Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Why "Positive" Data Knocked Down Corbus Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc Today

By Brian Orelli, PhD - Mar 30, 2017 at 1:08PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

In biotech, the devil is often in the details.

What happened

Corbus Pharmaceuticals (CRBP -10.80%) is down 8.3% at 12:42 p.m. EDT, having been down as much as 20% today after announcing results of the phase 2 clinical trial testing its cystic fibrosis drug anabasum, which used to go by JBT-101 and Resunab.

So what

The press release headline sounded good, touting "positive topline data demonstrating anabasum reduces acute pulmonary exacerbations and multiple inflammatory biomarkers." But anyone who's studied cystic fibrosis drugs knows it's the change in the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) percent predicted -- a measurement of lung function -- that the Food and Drug Administration has typically used to measure whether a cystic fibrosis drug is helping patients.

On that measure, the study wasn't the least bit positive, according to the press release:

FEV1 remained stable throughout the duration of the study in all treatment cohorts.

Stable sounds good, but investors would have liked to see an improvement in patients taking anabasum compared to those taking placebo. 

Clipboard with a paper that has cystic fibrosis written on it.

Image source: Getty Images.

Corbus latched onto the 75% reduction in the annualized rate of pulmonary exacerbations requiring treatment with IV antibiotics in patients taking 20 mg of anabasum twice a day, but the numbers derived to get that 75% reduction are so small that it's hard to know whether the effect is real. There was one patient that had a pulmonary exacerbation requiring treatment with IV antibiotics in the group taking anabasum compared to three patients in the group taking placebo.

And even if the difference is real, it may just be due to the background drugs the patients were taking since more patients in the group taking anabasum were also on Vertex Pharmaceuticals' cystic fibrosis drugs Orkambi or Kalydeco than in the group taking placebo.

Now what

Corbus Pharmaceuticals plans to meet with its clinical collaborators to go over the data and design the next clinical trial. While cystic fibrosis is a lucrative market, the best plan of action might be to drop the indication rather than investing more money chasing a result that might be a fluke.

Last year, Corbus presented positive -- actually positive -- phase 2 data testing anabasum in patients with systemic sclerosis, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects 90,000 people in the U.S. and Europe. With just $39.4 million in the bank on March 2, developing the drug for that indication as quickly as possible would be a better use of Corbus' limited resources.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Corbus Pharmaceuticals Holdings, Inc. Stock Quote
Corbus Pharmaceuticals Holdings, Inc.
$0.25 (-10.80%) $0.03

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 06/26/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.