Here’s a look from the inside at Infinity Pharmaceuticals, whose R&D operations hit the wall just recently. Keith Robison knows the company and its targets well, having worked there until about five years ago, and he provides a perspective that some others in the readership will have experienced as well:
So it was a very great shock to many, including myself, when the big trial (pancreatic adenocarcinoma) for the hedgehog program was stopped after interim analysis showed that not only was it not going to succeed, but mortality was worse in the treatment arm. I ran into the head of biology at a networking event just after the trial halt, and he was still in complete shock. Unsurprising, as the pre-clinical data was excellent, including engineered mouse models. The trial designed to provide early market approval for that compound, in chondrosarcoma, followed soon after, stopped after an interim analysis showed success was unlikely. A third trial was soon dropped. The HSP90 inhibitor failed to impress, and was also dropped.Going into clinical science, one should have no illusions. Certainly any I had were dispelled before I was even officially employed by Infinity. I had just sent in an email to the hiring manager saying I’d take the position, when he called me back. Yes, I still had a job. WHAAATTTT? I hadn’t seen the news that Infinity had halted their Phase III trial for the HSP90 inhibitor in gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), which had been a path to marketing a drug soon. Infinity survived that setback, as did my employment (a friend in the clinical space would have to wait longer). Infinity then spent a lot of effort showing that the deaths in the GIST trial were probably due to liver toxicity — this is a major issue with HSP90 inhibition and many of these patients had extensively resected livers due to metastases. So Infinity pushed on with other trials for HSP90 inhibition.