Motif Bio (AIM: MTFB) shares jumped today in response to positive phase III trial data. Motif is reviving Iclaprim, an antibiotic which already had lots of clinical data from earlier trials under its former ownership. Various corporate and technical reasons meant it didn’t progress at that time and Motif was able to acquire the rights.
Antibiotics used to be rather unfashionable but with increasing bacterial resistance due to over-prescribing, there’s an urgent need for innovation. Before penicillin a simple infection could be a death sentence. And without new treatments it’s been estimated that there could be more deaths from bacterial infection than from cancer by 2050. So today’s news is encouraging for both Motif and the wider field of antibiotics.
Motif is running two trials with the second expected to report later this year. In the ‘Revive 1’ study Iclaprim has achieved the primary endpoint in acute bacterial skin infections by demonstrating equivalence with the existing vancomycin treatment, as well as a good safety profile. The drug will benefit from fast-track designation in terms of getting regulatory approval and from an extended period of market exclusivity post-launch.
As always with small pharma stocks, funding is an issue. Despite the positive outlook and relatively short timeframe for Iclaprim, Motif struggled to raise fresh equity last year. It managed to bring in $21 million in November, mainly through a US listing, but the shares halved in the process. Today’s news sees them back above that 28p placing price and values the company at a still modest £66 million. There is still a $10 million cash requirement to see the second study through to completion, but this should be much easier to find than last year’s fundraise. After that funds will be needed to take the product through the regulatory process and ideally run a further trial in hospital acquired bacterial pneumonia.