In fresh blow, Intercell and Merck dump Ph2/3 vaccine study

Just about two months after Intercell CEO Gerd Zettlmeissl insisted that the decision to halt patient recruitment for a Phase II/III trial of its experimental vaccine V710 did not signal the end of the program--and a month after Zettlmeissl unceremoniously departed from the helm--the biotech and its partner Merck announced that they are shuttering the troubled study. And after a series of heavy blows over the past year, investors responded by carving another chunk out of Intercell's stock price.  

Intercell ($ICEL), the last of the independent vaccine makers, has endured a string of setbacks. Its vaccine patch failed a clinical trial and was dumped. A restructuring was announced late last year and then V710--designed to guard against S. aureus infection-- foundered after the program failed to pass an independent expert group's risk/benefit analysis. The biotech was even forced to recall a batch of its only marketed vaccine recently after questions about its potency were raised.

In a release the two companies said that "the recommendation to terminate was made based upon both the observation that V710 was unlikely to demonstrate a statistically significant clinical benefit as well as a safety concern regarding overall mortality and multi-organ dysfunction that occurred with greater frequency in vaccine recipients, compared with placebo recipients."

Noted Jefferies: "This is a significant setback for Intercell, and was the most eagerly anticipated stock catalyst, with V710 seen as potential validation of the company's technology." Intercell's shares were down about 14 percent today, continuing a slide that has wiped out over half its value in a year.

- see the Intercell release
- read the story from Reuters