* Lou Gehrig's disease drug fails mid-stage trial
* Shares plunge about 60 percent
(Adds analyst comment, details about disease; updates shares)
By Natalie Grover
April 25 Cytokinetics Inc said its
experimental treatment for Lou Gehrig's disease - a progressive
neurodegenerative disorder - failed a mid-stage trial, sending
its shares plummeting about 60 percent.
The study tested the efficacy of the drug, tirasemtiv - one
of the company's lead compounds - against a placebo in 711
patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly
called Lou Gehrig's disease.
Despite the market's overwhelmingly negative reaction,
analysts said all was not lost.
Investor focus would now shift to the company's experimental
heart failure treatment, omecamtiv mecarbil, being tested in two
mid-stage studies in collaboration with Amgen Inc.
"I think there's a lot of value left here," Needham & Co
analyst Chad Messer told Reuters.
The strength of the remaining pipeline "makes it a great buy
at (current) prices", Messer said.
The stock, the Nasdaq's biggest percentage loser, was down
61 percent at $5.03 in late morning trading.
The shares have climbed about 33 percent since Monday in
anticipation of the trial data.
"The value of the omecamtiv mecarbil program should buffer"
tirasemtiv's failure, Roth Capital Partners analyst Joseph
Pantginis said, reiterating his "buy" rating on the stock but
cutting his price target to $13 from $25.
San Francisco-based Cytokinetics said it planned to evaluate
the detailed results of the trial in order to determine the next
steps for the ALS treatment, though analysts were skeptical of
ALS, sometimes referred to as motor neurone disease, is an
invariably fatal neurological disorder that attacks nerve cells
located in the brain and the spinal cord responsible for
controlling voluntary muscles.
Unable to function, muscles gradually weaken and waste away.
Eventually, the brain's ability to start and control voluntary
movement is lost, and the patient succumbs to the disease -
usually three to five years from the onset of symptoms.
The disease, whose cause is largely unknown, garnered
international attention after New York Yankees player Lou Gehrig
abruptly retired from baseball in 1939, after being diagnosed
The only approved ALS medicine, generic riluzole, is
designed to slow the disease's progression. Cytokinetics's
tirasemtiv sought to increase muscle sensitivity to calcium,
resulting in enhanced skeletal muscle force and slowing of time
to muscle fatigue.
About 5,600 people in the United States are diagnosed with
ALS annually, according to ALS Association estimates.
(Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bangalore; Editing by Maju