Shares in Morphic Therapeutic swung up and then down Tuesday after the Waltham, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company revealed encouraging results from a small mid-stage study testing a pill it’s developing for a form of inflammatory bowel disease.
Morphic’s data suggest its oral drug could be roughly as effective as Takeda’s lucrative bowel disease medicine Entyvio, which is given intravenously. According to some analysts, that kind of profile might draw the attention of large pharmaceutical companies looking to acquire new treatments of immune system disorders.
“Data should trigger pharma interest in the context of massive [patent cliff] and continuous interest in the immunology space,” wrote Jefferies analyst Michael Yee in a client note that compared Morphic’s drug to Entyvio.
“We view today's results as a clear winning scenario for [Morphic],” Mike Kratky, an analyst at SVB Securities, wrote in a Tuesday morning note.
The company’s stock initially rose by 26% in value Tuesday morning, before falling back to trade down by early afternoon.
Morphic’s data are from a Phase 2a study of 35 adults with moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis, a disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. Participants were all given the company’s drug, and assessed after three months of treatment for changes in an index that measures ulcerative colitis disease activity. The study also looked at clinical scores and other metrics that tracked metabolism of the drug.
After 12 weeks, the average change from baseline in the so-called Robarts Histopathology Index was 6.4 points. Just over one-quarter of participants achieved clinical remission as measured by what’s known as the modified Mayo Clinic Score. Because Morphic did not compare its drug to a placebo, results are harder to interpret and compare across studies.
Still, the 6.4 point reduction is “in the ballpark range” of what Takeda showed with Entyvio in a Phase 3 ulcerative colitis study, according to SVB’s Kratky.
No serious adverse events were reported in the study, Morphic said. The most common adverse events were exacerbation of ulcerative colitis and anemia.
Morphic is running a larger Phase 2b study of its drug, with results due in 2025.
The market for ulcerative colitis drugs is competitive, with older injectable medicines like Entyvio, AbbVie’s Humira and Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade mainstay treatments. More recently, companies have developed oral alternatives, including Bristol Myers Squibb’s Zeposia and AbbVie’s Rinvoq.
Earlier this month, Merck & Co. spent nearly $11 billion to acquire Prometheus Biosciences and an injectable ulcerative colitis drug that showed promise in a placebo-controlled mid-stage study.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect changes in Morphic’s share price.