Viking Shares Surge After Fatty Liver Drug Trial

By Tamara Mathias

September 19, 2018

(Reuters) - Viking Therapeutics Inc's shares more than doubled in value on Tuesday after promising data from a mid-stage trial of its fatty liver drug were seen as topping that from larger rival Madrigal Pharmaceuticals.

Viking said it plans to develop its VK2809 drug, a liver-selective thyroid receptor beta agonist, as a treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

"While we acknowledge all the caveats associated with cross-trial comparison ... we believe VK2809 achieved numerically better results than Madrigal's MGL-3196," said Andy Hsieh at William Blair.

With regard to the primary endpoint, more patients receiving VK2809 had reductions in LDL-C of 20% or more, compared with placebo-treated patients. VK2809-treated patients also had statistically significant improvements in other lipids.

Depending on the dose, patients given VK2809 saw a median reduction of 57 to 60 percent in liver fat, compared to a median reduction of 9 percent in the placebo group. And 83 percent of patients given VK2809 had at least a 30 percent reduction in liver fat, compared to 18 percent of patients given placebo.

The results appeared to exceed those from all other oral drugs currently in development for NASH, Viking said.

The positive data could potentially shorten the length and size of future trials, Viking Chief Executive Brian Lian said.

"We do have some flexibility, given the potency here. We wouldn't have to do 5,000 patients or something," Lian said on a conference call with analysts.