Korean biotech sees shares blitzed as its oncolytic virus/Nexavar combo fizzles in liver cancer
Another Korean biotech is in trouble this morning.
SillaJen set off shock waves in the sector after they filed notice that they are abandoning a global Phase III trial studying the impact of their oncolytic virus Pexa-Vec with Nexavar on liver cancer. The independent monitoring board says the combo failed their futility test for the PHOCUS study, their most advanced development program, advising the company to give it up.
A slate of Korean biotechs saw their shares dinged by the news, while SillaJen stock — reflecting a multibillion-dollar market cap — plunged 30%, according to the Korea BioMedical Review. The Phase III setback shaved more than $800 million off that market cap in less than 2 hours.
The Phase III failure is also bad news for Transgene, which is partnered on the oncolytic virus, one of several pipeline plays that looks to build on a strategy that targets cancer cells for destruction. This one is armed with a GM-CSF gene to power the destructive force. Their stock tumbled 15% Friday morning.
SillaJen also has a study going that matches Pexa-Vec with Regeneron’s PD-1 drug. Regeneron doesn’t have much skin in the game here, though, with the South Korean biotech paying the freight on the study and Regeneron supplying their drug.
Korean biotechs have had a topsy turvy relationship with investors over the years, building unicorn values on bold talk that can tumble down in a heartbeat on bad data. Hanmi has demonstrated just how fragile the relationship can be, with a series of big alliances souring with some of the world’s top drugmakers. And even the majors like Samsung BioLogics have had to deal with official probes of their market transactions.