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Aviragen Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:AVIR): What's Next?

Aviragen Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:AVIR): What's Next?
Written by
Chris Sandburg
Published on
February 16, 2017
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Aviragen Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:AVIR) is not having a good week. The company just put out data from a phase 2 study of its lead development asset, and has taken a close to 40% hit on the news. Ahead of market open on Wednesday, it looks as though this decline is set to increase in scope, and put further pressure on the company towards the end of the week. The question now, is, is there any chance of a near-term recovery? And then, if there is, is now an opportunity to pick up an exposure at a discount ahead of a return to the upside momentum?Let's take a look.So, as a bit of background, this one is a development stage biotechnology company working to bring treatments to market that target infectious diseases. Its lead asset is called vapendavir, and the phase 2 study was investigating the asset's safety and efficacy in an indication of moderate to severe asthmatics with a rhinovirus (RV) infection.The concept behind this one is that patients with asthma are susceptible to viral infection, and specifically viral infection by the RV virus. Said infection can result in a patient that has full control over his or her asthma losing control, and in turn, experiencing a worsening of their asthma related symptoms. Aviragen hypothesized that by going after the virus, it could intervene as and when the infection takes hold, and stop the patient from losing control of the asthmatic symptoms.The phase 2 study in question was a phase 2b, and it enrolled 455 patients, of which 168 were laboratory confirmed HRV infected. The primary endpoint of the study was an improvement in asthma severity as measured by what is called the asthma control questionnaire-6 over placebo. This questionnaire is an industry standard measurement, and to put it bluntly, the company needed a hit on the endpoint in order to submit for approval in this indication. As readers have probably guessed by now, and as inferred by the double-digit hit to its market capitalization, Aviragen did not get the endpoint hit it required. Subjects that received 264 mg (n=54) or 528 mg (n=57) vapendavir had a least square means change in ACQ-6 at day 14 of -0.75 and -0.79, respectively, compared to placebo of -0.94 (n=57).In other words, not only did the data miss its primary endpoint, the drug performed worse than placebo in this indication. Safety and tolerability came out as fine, with no major surprises, but that makes no difference if the drug just doesn't work.So, that means chances are the company isn't going to recover, right?Well, not necessarily. There was some level of antiviral activity, and this could pave the way towards a future study in alternative indications, one of which the company has highlighted as being stopping RV infection in patients that undergo hematopoietic stem cell therapy. Again, it is sort of going back to square one, but this company has released two sets of disappointing data in a matter of weeks, and is decidedly beaten-down right now. At its current market capitalization of just $20 million, there is plenty of room for a recovery on a sentiment shift alone. Back this up with some clinical advances in the stem cell space, and further, back these advances up with some data pointing towards potential efficacy in a fresh indication, and there looks to be plenty of run room from current price.It's a risky one, of course.The company is spending more than $10 million on research and development every quarter, and losing $9 million across the same period. Cash on hand at December 31, 2016, came in at just shy of $50 million, which points towards a run way of around 18 months. Chances are this will extend slightly if development on the ongoing phase 2 discontinues, but at best we are probably looking at the end of 2018 as a dilutive threshold.That's just something to keep in mind, however. We think this one is set to turn around near-term, and that it makes a nice speculative biotechnology entry at current prices.We will be updating our subscribers as soon as we know more. For the latest updates on AVIR, sign up below!Disclosure: We have no position in AVIR and have not been compensated for this article.

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