A small molecule drug developed by the French company Sensorion has proven ineffective in a phase IIb trial for the treatment of a rare vertigo condition, leading the company to close down the development of the drug.
The phase IIb trial tested Sensorion’s lead drug in 105 patients with the rare condition acute unilateral vestibulopathy, which leads to feelings of vertigo and motion sickness. The drug failed to meet the primary goal of the trial, which was to beat the placebo in reducing symptoms of vertigo when the patient was standing up.
Going forward, Sensorion will discontinue its program in acute unilateral vestibulopathy. The company will instead focus its efforts on drugs and gene therapies for treating hearing loss conditions, including one drug that is in phase II.
Sensorion’s small molecule drug is designed to dampen the activity of neurons that encode balance by blocking a protein called histamine receptor 4, thus treating vertigo. This drug was expected to treat the rare vertigo condition without causing sedation in patients as current medications do.
After this major setback, many of Sensorion’s public investors seem to have lost confidence in the company. Sensorion’s stock price has dropped by almost 50% on Euronext Paris since the end of last week.
Sensorion will now focus on developing a small molecule drug candidate for sudden sensorineural hearing loss, which is currently in phase II. The company is also working on two preclinical-stage gene therapies with the Pasteur Institute in Paris for the treatment of genetic deafness disorders including Usher syndrome type 1.
One of Sensorion’s closest competitors is the Swiss company Auris Medical. This company is testing a drug in phase II for the treatment of vertigo symptoms. Like Sensorion’s drug, Auris Medical’s treatment targets histamine receptors. However, it’s designed to hit different types of histamine receptors, partially activating histamine receptor 1 while simultaneously blocking histamine receptor 3. Auris Medical plans to release interim results of the phase II trial in early 2020.
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