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Axovant Sciences (AXON) Stock Crashed Over 70%: Here's Why

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On Tuesday, shares of biopharmaceutical company Axovant Sciences Ltd. (AXON - Free Report) have crashed, and the stock is currently down over 70% to $6.72 per share in late-morning trading after it said that its experimental Alzheimer’s drug failed a key late-stage trial.

The drug, called intepirdine, was being tested in patients that suffered from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s and who did not respond to initial treatments. The late-stage trial was highly-anticipated, but intepirdine failed to improve cognitive abilities and daily activities; it was also compared to a placebo.

"While we are deeply disappointed by these trial results, we also are saddened for the millions of patients and families impacted by Alzheimer's disease," Axovant CEO David Hung said. "However, we believe that the fight against Alzheimer's and other important areas of unmet need in neurology is too important to be derailed by this setback."

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior; symptoms develop slowly and worsen over time, becoming severe enough that they interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans, and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

While there is no current cure of Alzheimer’s, there are treatments available for symptoms. But only four drugs have been approved to treat symptoms, with the most recent drug approval in 2003.

Axovant’s setback follows that of other companies. Eli Lilly (LLY - Free Report) , Merck (MRK - Free Report) , and Denmark’s Lundbeck all suffered through failed Alzheimer’s drug trials. Similar to Lundbeck’s drug idalopirdine, intepirdine is a so-called 5-HT6 antagonist, which works to block the 5-HT6 receptor to release acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is needed for normal cognition.

Axovant, though, isn’t giving up completely. The company is now testing intepirdine in patients that suffer from a condition known as Lewy body dementia, a neurodegenerative disease with symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. This trial’s results are expected at the end of the year. The company will also test the drug in patients whose dementia is affecting their balance and gait.

Shares of Axovant are up over 97% year-to-date, and the stock experienced a nice rally back in April when Dr. Hung came on as chief executive. The company has three other drugs in development, and currently sits at a #3 (Hold) on the Zacks Rank.

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