Galectin Therapeutics Gets A Bid After Promising Results Print E-mail
By Brian Wilson, Lead Contributor   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 07:07
Yesterday was a big victory for Newton, Massachusetts-based Galectin Therapeutics (NASDAQ: GALT) following new data that was presented by the company at the 2013 International Liver Congress in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. A preclinical study showed that GR-MD-02 and GM-CT-01 could have potent efficacy in patients with liver cancer. Liver cancers have proven especially difficult to treat due to the structural transformation that liver tissue undergoes when cells turn malignant, although the recently revealed studies imply that galectin inhibitors have a type of efficacy that we haven’t tapped into up to this point.

Investors, eyeing this as an opportunity for Galectin to broaden the therapeutic indications of its developmental pipeline, sent the stock a clean 20% higher on the news on heavy volume. Galectin Therapeutics (known as Pro-Pharmaceuticals prior to 2011) is now a worth about $80 million, and sits right under a freshly-made 52-week high. YTD performance on the stock is now 143%, which should certainly attract some attention from the biotech investment community.

Although they are still an obscure class of drug, galectin inhibitors are seeing a lot more attention from the investment community as more clinical trial data arrives, showing that inhibition of these galectin proteins is not dangerous and has some extremely noticeable therapeutic effects. While most of the attention has been put on its efficacy as a cancer therapy, galectin might find viability in other indications as we learn more about their function.

A few week ago, the diagnostics-focused giant Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) made headlines after the introduction of a Galectin-3 assay into the European market. While it seems that the applicability of galectin-3 as a biomarker is mostly in the cardiovascular space (galectin-3 has been linked to increased risk of heart failure), we may see this expanded into oncology territory after more studies are done on other specific galectin proteins.

Still, it seems that galectin’s biggest role (at least for the next few years) will be in the cancer indications. The proteins have been linked to the process of angiogenesis - the process by which cancer cells grow new blood vessels to accommodate their proliferation. Angiogenesis inhibition is extremely lucrative from a financial standpoint, is central to modern cancer care, and remains an attractive area for research and development.

Having said this, new mechanisms of action are needed. For instance, we see that large pharmaceutical companies have made a killing on VEGF inhibitors in recent years. While VEGF inhibition has worked wonders in cancer patients, the next generation of angiogenesis inhibitors will have to find alternative angles through which the process is stalled. Galectin inhibitiors, given that they can demonstrate efficacy in late-stage trials, may be a big part of this.

Galectin Therapeutics has two main galectin inhibitors, one being the galectin-3 inhibitor GR-MD-02 and a polysaccharide polymer galactomannan C or GM-CT-01 that binds to both galectin-1 and galectin-3 receptors. A competing galectin-3 inhibitor that is in clinical development at this time is GCS-100, which is now part of La Jolla Pharmaceuticals’ (LJPC) pipeline.

It is too early to compare the efficacy of the two drugs, although they appear to have similar safety profiles.

The Takeaway

Galectin Therapeutics is the forerunner in a new class of drugs known as galectin inhibitors, with the most popular current target being galectin-3. Overexpression of galectins has been linked to cardiovascular risk, angiogenesis, and other things that imply potential for galectin inhibitors in a variety of other indications.

The growth/acquisition potential is particularly interesting due to the novelty of galectin inhibition. For the time being, competition is very limited, and includes the galectin-3 inhibitor in La Jolla Pharma’s pipeline.

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