Ventyx Biosciences on Monday said an experimental immune disease drug it’s been developing succeeded in an early-stage trial and has a chance to prove more potent than a closely watched medicine from Bristol Myers Squibb.
The California-based biotech reported that its treatment, VTX958, appeared safe in a Phase 1 trial and hit its designed target. The biotech plans to start mid-stage trials by the end of the year that would test if VTX958 can ease symptoms of psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and psoriatic arthritis.
Ventyx’s study was designed to evaluate several different doses and see whether the treatment is safe and acts on its intended target. Like Bristol Myers’ deucravacitinib, which U.S. regulators could approve for psoriasis by Sept. 10, the drug blocks a protein called TYK2, which is implicated in inflammation and is from a family of proteins called Janus kinases, or JAKs.
The approach represents a potentially new way to treat immune diseases and is being targeted by several drugmakers, including Ventyx and Nimbus Therapeutics. But developers face an uphill battle because of the drugs’ similarity to JAK inhibitors, the use of which has been limited by drug regulators because of safety concerns. Piper Sandler analyst Christopher Raymond wrote in an Aug. 16 note to clients that many physicians and investors expect TYK2 blockers, if approved by the FDA, to have similar warnings on their labels for potential heart problems.
Nevertheless, Bristol Myers has said it expects deucravacitinib will become a $4 billion-a-year drug at its peak.
Ventyx believes it has a chance to do better. Based on what it’s seen so far, the biotech said VTX958 may provide better relief of psoriasis symptoms than deucravacitinib. The drug targets TYK2 more selectively than Bristol Myers’ drug, which may allow the company to get to a higher dose with fewer side effects, Ventyx said. Bristol Myers has tested a 6-milligram daily dose in its Phase 3 study in psoriasis. Ventyx, by comparison, went as high as 350 milligrams twice daily in its Phase 1 trial.
Shares of Ventyx climbed 27%, to $23.50 apiece, in early trading Tuesday. The company went public last year at $16 per share.