Embattled Bay Area XOMA Terminates Gevokizumab Trials

Embattled Bay Area XOMA  Terminates Gevokizumab Trials
March 11, 2016 (Updated at 4:40PM PT)
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

BERKELY, Calif. – Troubles continue for the Bay Area's XOMA Corp. , which slashed half it workforce last year. Now the company has terminated its experimental drug gevokizumab for treatment of pyoderma gangrenosum, the San Francisco Business Times reported this morning.

Following the announcement, Xoma’s stock is down this morning about 5 percent, trading at 91 cents per share as of this writing.

Xoma said it is interested in divesting itself of gevokizumab. In a statement, the company said several companies have approached Xoma about acquiring the drug. Gevokizumab binds to interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), a pro-inflammatory cytokine. Xoma said it will make all information about the drug and study information available to potential buyers. Gevokizumab has had a troubled history with Xoma. The company has halted several trials with the drug for various diseases, including diabetes and a blinding eye disease, the Times reported. In 2014, Xoma was forced to stop testing gevokizumab as an arthritis treatment after the drug did not show significant benefit against placebo after a six-month period.

With the termination of gevokizumab studies, Xoma said it will now focus its efforts on developing treatments for unmet needs in endocrinology. Xoma is now banking on the potential of its experimental treatments in endocrinology, XOMA 358, XOMA 129, and XOMA 213, the company said in a statement. Xoma is running several different clinical programs for its XOMA 358 treatment, which binds selectively to insulin receptors and attenuates insulin action. XOMA 358 is being used in clinical trials as a treatment for patients with hypoglycemia and hyperinsulinism post bariatric surgery, the company said. Xoma 213 is being studied for its efficacy in treating hyperprolactinemia.

After more than 30 years in business, Xoma has yet to bring a drug to market and has lost more than $1 billion, the Times noted.

Xoma posted a net loss of $20.6 million in 2015 and ended the year with cash and equivalents of $65.8 million. Xoma has been able to limp along through various licensing deals with large pharmaceutical companies. In October, the company struck a deal with Swiss-based Novartis AG that has the potential to bring more than half-a-billion dollars into the company over the company’s anti-transforming growth factor-beta (TGFb) antibody program. Under terms of the deal, Xoma will receive $37 million in upfront payments, with the remaining $480 million in regulatory and commercial milestone payments. Xoma said the funds raised through this deal with Novartis will fund current research and development work on its endocrine portfolio and other operations through 2017. The company said it remains on track to begin its XOMA 358 Phase II clinical program this fall.

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