Tiny Corbus Looks to Give Vertex Some Competition With Experimental Cystic Fibrosis Drug

Tiny Corbus Looks to Give Vertex Some Competition With Experimental Cystic Fibrosis Drug
May 5, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

NORWOD, Mass. – Corbus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has its eyes set on a heavyweight fight in the cystic fibrosis treatment ring, pitting its synthetic oral drug Resunab against Vertex Pharmaceuticals ’s successful Kalydeco, Reuters reported this morning.

Analysts predict Resunab could generate between $1.1 and $2 billion in sales by 2020. That news helped bolster Corbus’ stock trading, which hit a morning high of $3.30 per share.

The company hopes Resunab will be a proven method to treat the chronic pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis associated with the progression of cystic fibrosis, regardless of an individual's specific CFTR gene mutation, according to a company statement.

In April Corbus received a development award of $5 million from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to develop the drug. The company is now preparing a Phase II clinical study, which it expects to begin later this year.

While Resunab aims to target inflammation from cystic fibrosis, Kalydeco is designed to counter the genetic cause of the disease. Since its approval by the FDA in 2012, Kalydeco has been one of the poster-child drugs of the precision medication movement, particularly since President Barack Obama noted a Kalydeco patient during his State of the Union address last year.

The administration has pointed to the drug being an example of the kinds of medication that will allow researchers to examine the cause of cancers and other illnesses on a genetic level in order to provide targeted therapies for individual care. Delving into disease at a genetic level will give researchers more confidence in developing those new medications, Jeffrey Leiden, Vertex’s chief executive officer said in news reports.

Kalydeco has been a solid performer for Vertex year after year. In the first quarter of this fiscal year, Vertex reported Kalydeco earned $136 million. In 2014 the drug earned $464 million and the company predicts the medication will generate $560 million to $580 million this year.

While Kalydeco is a solid performer for Vertex, the company is pushing two new drug aimed to treat cystic fibrosis as well.

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening, genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. It effects about 30,000 people in the United States and 70,000 worldwide. The disease is caused by a defective gene that causes the body to create a sticky mucus in the lungs and other organs that leads to inflammation, which Resunab targets.

“We believe that Resunab has the potential to treat the pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis that play such a key role in the disease progression of CF, affecting both the quality of life and life expectancy in people with the disease,” Yuval Cohen, Corbus’ chief executive officer said in a statement. “Further, Resunab has the potential to address CF in individuals regardless of the specific mutation they have.”

In addition to treating cystic fibrosis, Resunab is also being tested to treat scleroderma, an inflammatory skin disorder, Reuters reported. A scleroderma approval could add another $2 billion in peak sales, the news agency noted.

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