The study narrowly missed its primary endpoint objective, which was to reduce the numbers of inflammatory cells, called neutrophil cells, which play a central role in COPD and asthma.
According to Verona while the results fell short of ‘statistical significance’ there was a strong trend towards the primary end point and there was a ‘highly significant’ reduction in the absolute number of neutrophils.
It also said that there were also ‘statistically highly significant’ reductions in various types of inflammatory cells entering the airways in treated subjects; according to Verona, this provides positive evidence of the drug's anti-inflammatory effects.
The drug, tagged RPL554, is in nebulised form and it is being developed as a bronchodilator to treat patients with severe COPD.
Previous clinical trials conducted by the company have demonstrated that RPL554 is a potent bronchodilator with fast onset of action in both COPD and asthma patients.
The company now plans to focus the development of RPL554 on its bronchodilator properties in more severe patients.
"We are very excited by the outcome of this trial,” said chief executive Jan-Anders Karlsson.
“The demonstration of significant anti-inflammatory activity with RPL554, coupled with its pronounced bronchodilator effects, makes this a unique drug with significant promise as a new treatment for patients with COPD or asthma.
“Our near-term focus for the further development of RPL554 is on exploring the drug's significant bronchodilator properties in treating airway obstruction in patients with severe COPD, a disease with a significant unmet medical need.
“This promises to be the fastest way to bring RPL554 to market."
In the trial healthy subjects were treated after they inhaled an irritant. The study showed the drug to be well tolerated, and Verona said the adverse effects were mild and not significantly different to placebo.
On AIM Verona Pharma shares were down almost 2%, trading at 2.76p each.