection, alcoholism, hypertriglyceridemia and severe orphan glycogen disorders.  The presentation made clear that the company has not sat on its hands since the settlement with Alnylam and is close to having at least 4 drug candidates in active clinical development by early 2015 (TKM-PLK1, TKM-EBOLA, TKM-ALDH2, TKM-HBV).

Meanwhile, previously $200M market cap Arrowhead Research has succeeded with a $60M private placement without having had to offer a discount.  In my opinion, this reflects the broadened investor interest in the space and makes Arrowhead an even better investment as it can now, freed from financial constraints, immediately pursue some of the attractive liver targets with best-in-class solutions and beyond.

Wondering whether we are in an RNA Therapeutics bubble?  Then I suggest you get my OTS 2013 meeting report.  Dare I say that oligonucleotide therapeutics is a more capable and exciting technology than monoclonal antibodies already?  At least if you believe orphan diseases are the way to go in today's pharmaceutical drug development, there is no doubt about it coming out of the meeting. 


Anonymous said...

No discount? Well, if you 'discount' the selldown the day before the pricing, I guess not. Surely no one would short a stock to get themselves a better deal in a financing. Not in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

Their P1 trial for safety study was not very convincing. It was based on a single dose which is not reliable. We will not know about its safety profile until they start P2a multiple dose study.

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