There was one clear star at the American Epilepsy Society Annual meeting this year, Epidiolex (cannabidiol). Yet four years ago no one would have thought that the cannabis-derived drug would take over the field of epilepsy in such a big way.
The 2019 Dravet Syndrome Pipeline and Opportunities Review provides a review and analysis of 12 drug candidates in development for the treatment of Dravet syndrome, including 11 products that have received orphan drug designations. The Report includes the most recent updates on programs from GW Pharmaceuticals (Epidiolex / Epidyolex), Zogenix (Fintepla, ZX008), Biocodex (stiripentol) , Ovid Therapeutics (Soticlestat, OV935, TAK-935), Takeda Pharmaceutical, Supernus Pharmaceuticals (SPN-817, Huperzine), Xeris Pharmaceutical (diazepam), Epygenix Therapeutics (EPK-100, -200 and -300), NeuroCycle Therapeutics (NCT10015), PTC Therapeutics (ataluren), Stoke Therapeutics (STK-001), Encoded Therapeutics and OPKO Health (OPK88001, CUR-1915).
I used to say that at the patient communities “we set the agenda”. It turns out we didn’t, we were borrowing the agenda from scientific meetings. The 2019 CDKL5 Alliance International Research and Family Conference redefined what a patient-centered conference truly is. In this article I summarise the elements that make a meeting truly patient-centered.
Many orphan drugs are advanced therapies. Pricing and access are major issues. Epilepsy is catching up with gene therapy. We shouldn’t call them rare diseases, but frequently misdiagnosed diseases. Either we wait 2,000 years for treatments or we start thinking “many diseases at a time”, and online patient communities are now part of the drug development process. That’s the short summary of the main lessons I took home from attending the World Orphan Drug Congress at the National Harbor April 10-12. The WODC one of the largest meetings dedicated to the development of new medicines for rare diseases and takes place once in the US and once in Europe every year. In a bit more detail, here is the expanded list of what I would like to share with you from the conference.
There are multiple gene therapy programs in development for Dravet syndrome including those that supply and extra copy of the SCN1A gene and those that boost expression from the healthy SCN1A gene copy. Clinical trials are around the corner, with Stoke Therapeutics expecting to initiate clinical trials in 2020. Just Stoke is not enough. New corporate players, and ideally some precompetitive collaboration around the common challenges of validating clinical outcome measures and biomarkers, are needed to maximize the success of gene therapies for Dravet syndrome.
2019 will be the year when we might have the European launch of Epidiolex, the US approval and launch of Fintepla, an ongoing clinical trial with TAK-935, hopefully some news about the ability of Translarna to improve Dravet syndrome by rescuing some of the nonsense mutations, and a year to prepare for the clinical trials that starting in 2020 will dominate the field: gene therapy approaches for Dravet syndrome that will treat more than just seizures. This entry reviews when we expect the main news about the Dravet syndrome pipeline during 2019.