Coming back from my summer holiday (all of one week) I discovered Neuren Pharmaceutical’s share price had plummeted from 5 to 1 cent. Why? Its lead drug candidate, Glypromate/ GPE recently had failed its Phase 3 trial. Not a great way to start the New Year. Neuren released the announcement on Christmas Eve – quite sneaky considering the majority of its shareholders were probably down on the Coromandel cut off from the internet. It stated that their pivotal Glypromate phase 3 trial for the treatment of cognitive impairment in patients undergoing cardiac surgery with bypass was unsuccessful, that is, GPE exhibited no significant difference between treated and untreated individuals. Strangely only 20% of the 325 patients exhibited cognitive decline after surgery (i.e. they were only testing 64 people total with placebo or drug). They mentioned this number (20%) was a much lower rate previously reported in the literature. A quick literature search only brings up a handful of papers relating to this cognitive decline, most of it coming within the last few years. The makes me wonder whether this was the best way to actually test the drug’s neuroprotective capability. Part of the pull of this condition was that there were no current treatments available enabling the fast track to Phase 3 and hence saving $$. However the trade off was that by bypassing Phase 2b this meant the drug’s efficacy in humans was still unknown for a condition that lacked a well established scientific history/background.
Neuren is or was seen as NZ’s leading biotech/pharma company since the downscale of Genesis R&D, and was hopefully going to be NZ’s first biotech success pioneering the way for other life science companies. Where does the pioneering burden lie now? LCT? CODA? PROACTA? Pathway Therapeutics? More so where to from here for Neuren? Unsurprisingly GPE’s development will be discontinued. However they do intend to develop the rest of Neuren’s pipeline. The underlying question now becomes – are they able to raise the funds to do so while carrying a dented reputation. This combined with the ‘crunch’ puts Neuren in a very difficult position, with investors possibly seeking less risk and organisations with a proven history. For all we know this positive stance is simply to convey a sense of confidence in their strong pipeline for the means of attracting a buyer. We have all heard about the potential shopping spree by big pharma under the current economic climate. And at one point NZ$1.3 million (now up to 2million) could buy you a NZ biotech company with 6 pipeline drugs.
Motiva – acquired last year as part of the Hamilton Pharmaceuticals buy out. “A novel cyclic (GABA) derivative for neuropsychiatric and neurocognitive symptoms of stroke and other acute and chronic neurological disorders including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.”- Ph2b
NNZ -2566 – neuroprotection – Ph2b
NNZ-2591 – learning and memory for dementia – Ph2
NNZ-4945 treats neuropathy – Preclinical (PC)
NNZ-3006 – Obesity PC
NNZ-8000- anti-TFF for cancer PC
The Share Price Fall – From 5 to 1 cent.
The Neuren story http://www.sharechat.co.nz/features/unlimited/article.php/8e17929b
– graemefielder.com –