Biogen Inc (NASDAQ: BIIB) shares plunged early Thursday after the company discontinued the trial of a closely watched treatment known as aducanumab, which was targeted at Alzheimer’s disease. The biotechnology company was developing the treatment in partnership with Eisai Co. Ltd., a Japanese-based pharmaceutical firm.
Biogen said that the decision to halt the studies is based on results of a “futility analysis” carried out by an independent data monitoring committee. The committee pointed out that the trials were not likely to meet their primary endpoint upon completion. Biogen said that the recommendation to discontinue the trials wasn’t based on safety concerns.
Shares of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company plunged $92.48, or 28.85% in heavy trading to $228.11 as of 11:35 a.m. EDT. The decline in shares wiped off about $18 billion from its market value, which was slightly above $63 billion on Wednesday. Aducanumab was intended to slow the worsening of Alzheimer’s and was expected to be a blockbuster.
“This disappointing news confirms the complexity of treating Alzheimer’s disease and the need to further advance knowledge in neuroscience. We are incredibly grateful to all the Alzheimer’s disease patients, their families and the investigators who participated in the trials and contributed greatly to this research,” said Michel Vounatsos, Chief Executive Officer at Biogen.
Vounatsos continued, “Biogen’s history has been based on pioneering innovation, learning from successes and setbacks. Driven by our steadfast commitment to patients and our strong business foundation, we will continue advancing our pipeline of potential therapies in Alzheimer’s disease and innovative medicines for patients suffering from diseases of high unmet need.”
Biogen and its Japanese-based partner now join a long list of drug makers that have unsuccessfully attempted to create treatments for Alzheimer’s. Some pharmaceuticals have steered clear of Alzheimer’s drug research due to gaps in understanding the biology driving the disease, as well as prominent failures.
The disease affects millions of people globally and close to five million in the United States. However, its biology has been difficult to understand and no treatments have been approved to tackle the underlying causes.
Biogen Inc Profile
Biogen and Idec merged in 2003, combining forces to market Biogen’s multiple sclerosis drug Avonex and Idec’s cancer drug Rituxan. Today, Rituxan and next-generation antibody Gazyva are marketed via a collaboration with Roche. Biogen also markets novel MS drugs Tysabri and Tecfidera.
In Japan, Biogen’s MS portfolio is co-promoted by Eisai. Hemophilia therapies Eloctate and Alprolix (partnered with SOBI) were spun off as part of Bioverativ in 2017. Biogen has several drug candidates in phase 3 trials in neurology and neurodegenerative diseases and has launched Spinraza with partner Ionis.