Shares of Aurinia Pharmaceuticals Inc. (AUPH -1.61%), a biotechnology company developing an experimental new lupus therapy, rose 16.8% in September, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Analyst attention following an important step forward for the company's lead candidate pushed the stock higher.
Aurinia's lead candidate, voclosporin, is in a pivotal study that could make it the first therapy specifically approved for the treatment of lupus nephritis. Late in September, the company finished enrolling patients into the Aurora study -- which means 52-week kidney response data should be ready in 2019.
Estimates vary, but perhaps a million Americans have systemic lupus erythematosus, and around two-fifths eventually progress to kidney-threatening lupus nephritis. With this in mind, a Cantor Fitzgerald analyst recently issued a price target that suggested Aurinia stock has more than 200% upside.
Voclosporin's chance for success in its ongoing pivotal study looks better than average, considering its performance in midstage testing. Last year, Aurinia showed us that adding its candidate to standard care led to significantly greater remission rates at 48 weeks. Providing a significant benefit in the larger setting could make voclosporin a blockbuster drug.
Aurinia also initiated a dry eye trial with voclosporin earlier this year that will put it up against Allergan's former blockbuster Restasis. If successful, there could be further gains before the end of the year.