J&J team marks another setback on depression as midstage study flops

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has come up empty-handed after wrapping a midstage study of an experimental antidepressant. The pharma giant had in-licensed the drug from Addex Therapeutics, a Geneva-based biotech which reported that the program is being scrapped as investigators ponder possible alternative targets for ADX71149.

None of the data were released, as Addex is holding on to the results to review at a future scientific conference. The drug missed the primary goal of the study for anxious depression, but Addex asserts that it did hit certain measures that were studied in the Phase IIa trial.

The trial failure marks another setback for Addex, which gutted its staff back in the spring of 2013 in a cost-saving effort. It also marks the latest in many clinical failures for depression, a field that often has to deal with high placebo responses and trial failures. To get a drug like this through to regulators would likely have required a slate of late-stage studies, which is one reason why many developers are steering clear of depression.

ADX71149 is a small molecule positive allosteric modulator (PAM) that Janssen had licensed in a pact that had outlined 112 million euros in potential milestones. 

"This proof of concept study was testing a new mechanism of action in an MDD subpopulation (anxious depression) that had not been studied in clinical trials to date," said Addex CEO Tim Dyer in a statement. "In the coming months we will work with Janssen to identify the best future development path for the program."

- here's the release

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