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Roche Walks Away From Atea Partnership To Develop COVID Pill

Many companies are racing to develop an oral pill as it can be taken as an early at-home treatment to help prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, a promising new weapon in the fight against the pandemic.

Roche Holding AG has ended a partnership with Atea Pharmaceuticals Inc to jointly develop a COVID-19 antiviral pill, the Swiss drugmaker said on Tuesday, a month after the drug failed to help patients in a small study.

Boston-based Atea's shares fell 11 per cent to $10.08 in extended trading, set to add to the 72 per cent slump this year.

Many companies are racing to develop an oral pill as it can be taken as an early at-home treatment to help prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, a promising new weapon in the fight against the pandemic.

Pills from Merck & Co Inc and Pfizer Inc are currently under US Food & Drug Administration review after promising data.

Roche and Atea teamed up last year to develop the oral treatment called AT-527, with Atea receiving an upfront payment of $350 million.

However, the treatment did not show a clear reduction in viral load in the overall population of patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 in a mid-stage study in October.

Roche said on Tuesday it would focus on its other COVID-19 products including antibody cocktail Ronapreve, developed in partnership with Regeneron and arthritis drug Actemra.

The rights and licenses to AT-527 will return to Atea after the partnership ends in February, and the company said it would continue to develop the treatment and expects data from a late-stage trial in the second half of 2022.

Atea said it had the financial resources to independently drive forward the late-stage trial. The company said it had cash and cash equivalents of $839.7 million, as of September end. 

(Reuters)



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