Pfizer Q3 cull sees midstage fast-tracked NASH drug axed, with a cancer vaccine and arthritis asset also chopped

Pfizer HQ
(By Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

All eyes are on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine work, but the Big Pharma has today quietly culled two midstage trials and one phase 1 test.

In what is now a quarterly tradition, Pfizer announced the cuts in its third-quarter financials today.

The first cull is for phase 2 nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) drug PF-05221304, which has an FDA fast-track tag. Pfizer was testing it as an acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibitor in those with liver scarring as a monotherapy.

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No reason was given for its cull, except that it was filed under “discontinued projects.” It still appears to be active in combo trials, likely the future of many NASH drugs, most of which have seen major setbacks and flops over the past few years.

RELATED: Trial flops see Pfizer cut GlycoMimetics pact, Merck ax KalVista research deal

The second midstage cull affected arthritis asset PF-06650833, which works as an IRAK4 inhibitor, though, again, Pfizer gave no updated details on its fate. And finally, a phase 1 prostate cancer therapeutic vaccine, PF-06753512, has also fallen under the discontinued projects cloud.

This follows the fate of many cancer vaccines, which are backed by promising science but have failed to live up to expectations. 

There were high hopes that Pfizer would release new data from its BioNTech-partnered COVID vaccine program, but the Big Pharma it is still waiting on the results. It had said that it could release early data to see whether it works, and could gun for an approval, as early as late October, though that deadline now seems to be passing.

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