Speaking on a February 28 conference call, company Chairman David Guyer, MD, said Ophthotech would like to now leverage its deep experience in ophthalmology to license the rights to promising ophthalmic drugs, preferably but not limited to investigational back-of-the-eye therapies that have demonstrated encouraging results in early-stage clinical trials.
“It is early in the process, but all options are on the table,” said Dr. Guyer. “I think a lot of companies would like to collaborate with us, given our depth of experience in ophthalmolgy.” He also noted that Ophthotech has hired Leerink Partners as a financial adviser to explore “all strategic options.”
Dr. Guyer said a third phase 3 clinical trial in wet AMD using a combination of Fovista with either Eylea or Avastin would continue to completion later this year.
He said given that the two Fovista/Lucentis trials demonstrated no benefit in any subgroup, he thought it “unlikely” that the Eylea/Avastin study will succeed, but that “we have made a commitment to complete the trial.” He also noted that the Regeneron anti-PDGF drug had failed in combination with Eylea, creating more evidence that anti-PDGF might not be the way to go. In the case of Ophthotech’s other drug, Zimura, for both wet AMD and geographic atrophy, he noted that early results from a competitor’s phase 3 trial would be a key to whether to continue Zimura’s phase 2 study in geographic atrophy. The competitor is almost certainly Genentech’s promising drug lampilizumab.
Noting that the Ophthotech and competitor’s drugs both have similar mechanisms of action targeting complement factors, Dr. Guyer said success of the competitor’s drug in phase 3 would be a positive sign for continuing to study Zimura.
“It’s really a timing issue,” he said. “The competitor’s data will come out first and we will have a chance to see how it might relate to Zimura.”
The surprising failure of the two major phase 3 trials has played havoc with Ophthotech’s stock price, which has fallen from $38 a share to a current price of about $4 a share. However, the company has been quick to refocus and turn to possible new initiatives in medical retina, where new concepts abound.