Genzyme Halts Development of New Kidney Drug; A “Very Significant” Bust, Analyst Says

Xconomy Boston — 

Another day, another piece of bad news from Genzyme. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech giant (NASDAQ: GENZ) said today it is scrapping development of a next-generation drug for kidney disease after it was unable to beat its existing treatment on the market.

Genzyme’s experimental drug, called an advanced phosphate binder, didn’t appear any better at getting rid of excess phosphorus from the blood of kidney dialysis patients than Genzyme’s sevelamer carbonate (Renvela) in a clinical trial of 349 patients, the company said in a statement. Genzyme had been hoping that the new drug would be more potent.

Those following the Genzyme story know about what’s become a brutal year. Some of the big setbacks were the viral contamination at its Allston, MA factory in June that created shortages of its top-selling products, the failure to win FDA approval of large-scale manufacturing for a Pompe drug, and the rejection of a leukemia drug for elderly patients.

But this kidney drug failure is another serious body blow. The company generates $850 million a year in sales from its two phosphate binder treatments. Patents that protect that franchise from competition from cheaper generics will expire in September 2014, according to Christopher Raymond, an analyst with market research firm Robert W. Baird. The next-generation kidney drug was supposed to help the company extend the patent life of its kidney drug market, Raymond said.

The failure is “a very significant negative in our view,” Raymond said in a note to clients today. He added that he had been starting to warm up to the company, as it has been inching closer to resolving the Allston manufacturing problems, but he called today’s halting of the kidney program a “game-changer.” Raymond has a $54 price target for the stock.

Shares of Genzyme dropped 1.3 percent to $49.65 at 9:39 am Eastern time today after the news was announced. The stock has dropped 25 percent this year.