New lupus trial success ignites Immunomedics shares

Just weeks after Human Genome Sciences grabbed everyone's attention with the first-ever successful Phase III trial for lupus, Immunomedics and UCB have now unveiled promising mid-stage data for their lupus drug. Epratuzumab posted a 24.9 percent treatment advantage over placebo in a Phase IIb study--a fresh sign that new lupus drugs are making real progress in the clinic. And the news stoked Immunomedics' stock price, sending its shares up 41 percent in premarket trading.

The two companies say they will now conduct further analysis as they lay the groundwork for a late-stage trial. Reuters notes that the mid-stage success marks a promising step for UCB's biologics strategy. UCB forged a licensing pact with Immunomedics back in 2006. "Epratuzumab is the most advanced pipeline program in UCB's immunology disease portfolio and the positive results are significant for UCB as we continue to move our antibody based programs ahead," said Roch Doliveux, CEO of UCB.

Concerned by the high failure rate in the lupus field, market analysts covering the drug are maintaining a very cautious attitude. The back-to-back successes for lupus, though, have stirred considerable excitement about the prospect for new therapeutics. And the spotlight has included ZymoGenetics, which is advancing a lupus program partnered with Merck KGaA.

- here's the press release
- read the Reuters story