Israel's Enlivex reports drug could help COVID-19 patients

Shai Novik Photo: Eyal Yitzhar

Enlivex Therapeutics is increasing production of Allocetra, for treating patients with multisystem failure.

There is still no treatment for coronavirus and no vaccine against the disease that is rapidly spreading around the world. One Israeli company, however, is developing a drug that it says could help treat coronavirus patients in certain situations. The company is Enlivex Therapeutics (Nasdaq: ENLV), which is developing Allocetra - a drug for treating patients with multisystem failure related to sepsis, a deadly pathological syndrome that resembles the coronavirus COVID-19.

The company announced today that it had begun a program to increase its production of Allocetra in preparation for potential requests for treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in whom organ function failure or multisystem failure has been diagnosed. The company said that the plan to increase its production follows the first verified case of COVID-19 coronavirus in Israel. It may therefore be possible to conclude that the company has indications from responsible parties that there will be demand for the treatment that it is developing.

Enlivex reports that sepsis is the cause of one of every three hospital patient deaths in the US. The company says that as in the case of coronavirus, multisystem failure in sepsis is the result of an overreaction by the immune system (hyperactive cytokine in the body sparked by an infection, virus, or bacteria). A few months ago, Enlivex reported positive interim results in a trial of Allocetra.

Merged into Bioblast stock exchange shell

Enlivex is listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market and Tel Aviv Stock Exchange at a $96 million (NIS 344 million) market cap. The company, founded at Hadassah Medical Center, was part of Hadasit Bio-Holdings, a listed company. Shai Novik, former president of drug company Prolor Biotech, acquired by Opko Health, saw an opportunity in Enlivex, and recruited a group of investors for the company. Novik is now Enlivex's chairman and owns 6.9% of its shares, while Hadasit owns 17.4%.

Enlivex became a public company last year through a merger into Bioblast, a stock exchange shell in the US, and joined the TASE in July. After reaching a peak market cap of NIS 1.4 billion in September 2019, its stock lost 77% of its value. Commenting on this last December, Novik told "Globes," "It starts with all sorts of analysts writing articles. It's hard for me to accept the fact that the same analyst covers oil and gas exploration companies, Cellcom, and a biotech company. Then come smart investors taking all sorts of short positions. We went through the same thing with Prolor. The short players drove the company's market cap down to $27 million, and four years later, we sold it for $500 million."

On the same occasion, Novik mentioned the positive interim results in the trial for Allocetra, in which six patients at Hadassah Medical Center suffering from severe sepsis responded well to the treatment, and the results were compared with 37 patients who did not receive the treatment. The treated patients suffered no further deterioration, in contrast to the untreated patients. Novik said, "It's not statistically valid, but it looks as though it has potential."

Following today's announcement, Enlivex's share price responded with a 23% jump in Tel Aviv. The share price in New York is currently up 26.55%, bringing the company's market cap to $120 million. After a long series of public companies recently reported the negative impact on them of the corona virus, Enlivex is the first to report a positive effect of the disease.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 24, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Shai Novik Photo: Eyal Yitzhar
Shai Novik Photo: Eyal Yitzhar
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