Strike one for Conatus as it fails first Nash trial

Suggesting that Nash might not be the El Dorado for which many companies are hoping, Conatus Pharmaceuticals today joined the ranks of small pharma companies nursing clinical losses. Choosing to announce the failure of the phase IIb Encore-PH trial on a day the markets are shut is a strategy unlikely to go down well with investors, however. On a conference call, Steven Mento, chief executive officer, was keen to explain that Encore-PH was just one of three trials of emricasan. He also pointed to “clinically important improvements” in patients’ hepatic venous pressure gradient, despite the changes not being statically significant, and suggested a bigger trial might have been more successful. With two trials still to read out, Conatus is already stressing that they and partner Novartis will look at the data in their totality, and pointing to what looks to be better efficacy in sicker patients. However, if emricasan fails in either of the next two trials, management’s reassurances will not be enough to soothe investors.

Emricasan trials 
Study  Disease/primary endpoint  Trial ID  Readout 
Encore-PH  Nash with severe portal hypertension/24wk chg in HVPG  NCT02960204   Failed Dec 5
Encore-NF  Nash fibrosis/fibrosis improvement without Nash worsening  NCT02686762   H1 2019 
Encore-LF  Nash cirrhosis/event-free survival  NCT03205345   Mid-2019 

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