e-Therapeutics (LON:ETX) is making encouraging progress on its existing drugs candidates but with a healthy cash position, it is already looking at adding to its development portfolio.
Shares shot up on Tuesday after the group revealed encouraging news from the phase I trial of its lead drug, ETS2101.
Seventeen patients have now been treated in the UK trial of ETS2101, a treatment for cancer. No serious adverse events have been attributed to ES2101, 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.
Chief financial officer Dr Daniel Elger cautioned against getting too carried away, as this is a finding from a single patient, but conceded the news is obviously encouraging.
“It is still too early to draw conclusions from the trials,” he said. “We’re still at an interim stage,” he told Proactive Investors.
As well as the UK trial, which is in patients with solid tumours, there is another phase I trial taking place in the US, on patients with brain cancer.
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 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 Elger.
The group will make a decision in the final quarter of this year on which drug to add to the development pipeline, though the group is clearly already mulling its options.
As chief executive Professor Malcolm Young explained to Proactive Investors, the company is looking to pick “real winners”.
“In several of these programmes we have been looking at literally thousands of molecules,” Young revealed.
It is matter of winnowing it down to the most likely prospects.
“The key is quality, something that really sticks out and which solves a key unmet medical need.” he asked.
The company is likely to focus on areas “it already has a bead on,” such as oncology (cancer) and nervous system disorders, and where the company’s research can be used to address other diseases that share the same kind of physiological traits.
In other news, 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.
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 filing is an example of the sort of news flow shareholders can expect over the next year or so.
“News flow is now hitting a sweet spot after last year when a lot of the activity was going on below the surface. We’re getting into our stride now,” Young told Proactive.