Why Regulus Therapeutics Inc. Shares Soared Higher Today

AstraZeneca Plc Inc is advancing Regulus Therapeutics' RG-125 into human trials.

Todd Campbell
Todd Campbell
Apr 8, 2015 at 12:17PM
Health Care

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares in Regulus Therapeutics (NASDAQ:RGLS) vaulted higher by more than 15% earlier today after the company announced that collaboration partner AstraZeneca Plc (NYSE:AZN) is advancing Regulus' RG-125 into human clinical trials.

So What: RG-125 is the first compound from Regulus and AstraZeneca's collaboration to make its way into clinical trials.

The drug is a potential therapy for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, in type 2 diabetics. NASH is an increasingly common disease that has become a common cause of liver transplant.

NASH is characterized by a buildup of fat in the liver, inflammation, and liver scarring. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NASH affects between 2% and 5% of Americans. Overall, roughly 10% of NASH patients will see their disease progress to a point where a transplant may be necessary.

Now What: AstraZeneca's decision means that it will take over developing RG-125 and hand over a $2.5 million milestone payment to Regulus. It also adds validity to Regulus' therapeutic approach of targeting micro RNA responsible for the regulation of gene expression.

Since RG-125 is only now moving into human clinical trials, it's difficult for me to get too excited about this announcement. Over 90% of drugs entering phase 1 trials never make it to market, and although RNA research is incredibly intriguing, it's still a bit early in development to say that Regulus could have a commercial success on its hands with RG-125.

I have little doubt that NASH is an increasingly important disease that will affect millions more people globally as obesity rates climb, so I'll be rooting for RG-125 to succeed, but until we get some human trial results to digest, I don't think this one is worth chasing higher -- at least not on this news.