Saanich-based pharmaceutical company stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Saanich-based pharmaceutical company, Aurinia Pharmaceuticals, saw share values soar on Thursday after success with clinical trials for a new lupus drug.

On Dec. 4, the company announced that results from the AURORA Phase 3 drug trials for voclosporin had been successful in treating kidney inflammation in patients with lupus nephritis – an autoimmune disease.

Aurinia’s chief medical officer Neil Solomons explained that patients with lupus can experience “irreversible kidney damage” that can lead to kidney failure and death.

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The study included 357 patients from 27 countries living with lupus and the results showed that participants using voclosporin experienced a “renal response rate” of 40.8 per cent while just 22.5 per cent of participants in the control group – those who didn’t receive the drug – saw improvements.

Data also indicated that the group taking voclosporin saw no more adverse events than the group receiving standard lupus treatment, noted Brad Rovin, chief of the nephrology division at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre.

Following the announcement of the drug’s successful Phase 3 trial, the company’s share price exploded on Thursday, rising from Wednesday’s close of $11.13 per share to touch a 52-week high of $23.04 before closing at $19.75. Its shares have risen from a 52-week low of $4.70 to close Friday at $20.48 – a gain of 336 per cent, driving the company’s market cap to $1.93 billion.

Lupus has historically been difficult to treat and new treatment options were needed, said Stevan Gibson, president and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America. Voclosporin is the first effective therapeutic treatment option and the successful trial marks a step forward in treating the potentially deadly disease, he noted.

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Aurinia co-founder Mike Martin noted that after eight years of hard work, staff are excited about the outcomes of the trial. he emphasized that the drug’s success will be significant for people living with lupus – close to 1 million people worldwide.

“It was a pleasure to share the results,” Martin said. Given the data, he wasn’t surprised by the uptake in stock.

He emphasized how grateful the company is for the participants and for the opportunity to change the trajectory of people’s lives.

The company is planning to put the drug on the market as early as 2021, but first it must pass though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. The drug was given a fast track by the FDA in 2016 and the company plans to submit to the FDA in early 2020.

With files from Paul Bucci.


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