Apellis joins the growing number of biopharmas scrapping a failed Covid-19 program after an early flop
The global pandemic set off a frenzy of R&D activity as biotechs around the world scrambled to see if they could come up with a new medication or vaccine to help fight back. But even as the mRNA standouts are highlighting the market El Dorado open to successful teams, the failures are starting to pile up.
Thursday afternoon it was Apellis’ $APLS turn to deep-six a new drug.
The biotech reports that their C3 therapy APL-9 had failed to move the needle on mortality when combined with standard of care, as compared to SOC alone.
Apellis had high hopes that their own special terrain of pipeline activity could play a big role in helping the most severely afflicted patients. Their early look into the theory produced evidence that complement activation went into overdrive when some people were infected. But their Phase I/II failed to confirm the link and now they’re walking away.
The failure of an entire wave of drugs shouldn’t have been unexpected, given the high rate of flops in general. GSK/Vir was one of the latest casualties, with Merck accounting for one of the biggest failures with both a vaccine as well as an antibody that will now have to go back into a new study after regulators shook their heads over the first. A host of repurposed drugs like Kevzara also failed to make the cut. Look for lots, lots more to come.
In this case Apellis started off with pegcetacoplan (APL-2), their lead drug, and then did a makeover for acute use, with a lower molecular weight and shorter half life.
“We initiated the clinical development of APL-9 in patients with severe COVID-19 because we believed that complement dysregulation may play a key role in disease mortality. We felt a responsibility to learn if controlling complement could help save lives during this devastating pandemic,” said Lukas Scheibler, chief innovation officer at Apellis.
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