Mark Pruzanski

#JPM20: Af­ter a year of NASH col­laps­es, all eyes on two biotechs

SAN FRAN­CIS­CO – It’s not quite Dewey de­feats Tru­man, but Gold­man Sachs call­ing 2019 “The Year of NASH” may well go down in the an­nals of worst biotech pre­dic­tions.

Gold­man Sachs slapped the la­bel on weeks be­fore 2019’s JP Mor­gan con­fer­ence, pro­ject­ing that long-dis­cussed treat­ments for the obe­si­ty-dri­ven con­di­tion sus­pect­ed to lurk in mil­lions of Amer­i­cans would be­gin to bear fruit and in­vestors would move ac­cord­ing­ly. That did not quite hap­pen.

“If you look at 2019, it was just a string of dis­ap­point­ing news,” Pas­cal Pri­gent, CEO of NASH-fo­cused biotech Gen­fit, told End­points News in an in­ter­view.

The Year of NASH, or non­al­co­holic steato­hep­ati­tis, be­came a year of NASH fail­ures. Gilead failed two large Phase III tri­als. CymaBay went from a $1 bil­lion com­pa­ny to a $100 mil­lion com­pa­ny af­ter they found their drug was killing pa­tients’ liv­er cells. Cir­ius with­drew an $86 mil­lion IPO bid af­ter a dis­as­trous read­out. In­dus­try-wide, there were few ac­qu­si­tions in a mar­ket of­ten pro­ject­ed to be worth $35 bil­lion.

Gilead, af­ter dom­i­nat­ing the NASH dis­cus­sion at the 2019 JPM, gave one quick men­tion to the pro­gram in their 2020 pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore piv­ot­ing to oth­er drugs.

“As promis­ing as some of the mech­a­nisms looked in ear­li­er stages, when push comes to shove in large study set­tings, they just haven’t proven out,” Mark Pruzan­s­ki, CEO of the NASH-fo­cused biotech In­ter­cept, told End­points in an in­ter­view.

As biotech turns from 2019, the fail­ures have re­fo­cused eyes away from Gilead and back to­ward two star­tups, both fac­ing key events in the com­ing months: In­ter­cept, which first alert­ed in­vestors to NASH at JPM 2014, and the France-based Gen­fit.

Endpoints News

Unlock this article instantly by becoming a free subscriber.

You’ll get access to free articles each month, plus you can customize what newsletters get delivered to your inbox each week, including breaking news.