Shares of ZymoGenetics were battered yesterday after the company announced that Merck KGaA had discontinued a trial on a partnered therapeutic after researchers noted a high risk of infection for volunteers. Its stock plunged 29 percent on the news.
Atacicept had been the focus of a mid-stage study of systemic lupus erythematosus. The drug, developed by ZymoGenetics, began testing in December in combination with immune suppressing therapeutics. The therapy is a genetically engineered protein designed to shut down the proteins that create B cells, which in turn spawn antibodies that attack healthy tissue. And a spokesperson for ZymoGenetics told the Seattle Times that the developer believes it was the other drugs that triggered infection.
Atacicept trials for rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis are ongoing. But at least one analyst says that the trial trouble could delay any commercialization of the therapy until 2014. The analysts had already been concerned by the slow sales growth of ZymoGenetics' Recothrom, which is used to control surgical bleeding. Its stock closed at $3.53 yesterday, well off the 52-week high of $15.23.