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Geron Announces Fast Track Designation Granted to Imetelstat for Lower Risk Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Expanded Part 1 of IMerge is Open for Patient Enrollment

MENLO PARK, Calif., Oct. 31, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Geron Corporation (Nasdaq:GERN) today announced that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Fast Track designation to imetelstat for the potential treatment of adult patients with transfusion-dependent anemia due to Low or Intermediate-1 risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) who are non-del(5q) and who are refractory or resistant to treatment with an erythropoiesis stimulating agent (ESA). Imetelstat is a telomerase inhibitor initially developed by Geron and exclusively licensed to Janssen Biotech, Inc. (Janssen) on a worldwide basis. Janssen sponsored the application for Fast Track designation utilizing preliminary data from IMerge, the ongoing clinical trial being conducted by Janssen in lower risk MDS.

The FDA's Fast Track Program is designed to facilitate the development and expedite the review of new drugs that are intended to treat serious conditions and supported by data that demonstrate the potential to address an unmet medical need. Fast Track designation provides opportunities for frequent interactions with FDA review staff, including meetings to discuss the drug's development plan and to ensure the collection of appropriate data needed to support approval. Through the Fast Track Program, a product candidate may be eligible for priority review, if supported by the clinical data, and for the ability to submit completed sections of a New Drug Application (NDA) on a rolling basis as data become available prior to completion of the full application.

Imetelstat Clinical Development in MDS

Imetelstat is being evaluated in an ongoing Phase 2/3 clinical trial (IMerge) in transfusion dependent patients with Low or Intermediate-1 risk MDS who have relapsed after or are refractory to prior treatment with an ESA. IMerge is designed in two parts: Part 1 is a Phase 2, open-label, single-arm design and Part 2 is designed to be a Phase 3, randomized, controlled trial.

As previously announced, 32 patients were enrolled in Part 1 of IMerge, of which a subset of 13 patients had not received prior treatment with either a hypomethylating agent (HMA) or lenalidomide and did not have a del(5q) chromosomal abnormality. As of May 2017, the 13-patient subset showed an increased durability and rate of red blood cell (RBC) transfusion independence (TI) compared to the overall trial population (≥8-week RBC-TI: 53.8% vs 34.4%). Based on these data, Part 1 is being expanded to enroll approximately 20 additional patients who are non-del(5q) and naïve to HMA and lenalidomide treatment to increase the experience and confirm the benefit-risk profile of imetelstat in this refined target patient population. Janssen has opened the expanded Part 1 for patient enrollment. For more information about IMerge, please visit

Results for the original 32 patients in Part 1 of IMerge, including hematologic improvement and rate of RBC-TI lasting at least 24 weeks, as well as duration of response and safety information, are expected to be presented at an upcoming major medical conference.

About Imetelstat

Imetelstat (GRN163L; JNJ-63935937) is a potent and specific inhibitor of telomerase that is administered by intravenous infusion. This first-in-class compound, discovered by Geron, is a specially designed and modified short oligonucleotide, which targets and binds directly with high affinity to the active site of telomerase. Preliminary clinical data suggest imetelstat might have disease-modifying activity by inhibiting the progenitor cells of the malignant clones associated with hematologic malignancies in a relatively select manner. Most commonly reported adverse events in imetelstat clinical studies include fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms and cytopenias. Imetelstat has not been approved for marketing by any regulatory authority.

About the Collaboration with Janssen

On November 13, 2014, Geron entered into an exclusive worldwide license and collaboration agreement with Janssen Biotech, Inc., to develop and commercialize imetelstat for oncology, including hematologic myeloid malignancies, and all other human therapeutics uses. Under the terms of the agreement, Geron received an upfront payment of $35 million and is eligible to receive additional payments up to a potential total of $900 million for the achievement of development, regulatory and commercial milestones, as well as royalties on worldwide net sales. All regulatory, development, manufacturing and promotional activities related to imetelstat are being managed through a joint governance structure, with Janssen responsible for these activities.

About Geron

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

Use of Forward-Looking Statements

Except for the historical information contained herein, this press release contains forward-looking statements made pursuant to the “safe harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that statements in this press release regarding: (i) continued conduct by Janssen of IMerge and any future clinical trials of imetelstat; (ii) expanding enrollment to Part 1 of IMerge in a refined target patient population; (iii) the timing for enrollment to begin for the expanded Part 1 of IMerge; (iv) any future presentation of data from current clinical trials of imetelstat by Janssen at a major medical conference; (v) potential outcomes of any data reviews conducted by Janssen for IMerge; (vi) the safety and efficacy of imetelstat; (vii) that approximately 20 additional patients in IMerge will be sufficient for decision-making; (viii) potential receipt by Geron of additional payments up to a potential total of $900 million for the achievement of development, regulatory and commercial milestones, and royalties from sales of imetelstat; and (ix) other statements that are not historical facts, constitute forward-looking statements. These statements involve risks and uncertainties that can cause actual results to differ materially from those in such forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties, include, without limitation, risks and uncertainties related to: (i) whether Janssen decides to continue to conduct IMerge; (ii) whether imetelstat is safe and efficacious and will succeed in IMerge by overcoming all of the clinical safety and efficacy, technical, scientific, manufacturing and regulatory challenges; (iii) whether the FDA or other health authorities permit IMerge to continue to proceed under the existing protocols or any amendments thereto; (iv) Janssen’s ability to collect additional and more mature data from current clinical trials of imetelstat; (v) Geron’s dependence on Janssen for the development, regulatory approval, manufacture and commercialization of imetelstat, including the risks that if Janssen were to breach or terminate the collaboration agreement or otherwise fail to successfully develop and commercialize imetelstat and in a timely manner, or at all, Geron would not obtain the anticipated financial and other benefits of the collaboration agreement with Janssen and the clinical development or commercialization of imetelstat could be delayed or terminated; (vi) whether any future efficacy or safety results from any clinical trial of imetelstat may cause the benefit/risk profile of imetelstat to become unacceptable; and (vii) whether patent coverage of imetelstat enables Janssen to successfully commercialize imetelstat. Additional information on the above-stated risks and uncertainties and additional risks, uncertainties and factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements are contained in Geron’s periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the heading “Risk Factors,” including Geron’s quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2017. Undue reliance should not be placed on forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date they are made, and the facts and assumptions underlying the forward-looking statements may change. Except as required by law, Geron disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect future information, events or circumstances.


Anna Krassowska, Ph.D.
Investor and Media Relations

Geron Corporation