A final flop signals the bitter end to Circassia’s big plans for allergy R&D

Circassia CEO Steve Harris

Remember the big plans Circassia {LSE: CIR} had for its allergy drug pipeline when it went public, raising $333 million in 2014 with promises of big things to come for investors?

It didn’t work out. In fact, it was a complete bust.

Their Phase IIb has now wrapped for a house dust mite allergy remedy, and it failed like the rest of the studies. So Oxford, UK-based Circassia is packing it in, and switching over to a rescue strategy presented by AstraZeneca.

Here’s CEO Steve Harris’ prepared eulogy:

We remain convinced that the technology has biologic activity, but we also believe the difficulty in overcoming the placebo effect using the field study designs required by regulators represents a significant hurdle, and consequently we will make no further investment in our allergy portfolio.  As indicated previously, we will now focus on our wider respiratory business, in particular our new US commercial collaboration with AstraZeneca, our market-leading NIOX franchise and the development of our broader respiratory portfolio.

AstraZeneca handed over a pair of respiratory drugs to Circassia last month in a $300 million deal. The pharma giant got Tudorza as well as Duaklir, once held up as a top prospect at the pharma giant. But the respiratory business is a crowded field, and AstraZeneca bowed out in exchange for some cash and a promise of a future revenue stream from Circassia.

Circassia’s IPO helped mark a resurgence of the biotech industry in the UK. But biotech IPOs have faded in the UK and Europe, where investors have long memories when it comes to R&D failure. Circassia seems determined to make the transition to a commercial player, though, and isn’t rolling over to play dead.

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