Setbacks

Battered and weary, Vical flags for help following its lineup of lemons

Vical’s in trouble again. The San Diego drugmaker is waving the white flag this morning following a barrage of disappointments, posting a public notice that it’s seeking strategic guidance.

The company has suffered two major recent setbacks, and a history that reminds us that most biotechs fail. It was forced to restructure about six months ago in the aftermath of a critical Phase III failure testing its DNA vaccine ASP0113. When that program fell through, Vical laid off 40 of its 72 staffers at the time, and refocused on a different pipeline program: a vaccine for herpes simplex virus type 2. Then that failed only months later.

Vijay Samant

The company is now riding on the antifungal VL‑2397, which Vical licensed from Astellas. CEO Vijay Samant says this antifungal “has the potential to be the first in a new class of antifungal drugs,” but he has dwindling credibility on his ability to pick winners for the clinic.

Vical had this to say in a statement Friday:

Vical is currently developing its novel anti-fungal drug VL-2397, which is currently in a Phase II clinical trial, and, in addition, has a preclinical program focused on a novel approach to chronic HBV infections. The company anticipates ending 2018 with a minimum of $40 million, which, in the absence of a strategic transaction, Vical believes to be sufficient to fund operations through the announcement of top-line data from its Phase II program, expected in 2020.

It’s retained MTS Health Partners as its financial advisor to assist in the strategic review process.


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