4:50 PM
 | 
Oct 09, 2018
 |  BC Extra  |  Clinical News

Arbutus falls on HBV program updates

Arbutus Biopharma Corp. (NASDAQ:ABUS) lost $3.09 (34%) to $6 on Tuesday after announcing updates for two of its HBV programs. The move translated to a loss of over $170 million in the company's market cap.

Arbutus said it will delay the start of a Phase I trial of AB-452 due to preclinical safety findings. That trial had been slated to begin this quarter. AB-452 is an orally available HBV RNA destabilizer.

"As we have studied the mechanism and compound, we made an observation in a long-term non-clinical safety study that we want to understand and nail down before we begin testing in patients," Arbutus President and CEO Mark Murray said during a fireside chat at the Chardan Genetic Medicines Conference in New York. "We remain very committed to the mechanism and to the space. We have a number of lead compounds and several backups that we will be characterizing very carefully over the next couple months to chart a way forward."

Additionally, the company reported interim data from a Phase II trial of its ARB-1467 in combination with tenofovir showing that in three of six HBV-infected patients, the combo did not reduce hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) levels at week six by the prespecified threshold required to move to the peginterferon treatment stage of trial. ARB-1467 is a lipid nanoparticle formulated RNAi therapy that targets three highly conserved regions of the HBV viral genome.

Arbutus is evaluating both monotherapy and combination treatments in its quest for a functional HBV cure (see "HBV Test Kitchen").

Arbutus also announced Tuesday that it hired Gaston Picchio as chief development officer. He was VP of scientific affairs and Zika team leader at the Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. unit of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ).

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