Conatus pops on more incremental liver data for its lead drug

Conatus CEO Steven Mento

Conatus Pharmaceuticals ($CNAT) continued its valuation roller coaster with another positive peek at Phase II data for its liver disease drug, results the company hopes will allow it to move into Phase III next year.

The drug, emricasan, had a statistically significant effect on a biomarker of liver disease in three-month results from a midstage trial on cirrhosis patients, the company said.

Conatus said its therapy reduced the concentration of cytokeratin 18 fragments in patients' livers compared with placebo, meeting its primary endpoint, and made a statistically significant difference on four other biomarkers. Emricasan failed to make a significant difference on 5 key measures of cirrhosis, Conatus conceded, painting the results as "favorable overall trends."

The company is now waiting on 6-month data from the 86-patient study. If those come up positive, Conatus believes its planned follow-up trial, slated to begin in 2017, could be redesigned as a Phase III study to support FDA approval.

Emricasan's latest data sent Conatus' shares up as much as 25% on Wednesday morning, another jump for a biotech that has hit peaks and valleys on Wall Street over the last year.

Conatus began 2015 on a high, watching its share price soar roughly 50% on positive early data only to slip another 50% in the ensuing days. The same pattern played out in March and again in September when emricasan's success in small study on the liver disease NASH boosted Conatus' value by 40%, gains that gradually eroded over the following weeks.

- read the statement (PDF)