Acucela Set to Plunge as Drug Tie-Up Ends After Failed Trial

Acucela Inc. is poised to plunge in Tokyo trading after a Japanese partner ended their tie-up as a clinical trial of the U.S. biotechnology company’s eye-disease treatment failed to meet objectives.

Acucela is set to fall as much as 24 percent in Tokyo, its daily limit. The stock has yet to open Tuesday because of a trading imbalance, with sell offers outnumbering bids by 21-to-1.

Acucela in a statement said it received a written termination notice from Japan’s Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., ending a co-development and commercialization agreement between the companies for a drug candidate called emixustat hydrochloride. Acucela shares have dropped more than 50 percent over the past month as a clinical trial of the eye-disease therapy failed to meet targets in a study. Acucela will continue its ongoing research to explore the benefits of emixustat for the treatment of retinal diseases, it said.

Acucela said that Otsuka also ended the development and collaboration agreement between the two companies for Otsuka’s product candidate OPA-6566 for patients with glaucoma, a condition that causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve. Acucela couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“We terminated two agreements with Acucela after the outcome that Acucela announced on 26 May, according to the condition we made in advance,” said Miyuki Nishioka, a spokeswoman at Otsuka.

The end of the partnership will impact Acucela’s preparation of its proxy materials for its annual meeting of shareholders and the company has decided to postpone the meeting, it said. Acucela specializes in identifying and developing new therapies to treat and slow the progression of ophthalmic diseases.

Biotechnology Rout

Other small-cap biotechnology stocks dropped as investors dumped some of the high-flyers on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers Index amid a global equities selloff.

"Triggered by the big fall yesterday, individuals got pessimistic with the Japan market and started selling shares including pharma sector," said Mitsushige Akino, a Tokyo-based executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co.

Sosei Group Co. fell as much as 12 percent, PeptiDream Inc. dropped as much as 7.1 percent and Reprocell Inc. lost as much as 8.2 percent.

Japan Exchange Group Inc., the operator of the Tokyo and Osaka stock exchanges, is examining movements in Acucela shares for possible insider trading after they fell by the limit on May 25, a day before the Seattle-based company said the emixustat eye treatment failed to meet objectives, a person familiar with the situation said last month. Acucela later said it found nothing to suggest that any executives or employees told anyone the results before they were released. Shoki Oyabu, a spokesman at Japan Exchange group, declined to comment.

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