AstraZeneca records another R&D setback, triggering a meltdown at Synairgen

More than two years after AstraZeneca in-licensed Synairgen’s lead drug, the pharma giant $AZN has had to scrap a Phase IIa study of the inhaled interferon beta for asthma. And the British biotech’s stock quickly tanked on the latest snafu to afflict AstraZeneca.

The biotech said early Wednesday that AstraZeneca opted to halt the study early after determining that an overall low number of exacerbations among the asthma patients recruited would make it difficult to see if they could actually hit the primary endpoint that had been laid out. But investigators still plan to sift through the data to see how the drug did on secondary goals.

It all sounded like a mess to investors, who pulled the plug on Synairgen’s stock (LSE: SNG). Shares skidded down 36% Wednesday morning, shrinking the microcap’s market value.

AstraZeneca in-licensed AZD9412 back in 2014 in a deal that started small and then had a shot at swelling to $232 million. Asthma was the first target, with plans to expand that to COPD if they were successful. It was one of many deals that AstraZeneca struck around that time as it looked to mount a turnaround.

Success, though, has been elusive at AstraZeneca, which has experienced a series of R&D setbacks this year as the Big Pharma outfit started to auction off products that had either gone off the rails or no longer fit into their pipeline plans.

Said Professor Stephen Holgate:

“New treatments to prevent severe exacerbations are needed and most exacerbations are caused by the common cold and flu. Unexpectedly, colds did not cause as many asthma exacerbations as were predicted in this clinical trial population. We hope to learn from the results of this trial which population within severe asthma, or other respiratory diseases, will most benefit from AZD9412 and should be included in future trials.”

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