Sage shares surge as depression drug succeeds mid-stage trial

(Reuters) – Sage Therapeutics Inc’s shares surged more than 63 percent premarket on Thursday, on track to add about $2.5 billion to the company’s market value, after its drug succeeded in reducing the symptoms of depression in a mid-stage trial.

For Sage, it’s the second success in as many months. The company’s postpartum depression drug aced two key studies in November, paving the way for it to bring to market the first FDA-approved treatment for the disorder.

Data reported on Thursday showed that the drug, SAGE-217, was statistically significant in reducing symptoms of depression, compared to a placebo.

“If we can substantiate these findings in Phase 3, this could be an important first-line therapeutic option for everybody with depression,” Chief Executive Jeff Jonas told Reuters.

Patients were assessed on a scale that rated the severity of their depression symptoms such as mood, feelings of guilt, suicidal thoughts and insomnia.

Jonas said the company would not seek a partner.

“What would be the goal of a big pharma partner besides cash, we can obtain that from the market,” Jonas said, adding the biotech was well-positioned to grow into a leading central nervous system company.

Depression is a common mental illness characterized by persistent sadness, a loss of interest and a lack of ability to do daily activities.

Pfizer Inc’s Pristiq, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd and Lundbeck’s Brintellix have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of adult patients with major depression.

Alkermes Plc, Eli Lilly and Co and Allergan Plc have their drugs in late-stages for the treatment of depression.

Sage’s shares were up about 63 percent at $150 in premarket trading. The stock had risen 80 percent in 2017 to Wednesday’s close.

Reporting by Akankshita Mukhopadhyay and Divya Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila

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