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Press Releases

Take a look at a selection of our recent media coverage:

Mitazalimab gains EMA orphan drug designation for pancreatic cancer

31st August 2023

Mitazalimab has received orphan drug designation status by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer, its manufacturer Alligator Bioscience has announced.

A human CD40 agonistic antibody targeting CD40, mitazalimab kickstarts the cancer-immunity cycle by priming and activating tumour-specific T cells. Targeting CD40 with mitazalimab has the potential to augment responses to chemotherapy.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is known to be the fourth-leading cause of cancer related mortality in the world and has a poor prognosis, with a five-year survival rate of below 5%.

To qualify for the EMA’s orphan designation, a medicine must be intended for the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of rare, life-threatening or chronically debilitating diseases that affect fewer than five in 10,000 persons in the EU. Medicines that meet these criteria are eligible for financial and regulatory incentives that include 10 years of marketing exclusivity in the EU after product approval.

The EMA orphan drug designation follows a similar approval by the FDA in May 2023.

Commenting on the EMA approval for orphan drug designation status, Søren Bregenholt, CEO of Alligator Bioscience, said: ‘We are very pleased that the European Medicines Agency has granted orphan designation to our lead asset mitazalimab in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

‘It is our second orphan designation this year following the FDA‘s decision to grant us [orphan drug designation] in May, meaning mitazalimab now has stronger commercial protection through market exclusivity in these two key markets. This latest designation adds to the momentum we are building in our efforts to bring this promising drug candidate to market.‘

Mitazalimab and OPTIMIZE-1

Mitazalimab is currently being evaluated in the phase 1b/2 OPTIMIZE-1 trial in combination with mFOLFIRINOX chemotherapy for adult patients with previously untreated metastatic PDAC.

In the trial, participants receive mitazalimab and mFOLFIRINOX via intravenous infusions following a 14-day cycle schedule. Mitazalimab is administered two days after mFOLFIRINOX, except for the first cycle of 21 days, where the drug is administered on days one and 10 with infusion of mFOLFIRINOX starting on day eight.

Interim results from OPTIMIZE-1 released in June 2023, showed a deepening of tumour response and an increase in the objective response rate (ORR) from 52% to 57% in a cohort of 23 patients.

In the full study cohort of 57 patients, there was an interim ORR of 44%, and this is expected to further improve with longer follow-up. A median duration of response of 8.7 months was also reported.

Taldefgrobep alfa granted orphan drug designation for spinal muscular atrophy in the EU

2nd August 2023

Taldefgrobep alfa has been given orphan medicinal product designation from the European Commission (EC) for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

A novel anti-myostatin adnectin, the drug has the potential to deliver significant benefits for people with SMA by enhancing muscle function when used in combination with currently available disease modifying therapies that help preserve motor neurons.

Myostatin is a naturally occurring protein that limits skeletal muscle growth and the inhibition of the protein is a promising therapeutic strategy for SMA.

Taldefgrobep alfa’s novelty in a field of myostatin inhibitors is based on its unique, dual mechanism of action. It binds to myostatin to lower overall myostatin levels and also functions as a receptor antagonist, thereby blocking myostatin signalling in skeletal muscles.

The first treatment to be approved by the EU for SMA was nusinersen back in 2017, which was administered via an intrathecal injection. The first oral therapy, risdiplam (brand name Evrysdi) was approved in 2021.

Expressing his delight about the orphan drug designation, Irfan Qureshi, chief medical officer at Biohaven, said: ‘Children and adults living with SMA experience significant muscle weakness and functional impairments affecting their quality of daily life, and a substantial unmet medical need persists. We are excited about the potential for taldefgrobep alfa to improve the lives of patients and families affected by SMA.‘

Biohaven is currently enrolling a Phase 3 clinical trial of taldefgrobep alfa to evaluate its efficacy and safety in participants with SMA.

Taldefgrobep alfa previously received fast track and orphan drug designation in the US.

Spinal muscular atrophy prevalence

SMA is a rare, genetic neurodegenerative disorder characterised by the loss of motor neurons, atrophy of the voluntary muscles of the limbs and trunk, and progressive muscle weakness that is often fatal. Typically diagnosed in young children, the condition is caused by insufficient production of the survival of motor neuron (SMN) protein, which is essential for the survival of motor neurons, and encoded by two genes: SMN1 and SMN2. The condition affects approximately one in 10,000 live births globally, with an estimated incidence in Europe ranging from one in 3,900 to one in 16,000 live births.

Orphan drug designation is only permitted for the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of a disease that is life-threatening or chronically debilitating and where the prevalence in the EU is less than five in 10,000 and where the medicine offers significant benefit to those with the condition.