Biotech Movers: Neurotrope Inc (NASDAQ:NTRP) and AEterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:AEZS)


We’re off on a fresh week in the markets and it’s already looking set up to be a good one. With earnings season very much in full swing, and a spate of clinical data set to hit press near term (and a number of companies already having read-out mid to late last week), volume is up and volatility has followed.

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With this in mind, here’s are two of the companies that are drawing attention right now, with a look at what’s moving each, why we’re seeing the action we’re seeing, and what’s likely to come next.

The two companies in our crosshairs today are Neurotrope Inc (NASDAQ:NTRP) and AEterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:AEZS).

So let’s kick things off with Neurotrope. Both of the companies under discussion today are moving for similar reasons – the release (or pending release) of clinical trial data from a lead development program. In the case of Neurotrope, the study was a phase II investigating a drug called Bryostatin in Alzheimer’s patients. It was a relatively small trial, but it’s probably one of the most hotly anticipated pieces of data this half of 2017. Alzheimer’s is incredibly difficult to treat, and currently approved therapies only target symptoms – none are available to slow or halt (and of course, reverse) progression of the disease. Bryostatin has a mechanism of action that involves the stimulation of neuron and synapse production in the brain. In patients with Alzheimer’s and especially the more severe end of the population, synapse degeneration correlates with symptom progression.

So, the data hit press, and it’s mixed. Patients were tested under two dose regimens, one low one high, and both regimens were set up against a placebo arm. The primary endpoint was an improvement in what’s called Severe Impairment Battery (SIB), which is an industry standard scale with which a physician can gauge an Alzheimer’s sufferer’s progression over time.

As per the data, patients on the low dose averaged an improvement of 1.5 in SIB, compared to a decline of 1.1 in the placebo arm. The p-value came in at 0.07, which just misses out on the stat sig threshold of 0.05. These numbers relate to what the company refers to as the completer arm – which is the group of patients that completed the trial. In the intent to treat population, which covers patients that were dosed but dropped out before thirteen-week completion. In the intent to treat population, the numbers showed an improvement in SIB of 1.2 in the active arm (the lower dose) against a decrease of 0.8 in the placebo arm.

As things stand, markets are interpreting the numbers negatively. Having run up into the weekend to the tune of more than 24%, Neurotrope is down more than 30% premarket.

For us, this data isn’t really as bad as the response infers. There’s an improvement (albeit not quite stat sig) and the fact that the low dose works better than the high (as implied by the company not releasing the latter) was an expected result, given the MOA of the drug.

As such, we expect a near-term recovery as markets turn around on their initial response

So, moving on, let’s look at Zentaris.

As mentioned, this one is also a data driven run, with the company set to put out data from a phase III trial of a drug called Zoptrex. The data should hit press before the markets open today (at time of writing it’s still not available), and will cover the safety ad efficacy of Zoptrex in women with locally advanced, recurrent or metastatic endometrial cancer.

This is a big asset for AEterna and markets are going to use this data as strongly informative of a forward bias for the company. If it hits press as indicative of efficacy, and we see an endpoint hit, then there’s a sustained run on the cards from a market capitalization perspective. Similarly, but conversely, a trial fail will likely induce some strong downside pressure. The implications of a negative release will likely be shorter lived than those of a positive release, meaning any spike down will likely recover (at least to a point), while a data-driven boost will likely be held onto long term.

On the back of an issue backed raise, AEterna ran up close to 10% at the end of last week. Ahead of market open today, the company is up a further 3%, as traders load up tentatively in anticipation of the data’s release.

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