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UPDATE - e-Therapeutics surges on phase I progress for lead candidate

Cash rich drug developer e-Therapeutics is gaining momentum with the first findings from its phase I programme of its lead cancer drug, ETS2101, coming through, while its anti-depressant drug, ETS6103, is lined up for a phase IIb trial.

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e-Therapeutics (LON:ETX) has been encouraged by the first findings of the phase I trial of its lead drug, ETS2101.

The company stands ready to whisk the cancer drug into efficacy trials if phase I trials over the coming year go well.

The group had £48mln in cash and liquid resources at the end of March, following its successful equity placing, which should be enough to fund its business into 2017, including completion of key efficacy trials of ETS2101, its lead cancer drug.

The money is also sufficient to broaden its portfolio through new drug discovery programmes, the company said in a statement announcing results for the year to the end of January 2013.

“Our recent £40 million fundraising leaves us even better placed to pursue our goals, with a cash runway that now extends to a potential partnering deal for our lead cancer drug and resources sufficient to generate a diversified portfolio of assets over the next 3-4 years,” said company chief financial officer, Dr Daniel Elger.

Eleven patients have now been treated in the UK trial of ETS2101. No serious adverse events have been attributed, although one patient had severe fatigue after receiving the drug and continued treatment at a lower dose.

A patient with oesophageal cancer has experienced a partial response according to RECIST, a standard method for assessing the impact of treatments on tumour burden. Both the UK and US studies continue to recruit patients and the company expects key data from the brain cancer trial in the fourth quarter of 2013 and from the solid tumour trial in the first three months of  2014.

The group has now filed a Clinical Trial Application with the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for a phase IIb trial of ETS6103, its anti-depressant, in major depressive disorder.

The group expects to start enrolling patients at or around the end of the second quarter of this year.

The trial will build on an earlier, small phase IIa study that produced encouraging results with ETS6103 in comparison with the approved tri-cyclic anti-depressant amitriptyline.

It will include more patients and a longer period of treatment than originally planned, so results will now probably be published in the second half of 2014.

The group, which has no sales revenue at present, saw losses widen slightly last year to £4.2mln from £3.2mln the year before, reflecting increasing investment in drug discovery and development programmes.

Commenting on the results, Professor Malcolm Young, chief executive officer of e-Therapeutics, said: “We have growing momentum in the key areas of our business. Use of our innovative network pharmacology platform to discover new drugs is on track while our most significant product candidate, the cancer drug ETS2101, is making good progress in the clinic.”

The share price advanced 15% to 34.4 pence, valuing the Newcastle-based group at £48mln.

However City broker Panmure Gordon believes the stock has further to go as tweaked its target 3 pence higher to 70 pence a share.

Analyst Savvas Neophytou said: “We had been anticipating safety data from the company’s lead product candidate ETS2101 in the fourth quarter.

“Therefore it was a positive surprise to hear today’s announcement of strong success in the treatment of one particular patient whose tumour was greatly reduced in size.

“This sector is not used to success so the pessimists will scream sample size, chance event and other such instruments of caution.

“They would be right from a purist point of view but the fact remains one particular patient who had ran out of all therapeutic options is still alive as a result of ETS2101 and that is a significant achievement for the company’s first shot at goal.”

Quick facts: e-Therapeutics plc

Price: 3.2 GBX

AIM:ETX
Market: AIM
Market Cap: £8.61 m
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