Xoma shares blitzed after lead drug flunks key diabetes study

Xoma's lead drug failed a Phase IIb diabetes study and news of the debacle quickly sent its stock into a tailspin, wiping out 37% of the biotech's market value in minutes yesterday evening. The trial was designed to track a drop in blood sugar among 421 diabetics assigned to either monthly injections of Xoma 052 or a placebo. But investigators failed to see any significant improvement in the drug group compared to placebo over six months of treatment.

Berkeley, CA-based Xoma, though, didn't miss a beat in trying to shift focus to the positive details it found in the data. In particular the company flagged decreases in C-reactive protein, a biomarker for the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, in all dose groups versus placebo. And they highlighted improvements in "good" cholesterol in two of four XOMA 052 dose groups versus placebo. That data set the stage for a shift from diabetes into cardiovascular disease and a late-stage study for Behcet's uveitis.

"While this trial did not demonstrate glycemic improvement, the potent anti-inflammatory effects and continued positive safety profile reinforce our Phase III development program for Behcet's uveitis, which we anticipate starting this year," said CEO Steve Engle.

Engle may not find everyone who follows the company quick to rally around the flag for a new charge, though. TheStreet's Adam Feuerstein immediately called for Engle's ouster on Twitter. And investors clearly weren't pleased to see the diabetes program--touted as a possible blockbuster--go down in flames.

- see the Xoma release
- and here's the story from Bloomberg