UPDATED: Targacept's litany of trial failures continues with yet another flop

The drumbeat of awful news from Targacept continued on Monday as the biotech reported that its midstage effort aimed at salvaging its lead drug flopped. Once partnered with AstraZeneca ($AZN), which saw four late-stage studies for the one-time depression drug TC-5214 hopeful sour, Targacept ($TRGT) says it's finally ready to dump the therapy after it failed in a Phase IIb study for overactive bladder.

In the trial, Targacept said, "the high dose of TC-5214 demonstrated mixed results on the co-primary endpoints by providing a statistically significant reduction in micturition frequency (p=0.033) and an improvement that did not reach statistical significance on episodes of urinary incontinence (p=0.379) per 24 hours, after 12 weeks of treatment." That wasn't good enough to warrant further work with the drug, which is finally being put on the shelf.

Targacept's already battered shares swiftly plunged close to 30% in after-hours trading.

Just a few days ago the stubborn biotech was forced to drop its research effort on Alzheimer's--another program once partnered with AstraZeneca--after TC-1734 failed a separate Phase IIb trial. AstraZeneca bowed out back in March. Both 1734 and 5214 figured prominently at the company after TC-5619 failed a study for ADHD late last year. That drug had already failed a trial for schizophrenia.

Targacept CEO Stephen Hill

Targacept CEO Stephen Hill says it's time to think about the future, which may mean dumping its work on nicotinic receptors, the primary research focus at the Winston-Salem, NC-based biotech.

"As part of our scenario planning over the past 12 months, we have considered a broad range of options for the optimal use of our resources, including the pursuit of non-nicotinic opportunities," says Hill in a statement. "In the coming months, Targacept will be continuing to carefully evaluate those portfolio options that we believe have the potential both to make a significant difference in patients' lives and provide meaningful upside for our stakeholders."

Hill has his work cut out trying to save Targacept. CEO J. Donald deBethizy quit in mid-2012 after four straight Phase III trial setbacks for TC-5214 forced the biotech to lay off half of its staff. 

- here's the release

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