Biogen Inc and partner Eisai Co Ltd are ending two late-stage trials of their experimental Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab, a major setback in the quest to find a treatment for the mind-wasting disease and a blow to Biogen, which lost more than $18 billion of its value on Thursday.
Experts had seen aducanumab as one of the last tests of the hypothesis that removing sticky deposits of amyloid from the brain of patients in earlier stages of the lethal disease could stave off its ravages, which include loss of memory and the ability to care for oneself.
Biogen shares fell nearly 30 percent to $225.70, its largest drop since February 2005, when they fell nearly 43 percent to close at $38.65 on Nasdaq.
The decision was based on a so-called futility analysis of aducanumab data by an independent monitoring committee that determined the trials had little hope of succeeding.
“This disappointing news confirms the complexity of treating Alzheimer’s disease and the need to further advance knowledge in neuroscience,” Biogen Chief Executive Officer Michel Vounatsos said.
Eisai and Biogen said they would continue to work on other Alzheimer’s treatments, including BAN2401.
Guggenheim analyst Yatin Suneja said Biogen instead should be looking to build its pipeline through acquisitions.
“They need to stop wasting or stop investing money in Alzheimer’s now,” Suneja said.
Suneja said Biogen has about $42 billion in financing capacity and identified potential acquisition targets such as Sage Therapeutics Inc , GW Pharmaceuticals and Zogenix Inc that are “very interesting companies that should be considered now, more seriously.”