Verona breathes easier
After years of trying, Verona Pharma might finally be reaching the finish line with its lead project ensifentrine. Success in the phase 3 Enhance-2 study in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease almost doubled the group’s stock this morning, with investors particularly impressed by a 42% reduction in exacerbation rate over 24 weeks with ensifentrine versus placebo; around half of patients were on background therapy. Next the group needs to prevail in the Enhance-1 study, due to yield data around year end; this has a similar design to Enhance-2 but includes an additional safety assessment over 48 weeks. Should the PDE3/4 inhibitor win approval, around 100 sales reps will be needed, execs said on a conference call today. Still, there are question marks around intellectual property: ensifentrine’s original composition of matter patent expired in 2020, but Verona is claiming that patents on the nebulised formulation will provide protection out to 2035. The group has more planned, recently touting the project's promise in asthma and cystic fibrosis. It will probably need more cash to pursue these indications: Verona currently has $112m in the bank, enough to last until “at least the end of 2023”.