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Biogen Is Up After an Alzheimer-Drug Presentation

Biogen doesn’t seem to have answered all the questions around its Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab, at a scientific conference presentation on Thursday, but it was enough for investors.

Biogen doesn’t seem to have answered all the questions around its Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab, at a scientific conference presentation on Thursday, but it was enough for investors.

Biogen doesn’t seem to have answered all the questions around its controversial Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab, at a much-watched scientific conference presentation on Thursday, but it was enough for investors.

Shares of Biogen (ticker: BIIB) rose 3.4% to $299.39 on Thursday, while the Nasdaq Composite was near the flat line. Trading on the stock was suspended during a portion of the presentation Thursday morning.

The presentation came after a nail-biting few months for Biogen shareholders. The stock tanked in March when the company ended two Phase 3 trials of aducanumab, after they failed a so-called futility analysis, then jumped in October when the company said it would submit the drug for Food and Drug Administration approval regardless.

At the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s disease conference in San Diego on Thursday, Biogen released new details on the data and analysis that led it to reverse course on aducanumab. Analysts said there wasn’t any surprise in the newest data, and that was likely good enough for investors.

“We didn’t really learn anything critically new on BIIB today, yet the stock is up on the CTAD data,” wrote Mizuho analyst Salim Syed. “The fact the BIIB didn’t put out earth-shattering additional negative data that begs further question is a relative positive.”

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Still, the report didn’t answer many of the outstanding worries about aducanumab. Baird analyst Brian Skorney laid out many of them in a note on Monday, writing: “The bottom line is, the FDA standard of approval is substantial evidence of efficacy and the cumulative data for aducanumab falls really far short of this standard.”

In its presentation, Biogen said that in one of its two Phase 3 trials, the rate of decline among Alzheimer’s patients on a high dose of aducanumab was 23% slower than patients on a placebo, based on one measure. Yet in the other study, patients on a high dose of aducanumab declined 2% faster than patients taking a placebo.

The company also said Thursday that 6.6% of patients who received a high dose of aducanumab in one of the trials, and 7.3% in the other, ended treatment due to Amyloid-related imaging abnormalities, a complication related to the drug. Most patients who experienced the issue were able to remain on the treatment.

“We would like to learn more about the ARIA events,” Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Alethia Young wrote in a Thursday note.

Still, Young wrote that the data from the successful trial looked good after the presentation. “We think that the primary and secondary endpoints from the final data produced clinically relevant and consistent results.”

Investors will have more to chew on this evening. Biogen has scheduled a conference call to discuss the presentation at 5 p.m., after the market closes.

With Biogen’s data out of the box, the rest is up to the FDA. “The key question remains FDA’s willingness to extend regulatory flexibility,” Cowen analyst Phil Nadeau wrote Thursday afternoon.

Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at josh.nathan-kazis@barrons.com

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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