• Otávio Santiago

After cancer flops, Celldex shows promise in treating hives

Celldex Therapeutics regrouped in 2018 after a pair of major oncology flops, cutting both staff and pipeline to throw its resources behind two cancer-fighting antibodies. Now, as the company plots its comeback, it’s unveiling data for its leading program, a treatment not for cancer but for inflammatory skin conditions.

Celldex has some oncology assets in the works today and may be best known for the failure of its cancer vaccine Rintega and breast cancer treatment gelmatumumab vedotin. But the company has always been an antibody developer at heart, said Anthony Marucci, CEO and founder of Celldex.

“We refocused the company with some assets we had internally … [CDX-0159], it turned out, is a mast cell depleter and we thought that would be best in inflammatory diseases,” Marucci added. Mast cells are a type of immune cell that play a role in the onset and progression of inflammatory diseases.

Celldex is developing the drug for various types of urticaria, also known as hives. The latest data, from a phase 1b study in patients with hives brought on by cold temperatures or by scratching the skin, show that a single dose of CDX-0159 stopped 18 of the 19 patients (95%) from developing hives when exposed to their triggers.

The results were presented Friday evening at the annual meeting of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Celldex’s stock, which has sat under $3 for stretches in 2019 and 2020, jumped 50% to $48.58 in after-hours trading.

The drug’s effects lasted a median of 77 days in the 11 patients with cold urticaria and a median of 57 days in patients with symptomatic dermographism.

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