Idera spikes as its up-and-down TLR program comes through in PhII

Idera Pharmaceuticals CEO Sudhir Agrawal

After setbacks in cancer and respiratory disease, Idera Pharmaceuticals ($IDRA) has finally found some success with its toll-like receptor (TLR) program, touting encouraging results from a Phase II trial on autoimmune disease that sent its share price soaring.

In a study on 32 patients with plaque psoriasis, Idera said its IMO-8400 met its primary endpoint of safety and its secondary goal of clinical activity. The Cambridge, MA, biotech is taking those results as confirmation of its drug's broad potential in autoimmune disease, and IMO-8400's future lies not in psoriasis but in the orphan ailments polymyositis and dermatomyositis, Idera said. The two diseases are inflammatory myopathies that affect a combined 77,000 patients in the U.S., according to the company, leading to serious disabilities and an increased risk of cancer.

"We have studied psoriasis as the initial disease indication to demonstrate clinical proof of concept for our TLR antagonists in autoimmune diseases," CEO Sudhir Agrawal said in a statement. "With these data, we can now pursue our announced business strategy and advance our TLR antagonist drug candidates for the treatment of orphan diseases with high unmet medical need."

News of the top-line results propelled Idera's shares up as much as 40% on Friday morning, helping the company recover from an early-week sell-off. The company raised about $36 million in a stock offering last month.

IMO-8400's promise is a welcome development for Idera and its well-traveled fleet of TLR antagonists. The biotech has watched once-lucrative partnerships with Novartis ($NVS) and Merck KGaA come to a halt as pipeline drugs failed to measure up, and, striking out on its own, Idera has run into roadblocks in cancer and autoimmune disease.

- read the results