Shares of Ocugen (OCGN -0.32%) were jumping 4.4% higher at 10:58 a.m. ET on Friday after rising more than 5% earlier in the day. The gain came after the company announced that the first patient has been dosed in a phase 1/2 study evaluating experimental gene therapy OCU400 in treating genetic eye disease retinitis pigmentosa.
On one hand, the dosing of the first patient in an early-stage clinical study doesn't really change anything about Ocugen's prospects. So why did the biotech stock move higher? Any positive news can provide a catalyst for a highly volatile stock that has plunged as much as Ocugen has in recent months.
Today's announcement does represent a key milestone for Ocugen. The dosing of the first patient is an important step toward proving that OCU400 can be safely given to people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa. And if the safety evaluation goes well, Ocugen will be able to advance the experimental therapy into the phase 2 portion of the study to determine its efficacy.
Ocugen could have a significant opportunity if OCU400 is successful in clinical testing. Around 2 million people worldwide have retinitis pigmentosa. There's currently no approved therapy that can halt the progression of the disease for all the genetic mutations that can cause it.
While investors applauded the progress for OCU400, there hasn't been much reason lately to cheer for Ocugen's COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin. Ocugen still awaits an approval decision by Health Canada. Investors also are eager for the company to begin its U.S. phase 2/3 study for Covaxin since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted its clinical hold.