Avalanche Biotechnologies Falls Upon Ditching Eye Trial Plan

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Shares of Avalanche Biotechnologies Inc. plummeted to a record low after the company said it won’t move forward with a trial of its gene therapy for an eye disease this year.

Avalanche fell 31 percent to $9.49 at 11:34 a.m. in New York after earlier dropping to $9.36, the stock’s lowest price since the shares began trading in July 2014.

Instead of advancing its treatment AVA-101 for wet age-related macular degeneration, Avalanche said Thursday that it will conduct more studies to figure out the best dose of the therapy. The company had previously planned to move the treatment from phase 2a to phase 2b this year.

Avalanche shares have struggled since the company released data in June, showing that patients treated with AVA-101 still required injections of Roche Holding AG’s drug Lucentis. A month later, Chief Executive Officer Thomas Chalberg Jr. resigned.

“Investors will likely need a clear path forward before returning to the shares,” Phil Nadeau, an analyst at Cowen and Co., said in a note to clients Thursday.

AVA-101 is intended to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, or wet AMD, in a single injection. If eventually approved by regulators, the treatment could replace current options made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Roche that require regular injections in the eye.

Avalanche is also testing AVA-201, which it has billed as the next generation of AVA-101.

Spark Therapeutics Inc., which is developing a related gene therapy treatment, lost as much as 13 percent. The shares were down 9.8 percent to $45.70 in New York.

Shares of the Menlo Park, California-based company had lost 74 percent this year through Thursday.

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