Viking Almost Triples After Fatty Liver Drug Meets Study Goals

(Bloomberg) -- Shares of Viking Therapeutics Inc. soared as much as 122 percent intraday hitting a record after the company said initial results for an experimental therapy for fatty liver disease exceeded investors’ expectations.

Viking’s medicine, VK2809, cut the bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein, as well as liver fat more than the placebo, the study showed. Ten milligrams of the therapy was shown by MRI to cut liver fat by 57 percent when taken every other day and by 60 percent when taken once a day. Results from the 12-week study across both doses showed liver fat was cut by roughly 30 percent or more in roughly 83 percent of patients, compared to 18 percent with the placebo.

Viking Almost Triples After Fatty Liver Drug Meets Study Goals

Shares in Viking have soared in the past 12 months, climbing more than 750 percent as data from peer Madrigal Pharmaceuticals Inc. spurred on the rally. Both companies are developing similar drugs belonging to the same class of liver-directed thyroid hormone receptor agonists.

While Viking’s results were in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the company plans to move VK2809 forward in a more severe form of the disease known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH where there is also inflammation and liver damage, in addition to built-up fat in the liver, Chief Executive Officer Brian Lian said in an interview before the data became public.

NASH, spurred on by ever increasing rates of obesity, is expected to be a multi-billion dollar market, and drug companies are racing to find new treatments for the disease. Viking still needs to make a final report of the study results before talking to the Food and Drug Administration, which Lian sees happening in the first half of 2019, Lian said.

The next step for Viking after clearing a plan with the agency will likely be a combined mid- to late-stage study where patients get liver biopsies at the beginning and end of the study.

“Madrigal and others have shown that liver fat reductions seem to be similar across disease severity,” Lian said. He believes a study solely in NASH patients is likely to produce results similar to today’s data.

Meanwhile, comparisons to Madrigal’s results in NASH are already being made. Viking’s drug looks “best in class,” William Blair analyst Andy Hsieh wrote in a note to clients. While acknowledging the caveats of comparing across trials, he said VK2809 looks “numerically better” when looking at the up to 42 percent cut in liver fat from a separate mid-stage study of Madrigal’s drug. Madrigal shares dropped 15 percent to $196.02 at 10:03 a.m. in New York, the largest drop in seven months.

Viking’s results have been submitted to the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) in San Francisco, the meeting takes place November 9-13.

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