Shares of Nexvet Biopharma ($NVET) jumped more than 9% in morning trading on May 26, after the Ireland-based company announced positive results from its pilot trial of NV-02, a drug it is developing to treat osteoarthritis pain in cats. Based on the results, the company is planning a pivotal trial for later this year.
NV-02 is an injectable drug that works by inhibiting nerve growth factor (NGF). Cats in the trial who were given the injection experienced a statistically significant improvement in pain, as reported by their owners, vs. those who received a placebo, according to a press release from Nexvet. The trial enrolled 126 cats at 15 veterinary centers. The company is preparing to present the data at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine conference on June 9.
“Today’s results are consistent with our previous studies of NV-02, and highly supportive of NV-02’s ability to meet its target product profile,” said Mark Heffernan, CEO of Nexvet, in the release. “We believe this profile could make NV-02 a first-mover in this potentially significant market.”
The news gave a much-needed boost to Nexvet on Wall Street. Earlier this month, the company’s shares dipped on news that its net loss in its fiscal third quarter more than doubled year-over-year to $5.8 million. The company has invested heavily in R&D, advancing an osteoarthritis drug for dogs, ranevetmab, into late-stage trials, for example, and bulking up its early-stage pipeline. Nexvet recently teamed up with Japan-based Zenoaq to develop an anti-PD-1 immunotherapy for dogs with cancer.
In osteoarthritis, Nexvet will be facing plenty of competitors, especially in the canine market. In March, Aratana Therapeutics ($PETX) won FDA approval for Galliprant (grapiprant) to treat osteoarthritis in dogs. The company is launching the drug in partnership with Eli Lilly’s ($LLY) Elanco. The current market leader is Zoetis ($ZTS), with its pain-relieving pill Rimadyl (carprofen).
Some analysts have questioned whether pet owners will be willing to pay for injectable arthritis drugs, when they can get inexpensive generic versions of Rimadyl that they can easily administer. Nexvet spent some time discussing this challenge in November, at its first investor symposium in New York. A panel of veterinarians dismissed the concerns, however, pointing out that owners of elderly pets tend to be frequent visitors to veterinary offices already and are unlikely to be put off by the need to get extra injections for their pets.
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