Vercirnon - ChemoCentryx, GlaxoSmithKline

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The developers: ChemoCentryx, GlaxoSmithKline
The drug: vercirnon

The scoop: GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) was quick to recognize that its big late-stage program for the Crohn's drug vercirnon was a flop. What was interesting about this failure, though, was the way that ChemoCentryx ($CCXI) tried to spin its way out of the mess.

A few weeks after the first of four Phase III studies for this drug failed, FierceBiotech gleaned from Twitter comments that all three of the other studies being mounted by Glaxo had been shuttered. Contacted by us, the pharma giant not only acknowledged the move but also made clear that investigators found no efficacy in the first study alongside some serious adverse events for the patient group at the highest dose. Faced with a loser, Glaxo bid it goodbye.

ChemoCentryx's response to our query? We're still waiting to hear back.

The next day, though, the biotech's CEO blithely announced how pleased he was that GSK had returned all the rights to the drug and celebrated the fact that the company has the "freedom in deciding this valuable asset's forward path." There was the potential of mounting a new pivotal study, he offered, perhaps with a partner.

The little biotech's credibility with investors, though, has been badly eroded, as evidenced by a 63% free fall in the company's stock price over the last three months. Part of that fall can be attributed to weak interim results for its mid-stage study of a diabetic nephropathy drug that also suffered from a bad disconnect with reality. The company said the chemokine receptor CCX140 spurred a significant reduction in proteinuria after 12 weeks of therapy, spurring some confident remarks (see the pattern here?) from executives. But some analysts said the drug fell far short of expectations, prompting a quick plunge in the stock price.

Confidence in your pipeline is expected. Issuing chronically rosy assessments of data and Phase III disasters, though, will eventually catch up with you. ChemoCentryx experienced a broader lesson the industry can learn from, even though the biotech seemingly remains immune.

On the upside, GlaxoSmithKline gets kudos for frankly assessing its chances and writing off a loser. Where other companies would have grimly marched through to the end of all Phase III studies, GSK offers an important lesson for the industry: Learn how to acknowledge your failures and move on. 

For more:
Abandoned by GlaxoSmithKline, ChemoCentryx will try again on troubled Crohn's drug
GlaxoSmithKline terminates Crohn's drug program following a pivotal failure
GlaxoSmithKline ponders future of Crohn's disease drug after PhIII flop