Geron Receives Positive Opinion from the EMA Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products

Geron Corporation recently announced the European Medicines Agency (EMA) Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products (COMP) issued a positive opinion on the company’s application for orphan drug designation of its first-in-class telomerase inhibitor, imetelstat, as a potential treatment for myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). The company expects that the European Commission, based on this positive opinion of the COMP, will formally grant the orphan drug designation for the European Union (EU) by the end of July. Imetelstat has already been granted orphan drug designation by the US FDA as a potential treatment for MDS.

“The positive opinion from the COMP acknowledges the compelling clinical data from our Phase 2 clinical trial that imetelstat has the potential to provide a clinically relevant advantage to lower risk MDS patients who are transfusion dependent and have failed to respond to treatment with erythropoiesis stimulating agents,” said John A. Scarlett, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Our ongoing IMerge Phase 3 clinical trial in lower risk MDS is being conducted at multiple sites around the world, and data from this trial are intended to support global regulatory filings.”

To qualify for orphan drug designation in the EU, an investigational medicine must be intended to treat a seriously debilitating or life-threatening condition that affects fewer than five in 10,000 people in the EU, and there must be sufficient non-clinical or clinical data to suggest the investigational medicine may produce clinically relevant outcomes. EMA orphan drug designation provides companies with certain benefits and incentives, including clinical protocol assistance, differentiated evaluation procedures for Health Technology Assessments in certain countries, access to a centralized marketing authorization procedure valid in all EU member states, reduced regulatory fees and ten years of market exclusivity.

The IMerge Phase 3 clinical trial is a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial with registration intent. The trial is designed to enroll approximately 170 patients with lower risk transfusion dependent MDS who are relapsed or refractory to an ESA, have not received prior treatment with either a hypomethylating agent (HMA) or lenalidomide and who are non-del(5q). Geron expects to complete patient enrollment by the end of the first quarter of 2021 and top-line results to be available in the second half of 2022.

MDS is a group of blood disorders in which the proliferation of malignant progenitor cells produces multiple malignant cell clones in the bone marrow resulting in disordered and ineffective production of the myeloid lineage, which includes red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Chronic anemia is the predominant clinical problem in patients who have lower risk MDS. Many of these patients become dependent on red blood cell transfusions due to low hemoglobin. Serial red blood cell transfusions can lead to elevated levels of iron in the blood and other tissues, which the body has no normal way to eliminate. Iron overload is a potentially dangerous condition. Studies in patients with MDS have shown that iron overload resulting from regular red blood cell transfusions is associated with lower quality of life, shorter overall survival and a higher risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia.

Imetelstat is a novel, first-in-class telomerase inhibitor exclusively owned by Geron and being developed in hematologic myeloid malignancies. Early clinical data suggest imetelstat may have disease-modifying activity through the apoptosis of malignant stem and progenitor cells, which allows potential recovery of normal hematopoiesis. Geron’s imetelstat development program includes two ongoing or planned registration-enabling studies, IMerge, an ongoing Phase 2/3 clinical trial in lower risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), and a planned Phase 3 clinical trial in refractory myelofibrosis (MF) expected to be open for patient screening and enrollment in the first quarter of 2021. Imetelstat has been granted Fast Track designation by the US FDA for both the treatment of patients with non-del(5q) lower risk MDS who are refractory or resistant to an erythropoiesis-stimulating agent and for patients with Intermediate-2 or High-risk MF whose disease has relapsed after or is refractory to janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor treatment.

Geron is a late-stage clinical biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and potential commercialization of a first-in-class telomerase inhibitor, imetelstat, in hematologic myeloid malignancies. For more information, visit