Shares of Aurinia Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AUPH) jumped 11% in May, according to data provided by S&P; Global Market Intelligence, after the biotech said it plans to test voclosporin, its only drug candidate, for additional diseases.
Aurinia is testing voclosporin in a phase 3 trial in patients with lupus nephritis that's scheduled to complete enrollment this year, putting Aurinia on track to file its completed marketing application with the Food and Drug Administration in the first half of 2020.
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To avoid putting all its eggs in one basket -- and sell more if those metaphorical eggs don't actually break -- Aurinia plans to test the drug in a phase 2 proof-of-concept study in focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare kidney disease that affects about 5,400 new patients each year.
Aurinia also plans to test voclosporin as a treatment for dry-eye disease using an eyedrop solution in a head-to-head trial against Allergan's (NYSE: AGN) Restasis.
Lupus, a rare kidney disease, and dry-eye disease might sound like they don't have anything in common. But all three are facilitated by an overactive immune system, which voclosporin can modulate through its inhibition of calcineurin.
In fact, voclosporin is essentially just a more potent version of cyclosporine, which is the active ingredient in Restasis. And Merck's animal health division is also developing voclosporin for dogs with dry eye, so the idea isn't far-fetched.
Unfortunately, it's back to waiting for Aurinia's investors. Without much of any data expected this year, shares are likely to trade at the whim of investors' sentiment for the near term. In fact, shares are down quite a bit since the calendar flipped to June.
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