Atea Pharmaceuticals (ATEA) shares collapsed Tuesday after the drugmaker said its developing COVID treatment failed to meet expectations of reducing patient virus levels in critical mid-stage trial.
The drug, developed in partnership with Swiss pharma giant Roche, did provide some reduction in the viral load of high-risk patients with underlying conditions, but failed to meet the goal of a 'clear reduction' in patients with mild or moderate forms of the disease.
The treatment, known as AT-527, was meant to be a potential competitor to Merck & Co.'s (MRK) - Get Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) Report 'molnupiravir', a pill designed for treatment of "mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults who are at risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization."
“The primary endpoint was not achieved in the overall study population in patients with mild or moderate COVID-19, however, MOONSONG topline data suggest that AT-527 has antiviral activity in high-risk patients with underlying health conditions as we previously reported in the Phase 2 hospitalized study," said founder and Atea CEO Jean-Pierre Sommadossi. 'Based on these and other AT-527 data, we with our partner Roche, are assessing potential modifications to the Phase 3 MORNINGSKY protocol that may likely lead to improved clinical outcomes”
“We remain committed to our goal of developing and delivering AT-527 as an oral antiviral that will address treatment needs as COVID-19 continues to evolve,” he added.
Atea Pharmaceutical shares were marked 70% lower in early trading Tuesday to change hands at $12.22 each, a move that could wipe more than $2.3 billion from its market value.
Merck shares, meanwhile, jumped 1.8% to $78.54 each on the back of both the Atea trial results and a Reuters report that suggested the World Health Organization would lead the purchase of hundreds of millions of COVID treatments, tests and vaccines that could include the molnupiravir pill.