I'm not sure if investors should be happy that XOMA (NASDAQ:XOMA) is moving its lead program along -- or pull out their hair because it's taken so long.
Yesterday, the biotech said its partner Servier was starting a phase 3 trial of gevokizumab in patients with an eye disease called Behcet's uveitis.
You'll recall that gevokizumab, the upgraded name for XOMA 052, failed to show a meaningful decrease in diabetics' hemoglobin A1c levels. Diabetes was XOMA's quick pathway to riches. A once-monthly dosing scheme would have been substantially better than Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) and AstraZeneca's (NYSE:AZN) once-weekly Bydureon. And a once-per-month injection likely could have competed with oral medications like Merck's (NYSE:MRK) multi-billion-dollar blockbuster, Januvia. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.
At the time, XOMA already had phase 2 data that suggested the drug was working well enough in Behcet's uveitis to justify pushing it into phase 3 development. More than a year later, the companies have finally started the second phase 3 trial for gevokizumab. XOMA started the first trial in June in patients with non-infectious uveitis, a broader category of eye disease, which Behcet's uveitis falls into.
Sure, the companies are dependent on meetings with regulators to give advice about what the agencies require in the phase 3 program to eventually gain approval. And XOMA expanded the gevokizumab program to see if it will work in other diseases. And it got a new CEO. And. And. And.
OK, there's no point in dwelling on the past. The trials are up and running. Now what? Back to waiting. The phase 3 programs are expected to read out at the end of next year and the middle of 2014.
Then again, what's another year or two for a company that's been around for 30 years and doesn't have a drug it's developed on the market?