The December 17, 2010 issue of “Science” has the catchy of title of “Insights of the Decade”, one of which is an article by Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, “Inflammation Bares a Dark Side”, that describes the ubiquitous role of inflammation. She concludes that:
“Mediating inflammation in chronic diseases is a new frontier, its success is still uncertain.”
Inflammation has been shown to play an important role in multiple chronic illnesses such as cancer, and in type 2 diabetes it promotes insulin resistance and the death of pancreatic beta cells. In 2007, Marc Donath and colleagues published a landmark study in the New England Journal of Medicine where he used the drug anakinra, in patients with type 2 diabetes, to block interleukin-1 (IL-1), a cytokine that mediates the inflammatory response. The conclusion of the paper was that:
“The blockade of interleukin-1 with anakinra improved glycemia and beta-cell secretory function and reduced markers of systemic inflammation.”
The finding that diabetes patients whose inflammatory response was blocked did better, has led several companies to work on drug development in this area.
One of these is the biotechnology company, Xoma, whose stocked jumped 200% in the week before Christmas. Although there was no press release or announcement of any company news, it looks like investors decided to take a gamble that the phase 2 trial results for Xoma 052 in type 2 diabetes will be positive. As often happens, the wisdom of the crowd, led to others joining the share buying frenzy.
Source: Google Finance. Xoma had previously announced on November 4, 2010 (emphasis added) that:
Enrollment completed in Phase 2a trial of XOMA 052 in patients with Type 2 diabetes:
This randomized, placebo-controlled trial, in which 74 patients were enrolled, is designed to evaluate extended biologic activity and safety of XOMA 052. Outcomes will include diabetes measures such as hemoglobin A1c, or HbA1c, and fasting blood glucose, or FBG, and C-reactive protein, or hsCRP, a biomarker of inflammation associated with cardiovascular risk. Interim results from the first three months of treatment in this six month trial are expected to be announced in the first half of January 2011.
Enrollment completed in Phase 2b trial of XOMA 052 in patients with Type 2 diabetes: This randomized, placebo-controlled dose-ranging trial enrolled 420 patients and is designed to further evaluate the safety and efficacy of XOMA 052 dosed once monthly compared to placebo. The results will include data on measurements of HbA1c, FBG and hsCRP. Top line results are expected to be announced in the first quarter of 2011.
Xoma 052 is a high affinity monoclonal antibody that targets the inhibition of IL-1 beta. Its ultra-high affinity allows for monthly dosing and lower dose levels which supports patient compliance in chronic diseases. Positive phase 2 results for Xoma 052 in Behcet’s Uveitis was presented in November to the American College of Rheumatology.
According to the November 2010 Xoma Corporate Presentation, the overall market size for diabetes is $22B, of which the IL-1 share is $7B, raising the possibility that Xoma 052 could be a blockbuster if shown to be safe and effective.
Source: Xoma November 2010 Corporate Presentation
Looking at the above, perhaps the rush to buy Xoma stock before the holidays, was perhaps not as much of a gamble as one might think. Xoma 052 is certainly a product to watch this year.