NicVAX failure spells trouble for Nabi

Nabi Biopharmaceuticals ($NABI) quest to develop a vaccine for nicotine addiction has hit a major roadblock. In a large, Phase III study of the vaccine, just 11% of people getting NicVAX quit smoking after 16 weeks of treatment--almost the same number of those receiving placebo. The company's stock plunged on the news.

NicVAX is designed to cause the body to form antibodies that bind to nicotine, making it impossible for the nicotine to cross the blood-brain barrier. That's supposed to dampen a smoker's enjoyment of cigarettes. But the vaccine wasn't effective at helping people quit despite the fact that it performed as intended.

"We are clearly surprised and deeply disappointed with the results of this first NicVAX Phase III trial," said CEO Raafat Fahim in a statement. "We are in the process of assessing the reasons for these unexpected data, as we await the results of the second Phase III trial." Fahim added that Nabi will be exploring its strategic alternatives.

- here's the Nabi release
- read more from the New York Times