CAT may abandon skin drug after trial results disappoint

Cambridge Antibody Technology, the biotech group, is considering dropping work on one of its most advanced new drugs after disappointing trial results. The product, codenamed CAT 192, failed to show any measurable effect as a treatment for scleroderma, a life-threatening condition where scars appear on the skin and internal organs.

Cambridge Antibody Technology, the biotech group, is considering dropping work on one of its most advanced new drugs after disappointing trial results. The product, codenamed CAT 192, failed to show any measurable effect as a treatment for scleroderma, a life-threatening condition where scars appear on the skin and internal organs.

Peter Chambré, the chief executive, said the trial proved that CAT 192 was safe and might simply have involved too few patients to prove it worked. However, the company will consider abandoning work in favour of a similar drug from the same family, called TGFb inhibitors. That second product, GC 1008, is a potential treatment for scarring of the lung. CAT is seeking permission for human trials.

Mr Chambré said CAT and its development partner, the Swiss giant Genzyme, would use the data from CAT 192 to plan a series of next steps, and a decision would come in the next few months.

Sam Williams, a biotech analyst at Lehman Brothers, said: "Scleroderma is a tough indication and we would not be surprised to see the companies drop this particular indication while continuing with the principle of TGFb inhibition in other inflammatory diseases."

One drug created using the same technology, Humira, is already on the market but CAT is in dispute over the level of royalties being paid by its development partner, Abbott Laboratories of the US.

Revenues from Humira and the axing of unpromising drug programmes helped CAT reduce losses to £9.1m in the three months to 31 December from £10.5m.

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