Verona Pharma PLC (LON:VRP) shares jumped higher on Friday as the firm said it is gearing up for a busy period with two clinical trials of its lead drug ensifentrine set to get underway before the end of the year.
Being eagerly tracked by investors is the status of the ENHANCE phase III study of the treatment delivered using a nebuliser to people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.
Having enjoyed a successful interaction with the US Food & Drug Administration, the US regulator, Verona is on track to begin the clinical assessment “later this year”.
Ensifentrine has been shown to act as both a bronchodilator, which relaxes and opens the airways and an anti-inflammatory agent.
These properties marked it as potentially being of use in treating the severe symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
As such, a pilot clinical study using an inhaled version of Verona drug is planned to get underway later this quarter.
“Clinical data from prior studies of ensifentrine in other respiratory diseases have demonstrated ensifentrine improves lung function and reduces cellular markers of inflammation in the lungs,” the company said in an update on operational and financial results for the three months and six months to June 30, 2020.
“We believe ensifentrine, with its novel mechanism of action, has the potential to improve oxygenation and lung function assisting recovery from COVID-19.”
Financially, Verona is well set to achieve its plans. It ended the six months to June 30, 2020, with net cash of just over £18mln, a figure boosted in July with proceeds from a £159mln private placing.
As is common for companies in the research and development phase, the business was loss-making. The operating loss was £19.7mln, which was in-line with its performance in the same period last year.
In morning trading, Verona Pharma shares were 27.6% higher at 92.5p.
In a note to clients, analysts at City broker Shore Capital said: "We continue to be positive on the longer-term opportunity in COPD, and are intrigued by the opportunity in COVID-19, which could potentially act as a near-term catalyst for the shares."
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