News

Potential SMA Therapy, RG7916, for Types 2 and 3 Advancing in Clinical Trial in Europe

A Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of RG7916 in children and adults with type 2 or 3 spinal muscular atrophy has advanced into a second and possibly pivotal phase. The study is part of a development program jointly led by PTC Therapeutics, Roche and the SMA Foundation. An interim analysis from the trial's first part demonstrated an exposure-dependent increase in the SMN protein, which is deficient in SMA patients. RG7916 continues to be well-tolerated at all doses and no drug-related safety findings led to any patients withdrawing from part one. RG7916 is drug that can be taken by mouth that impacts SMN2. Because SMA is caused by a defect in the SMN1 gene, the SMN2 gene has been explored as a potential replacement to guarantee the production of the SMN protein. RG7916 is also being investigated in babies with type 1 or infant-onset SMA in a Phase 2 trial called FIREFISH. This study, running at sites in the U.S. and Europe, is currently recruiting infants ages 1 to 7 months old. PTC Therapeutics and the SMA Foundation initially began working on this potential therapy in 2006, and Roche began to participate in 2011, when it acquired an exclusive worldwide license to this splicing program.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated RG7916 an orphan drug for the treatment of SMA in January 2017.

#NORDSummit – FDA Approach to Approvals, Therapy Costs and ‘Right to Try’ Among Issues at NORD Summit

Parents and caregivers of patients with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) take great interest in orphan drug development, soaring healthcare costs, patient assistance programs and controversial “right-to-try” legislation — all issues on the agenda during the upcoming Rare Disease & Orphan Products Breakthrough Summit. “One of the chief challenges of 21st-century…

PTC’s RG7916 Shows Promise in Increasing SMN Protein in SUNFISH Phase 2 SMA Trial

Preliminary data from the Phase 2 SUNFISH trial show PTC Therapeutics' investigative drug RG 7916 increases production of the SMN (survival motor neuron) protein in types 2 and 3 spinal muscular atrophy patients. The results were presented by PTC Therapeutics at the 22nd International World Muscle Society (WMS) Congress in St. Malo, France, Oct. 3-7. Part 1 of the study assessed the safety, tolerability, effectiveness, and pharmacological profile of several doses of orally administered RG 7916 in both ambulatory and non-ambulatory SMA patients. Part 2 will include 150 non-ambulatory patients to determine the safety and effectiveness of the recommended dosage of RG 7916 selected from Part 1. An open-label extension study will follow. The development and production of RG7916 is part of a joint effort between PTC Therapeutics, Swiss multinational Roche, and the SMA Foundation. Earlier this year, RG7916 was granted orphan drug and fast track designation by the FDA for the treatment of patients with SMA. PTC Therapeutics created an SMA research program in 2006 in partnership with the SMA Foundation to pursue a therapy for the devastating disease. In November 2011, Roche obtained an exclusive worldwide license to the PTC/SMA Foundation program studying alternative splicing (synthesis of different protein variants from the same messenger RNA sequence) of the SMN2 gene.

FDA Approves AveXis’ Pivotal Trial of AVXS-101 for SMA Type 1

The gene therapy developer AveXis will start a pivotal clinical trial of AVXS-101 for people with SMA type 1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials agreed to the trial after AveXis submitted information the agency requested on the drug's manufacturing process and other matters. The request was made at a meeting the sides held in May. AveXis did not say in its announcement whether the pivotal trial would be a Phase 2 or Phase 3 study. The company has completed a Phase 1 trial of AVXS-101. Most pivotal trials are Phase 3, but occasionally they can be Phase 2. . AVXS-101 is a proprietary gene therapy for SMA types 1 and 2. Designed to deliver a functional copy of an SMN gene to motor neuron cells, it aims to prevent additional muscle degeneration. The pivotal trial in SMA type 1 – called STR1VE – will be an open-label, single-arm, single-dose, multi-center study. It will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a one-time dose of AVXS-101 delivered intravenously or directly into the blood circulation. Researchers will administer a dose established in a Phase 1 trial that they confirmed with new analytical methods that the FDA reviewed. The dose was also extensively tested in a mouse model of SMA. AveXis expects to enroll in the trial at least 15 patients with SMA Type 1 younger than six months of age. One of the trial's primary objectives will be to see if AVXS-101 can help an 18-month-old infant sit without help for at least 30 seconds. Another primary objective will be to help an infant achieve event-free survival at 14 months of age, and to see whether AVXS-101 helps patients thrive — that is,  not requiring feeding support, tolerate thin liquids and maintain weight. Another secondary objective will be to help infants get off ventilator support at 18 months of age. Updates of these studies are expected at the end of the year.

