FDA Disease Specific Workshops: Clinical Trial Designs for Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy

June 21, 2021By Charles G. Raver & Frank J. Sasinowski

On June 17, 2021, FDA gave notice of an upcoming public workshop focused on clinical trial designs for progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).  PML is a rare disease that occurs when the JC virus (JCV), generally thought to lie dormant in the adult population, takes advantage of immunocompromised individuals.  JCV can cause a variety of devastating neurological symptoms primarily through infection of oligodendrocytes and astrocytes, leading to white matter lesions in the central nervous system.  Although this opportunistic virus appears to have no impact on healthy individuals, PML occurs most often in individuals who are immunocompromised, due to diseases like AIDS and leukemia, as well as in individuals taking strong immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory therapies, as may be the case following organ transplant or when managing an autoimmune disorder.  However, this often fatal and debilitating rare disease lacks targeted PML-specific therapies.

With this notice, FDA announced that it aims to engage with the public and private sectors, healthcare providers, academic experts, patients, and industry to discuss – (1) the unmet need for PML therapies and (2) issues of clinical trial design, including feasibility, trial populations, selection of control groups, endpoints, adaptive designs, and master protocols.  Public workshops such as this provide crucial opportunities to exchange ideas and expertise on developing therapeutics, gain insight into FDA thinking on clinical trial design and regulatory approaches, and inform the Agency and other stakeholders about the challenges to developing PML therapies.

The virtual workshop will take place on September 21, 2021, and a public docket seeking comments on the workshop will remain open until November 1, 2021.  Interested parties have until September 3, 2021, to submit requests to present during the workshop.  Our HPM team has extensive experience assisting patient groups, sponsors, and academics with their drug and therapeutic development needs for rare diseases and beyond.  Participation in this workshop is a must for anyone interested in PML, specifically, and an important opportunity to see these workshops in action for those seeking to gain insight into agency thinking around the challenges of rare disease drug development, more generally.