Repurposing hopes for Tavalisse in COVID-19 breathe life into Rigel shares

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Rigel is the latest beneficiary of investor exuberance for COVID-19 plays.

Shares of Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:RIGL) gained 91% to $4.12, giving the company a market cap of nearly $700 million, after it said on Tuesday Imperial College London will evaluate the efficacy of Tavalisse fostamatinib to treat COVID-19 pneumonia. The oral inhibitor of SYK -- a mediator of immunoreceptor signaling in inflammatory cells -- is approved in the U.S. and Europe for adult chronic immune thrombocytopenia (ITP).

Rigel also said of 3,713 compounds Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard researchers screened to identify FDA-approved compounds that reduce MUC1 abundance, Tavalisse was the only one to decrease the glycoprotein’s expression. The biomarker, which is used to predict the development of acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), correlates with poor clinical outcomes, according to the company.

The investigator-sponsored trial will be a controlled, open-label study with patients randomized to receive Tavalisse, Jakavi ruxolitinib from Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN) and Incyte Corp. (NASDAQ:INCY), or standard of care. The study’s primary endpoint is reduction of the proportion of hospitalized patients progressing from mild or moderate to severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Rigel and Novartis will provide support for the trial.

Targets

MUC1 (CD227) - Mucin 1

SYK - Spleen tyrosine kinase

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