After 2-Year Hiatus, Novartis Resumes Branaplam Clinical Trial in SMA Type 1 Infants

Novartis will resume clinical development of branaplam to treat spinal muscular atrophy after a two-year pause brought on by safety concerns, the Swiss company announced in a letter published by Cure SMA. The ongoing clinical trial will start enrolling patients as soon as the research team obtains approvals by health authorities and the ethics committee. The study recruits infants younger than six months with type 1 SMA. All will receive branaplam, the name Novartis chose for its compound when reopening clinical investigations. While the study originally only included four European study centers — in Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Italy — Novartis said it plans to add more sites including some in the United States, following a green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The branaplam clinical trial halted new enrollments in May 2016 after simultaneous animal studies linked branaplam to unexpected nerve damage and other injuries. Infants already enrolled continued treatment and have been closely monitored. Novartis has worked with outside experts to understand the meaning of the animal findings. The fact that enrollment has resumed signals that Novartis — which has not commented on its relevance — no longer perceives the animal data as an immediate patient hazard. Besides resuming recruitment, the company has modified its trial design after considering feedback from the babies’ parents and study investigators. For instance, infants can now receive their weekly dose of branaplam orally, instead of via a feeding tube, which was the only option when the trial started. The company also added nerve tests to the trial as an additional safety procedure. As clinical development of branaplam continues, Novartis is also working with regulators to expand drug testing to include patients with other types of SMA.

Scholar Rock Secures U.S. Patent for Potential SMA Therapy Targeting Myostatin

Biotech company Scholar Rock has Secured a key U.S. Patent for a Potential SMA Therapy that targets Myostatin The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a patent for antibodies that selectively bind and inhibit myostatin – a protein that naturally prevents muscle mass growth. This new patent granted to Scholar Rock will protect its drug candidate, SRK-015, which the Cambridge, Massachusetts company is developing to improve muscle strength and motor function in patients with spinal muscular atrophy and other motor disorders. Previous studies have showed that people with mutated myostatin genes also have significantly larger muscle mass. This suggests that inhibiting myostatin's activity could potentially treat several motor illnesses, including SMA. Preclinical testing in non-human primates has shown SRK-015’s potential to improve muscle cell function and strength. Animals given SRK-015 improved lean muscle mass as well as the function of some specific muscle fibers that are often simpaired in many SMA patients. Scholar Rock is working to take its lead candidate for treatment of SMA into clinical trials. The company plans to evaluate SRK-015's safety and effectiveness in combination with other therapies designed to correct the genetic defects that lead to SMA. By mid-2018, Scholar Rock also intends to address SRK-015's potential as a standalone therapy in patients with certain subtypes of the rare genetic disorder. The recently issued patent will provide broad protection for SRK-015 and other therapeutic antibodies that use the same mechanism of action. These antibodies can be explored as therapeutic strategies for several neuromuscular and other diseases.

Boston Rare Disease Film Festival to Feature SMA Documentary ‘Life & Atrophy’

This year's Boston Rare Disease Film Festival will Feature an SMA Documentary Gareth Burghes' documentary, Life & Atrophy, which runs 24 minutes, will be part of Disorder: The Rare Disease Film Festival — a first-of-its-kind event in Boston this early October. The festival covers more than two dozen rare diseases. The 30 films, which will be shown in seven screenings, range in length from one to 65 minutes. Life & Atrophy is billed as “a documentary following one family’s story to defy genetic fate.” Burghes said the idea for his movie stemmed from his geneticist father's involvement in  clinical trials of SMA patients. It tells the story of Miles McIntosh, a 5-year-old boy with SMA type 2, as his parents, Nikki and Tony McIntosh, sign him up for a trial to test the recently FDA-approved therapy Spinraza. Burghes said that SMA “has gone from an orphan disease with nearly nothing known about it, to now having its first FDA-approved drug on the market, as well as other treatments in the pipeline. The film represents what can be accomplished when families, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies join together to solve complex diseases.” The Boston film festival is the brainchild of two fathers --Daniel DeFabio, whose son has Menkes disease, a rare disorder that affects only one in 100,000 newborns -- and Bo Bigelow, who's daughter Tess has a genetic disease that’s even more rare. Only 23 people worldwide have it; there isn’t even a name to describe her illness. The Rare Disease Film Festival runs Oct. 2-3 in Boston. The SMA documentary Life & Atrophy will air at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 2nd .

Cure SMA to Host Webinar Today on Spinraza Access

Cure SMA will host a webinar on spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) today at 1 p.m. EST. The event focuses on access to Spinraza — the only U.S. government-approved therapy to treat the disease, CureSMA said in a press release. Topics to be covered include the current status of dosing in…