Qurient shares climbed to a 52-week high Friday on expectations that its investigational multi-drug resistant tuberculosis therapy Telacebec could be used to treat COVID-19 symptoms, while its other late-stage candidates became eligible for out-licensing discussion.
The Kosdaq-listed stock gained 4.37 percent to end the day at 40,600 won ($34.20).
In preclinical study data published in Nature Medicine in 2013, Telacebec inhibited the production of leukotrienes, chemical mediators that can cause inflammatory changes in the lung, said Lee Dong-gun, a researcher at Shinhan Investment. Life-threatening cytokine storms are caused by increased leukotriene levels.
The value of Telacebec, which fundamentally blocks cytokine storms, will stand out compared to rival candidates, given that patients have difficulty with pulmonary recovery after infection, said Lee.
The company will soon submit Phase 2 IND based on safety data from Phase 1 in the United States and South Africa to develop a COVID-19 cure.
Potential license deals over multiple clinical-stage candidates are also good news for investors. Lee said Q301 and Telacebec among other candidates are more likely to be picked up by global pharmaceutical companies as they have demonstrated significant efficacy in previous clinical trials.
The company’s investigational immunotherapy agent Q702 is a first-in-class drug that targets innate immunity unlike existing anticancer drugs. As a selective Axl/Mer/CSF1R triple kinase inhibitor showing significant anti-tumor activities through immune activation is drawing high attention from global pharma firms, raising the possibility of a license deal although it is in earlier clinical stages.
Qurient’s Q301, a candidate drug for atopic dermatitis, could be licensed out as early as this year, which will help boost its corporate value, said Kang Dong-geun, a researcher at Yuanta Securities.
"Q301 is a topical formulation for atopic dermatitis being developed based on Abbott’s oral asthma drug Zyflo and a Phase 2b study was completed in May and out-licensing talks are underway.
Considering the potential commercialization of the company’s immunotherapy drug Q702, late-stage candidates Q301 and Telacebec, the current stock price does not fully reflect the value of these pipelines, said Kang.
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