Pardes plans descent from COVID-19 antiviral flight path as lead candidate fails phase 2

Pardes Biosciences, launched in 2020 to find treatments in the height of the pandemic, will seek strategic alternatives after its antiviral for COVID-19 failed to clear the virus during a phase 2 trial.

The phase 2 study was testing to see whether pomotrelvir could render SARS-CoV-2 undetectable in participants on Day 3 of treatment. The participants had mild to moderate COVID that was confirmed via test, were symptomatic, otherwise healthy and vaccinated but with no risk factors for developing severe disease.

Pardes said that the participants saw rapid clearance of the virus and rapid alleviation of key symptoms “independent of treatment arm.” In the pomotrelvir group, 70% of participants reached undetectable levels of virus, while 63% achieved the same in the placebo group.

“These unexpected results have forced us to make the difficult decision to suspend further development of pomotrelvir and pursue alternative strategic opportunities for the company,” said CEO Thomas Wiggans in a Monday statement.

The good news is that there were no deaths, no progressions to severe disease, no drug-related adverse events nor discontinuations in either treatment arm. Pardes did note a small proportion of participants (3.1%) in the pomotrelvir arm experienced nausea.

Pardes said that at this stage of the pandemic, the virus is leading to a more modest viral burden and acute symptoms that are also more modest in severity. The data from the phase 2 trial showed just that as participants were tested for viral load.

Development of pomotrelvir will now be suspended. Pardes plans to submit data from the trial to a scientific conference or peer-reviewed publication to “contribute to the understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and the development of potential COVID-19 therapeutics.”

As for the company itself, the board has already initiated a review of strategic alternatives that could include an acquisition, merger, business combination or other transaction. As of March 31, Pardes had $172.4 million in cash and equivalents on hand.

A full picture of Pardes’ financial situation is not yet available, but just under three weeks ago executives appeared upbeat when reporting fourth-quarter 2022 financials. Wiggans at the time was bullish about pomotrelvir’s prospects as a standalone, oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Pardes reported a full year net loss of $96.6 million for 2022 due to R&D expenses and the transition to a public company.

Pardes went public in June 2021 via special purpose acquisition company, which came with $276 million in funding to push the lead candidate through the clinic. The transaction was done through Foresite Capital’s FS Development Corp. II. Pardes debuted at $16.37 on Dec. 27, 2021. As the markets opened Monday morning, the stock was trading at $1.15.