Medical staff examine a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on November 16, 2020.
Go Nakamura | Getty Images
LONDON – Swiss biotech company Relief Therapeutics saw its share price jump 38,000% this year as it develops a drug that focuses on respiratory failure due to severe Covid-19.
Last week, the company, together with US partner NeuroRx, achieved the target agreed with the US Food and Drug Administration of 165 patients in the ongoing Phase 2b / 3 study with RLF-100, a patented version of Aviptadil.
Aviptadil is a synthetic formulation of a naturally occurring peptide called Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide (VIP), which is primarily concentrated in the lungs and resets the immune system’s response, acts as a vasodilator, and promotes the production of surfactant in the lungs allowing the transfer of blood oxygen.
RLF-100 has been around since 2000, when it was developed to treat acute respiratory distress and other lung diseases and was subsequently acquired by Biogen. Earlier this year, Relief scientists discovered that it could protect the cell attacked by the Covid-19 virus.
Ram Selvaraju, chairman of Relief Therapeutics, spoke to CNBC from New York by phone that the ongoing study is expected to provide topline data in the first half of January, and attributed the company’s stock price surge in part to evidence of effectiveness in ” otherwise untreatable patients. “
“Where other people have mainly focused on lightly infected or moderately infected people, we have tried carefully to see if our drug can benefit the seriously ill and the terminally ill,” he said.
Early results of extended access use of RLF-100 in patients with critical Covid-19 and severe comorbidities showed that 72% of patients admitted to the ICU survived.
Relief Therapeutics had a market cap of less than 100 million Swiss Francs ($ 113 million) in late July and surpassed the first 21 patients treated with RLF-100 under the FDA Expanded Access Protocol on August 10 after promising results 1.6 billion Swiss people. Since then, it has flattened to just under CHF 1 billion.
The 38,000% increase largely corresponds to the low level of the original share price, which was just under 0.40 Swiss francs per share on Friday afternoon. Shares in the multinational Roche, on the other hand, are worth 306 francs.
Other therapeutics that have been tested on patients with more moderate symptoms have been purchased by government agencies to help fight the pandemic. The US government’s Operation Warp Speed ordered Gileads Remdesivir and Eli Lillys Bamlanivimab.
Selvaraju announced that Relief Therapeutics and NeuroRx were in contact with Operation Warp Speed, and said that if the drug successfully proves its effectiveness in critically ill patients after phase three randomized tests, the company expects to see stock orders on a scale similar to that Gilead and Eli Lilly. A US Department of Health spokesman was not immediately available for comment when contacted CNBC.
Covid the “tip of the iceberg”
In June, the FDA granted RLF-100 fast-track designation and also received orphan drug designation for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Since the drug is not an antiviral drug specifically designed to fight the coronavirus, Relief Therapeutics hopes the current pandemic is “a chance for this drug to shine” if it turns out to be a therapeutic one clinical benefit in the treatment of respiratory disease due to Covid- hat. 19th
“Covid-19 is really the tip of the iceberg, the head of the spear. If we can prove this drug works for Covid-19-related respiratory distress, we will assume that we can use these results to further develop the drug testing.” in other forms of acute respiratory distress syndrome unrelated to Covid-19, “Selvaraju said, adding that this puts Relief Therapeutics in a” pretty unique position “.
“While many other experimental therapeutics will either live or die due to the development of the pandemic, on the contrary, we believe that once we have established the therapeutic benefits of this drug in the context of Covid-19, hopefully we should have our long-term vision for this drug too a kind of workhorse for emergency rooms and intensive care units as well as hospitals and hospital systems everywhere. “