Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Givosiran on Track for Accelerated Approval, but Anaphylaxis Event Rattles Investors


Alnylam last weekend provided an update on its early clinical experience with Givosiran in patients with acute intermittent porphyria (AIP), a severe ultra-orphan disease characterized by debilitating abdominal pain.  The results further demonstrate that the ALA 1 Synthase (ALAS1)-targeting GalNAc-siRNA conjugate has a profound impact on disease symptoms, an impact that, excitingly, appears to improve over time based on the open-label extension data.

Given the severe nature of the disease, with intermittent acute pain by some referred to as being ‘incompatible with life’ and chronic pain in between attacks, the attack rate results and their remarkable correlation with ALA/PBG biomarker changes point towards smooth sailing towards accelerated approval of Givosiran in early 2019.  Accordingly, the ongoing registrational ENVISION phase III study has now recruited its 30th patient, setting up for a biomarker read-out in the second half of this year which would form the basis of an IND submission.

Despite the solid efficacy results, biomarker and attack rate reductions down about 10x and 4x, respectively, the EASL update wasn’t all positive.  To begin, increasing the dose to 5mg/kg did not support the sustained ~70% ALAS1 mRNA and ~90% ALA/PBG lowering seen with 2.5mg/kg monthly dosing when given quarterly.  Such sustained reduction in neurotoxic ALA/PBG appear necessary for Givosiran disease-modifying efficacy.  Since there is no real competition for Givosiran on the horizon, this is a minor issue that will likely be addressed by next-generation AIP compounds by Alnylam.

More important, however, was the revelation of the first case of GalNAc RNAi-triggered anaphylaxis in the open-label extension (OLE) part of the study.  Within hours of a subcutaneous injection, a patient suffered anaphylaxis which, fortunately, was not fatal, but sufficient for the patient to drop out of the study.  Of note, there was no evidence of pre-existing anti-drug antibodies and this patient had a history of allergy.

The overall implications of this adverse events for Alnylam and the RNAi industry remain to be seen.  This was the first case of anaphylaxis among close to 3000 subjects dosed across various GalNAc-RNAi trigger studies by Alnylam, Arrowhead, and Dicerna.  This includes the hundreds of subjects exposed to PCSK9-lowering Inclisiran.  

At worst, anaphylaxis is a rare, unpredictable event to GalNAc-RNAi triggers in general which would have most impact of using this technology for less severe, large non-orphan indications.  More likely, however, anaphylaxis is a risk of specific compounds in this class and only seen in patients with a pre-disposition to allergy as in this instance.  

Both Alnylam and Arrowhead traded down 5% on the news, likely reflecting investor caution in light of the new data.   With Alnylam now trading over 35% below its recent all-time high and strong Patisiran and Givosiran approvals on the near-term horizon, Alnylam has now become my number one position.  Any such sustained weakness in share price makes it vulnerable to a hostile takeover attempt in this hot biotech M&A environment.

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By Dirk Haussecker. All rights reserved.

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