(Adds background, analyst comment; updates shares)
By Natalie Grover
April 4 Halozyme Therapeutics Inc
halted a mid-stage trial testing an advanced version of its
flagship drug delivery technology in patients with pancreatic
cancer, sending its shares tumbling 32 percent.
The biotechnology company said it halted enrollment and
patient dosing as a "precautionary measure" following the
recommendation of an independent safety committee.
The pancreatic cancer study was testing a more potent form
of the company's existing technology to deliver chemotherapy
drugs intravenously and to prolong the effectiveness of its
synthetic enzyme, Hylenex, in the blood stream.
Halozyme said on Friday the committee is assessing a
possible difference in the rate of blood clots found in patients
receiving its treatment against those receiving approved cancer
The setback comes after ViroPharma Inc in August
halted testing of its genetic disorder drug, Cinryze, using
Halozyme's existing under-the-skin delivery technology. The
companies said the mid-stage trial was stopped due to several
instances of higher antibody production.
A year earlier, Baxter International Inc was denied
U.S. approval for its immune deficiency drug HyQvia that used
the same mechanism.
Piper Jaffray analyst Charles Duncan said he expects the
pancreatic cancer halt to be resolved in "weeks, not months" and
that it would not hurt the broader technology platform as the
dosing levels varied significantly from those of Hylenex.
Hylenex helps in the absorption of other medications by
breaking down a protective barrier that surrounds skin,
cartilage and abnormal tissues, including tumors.
The technology has also been licensed to drugmakers such as
Pfizer Inc and Roche Holding AG.
Jefferies & Co analyst Eun Yang maintained her assumption
that the pancreatic cancer treatment would be launched in the
United States and Europe by 2019, and generate combined peak
sales of about $548 million in 2027.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer
deaths in the United States, according to National Cancer
The San Diego-based company's stock was down 28 percent at
$8.29 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq. Over 16 million shares
changed hands by 1340 ET, more than 7 times their 10-day moving
The stock was the biggest percentage loser on the exchange.
(Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bangalore; Editing by Maju
Samuel and Sriraj Kalluvila)