Infinity Pharmaceuticals today announced that it’s shutting down R&D operations. This comes after disappointing clinical results for a PI3K inhibitor it’s been developing (duvelisib), news which has sent the company’s stock down (at this moment) nearly 70%. And that comes after the 2012 failure of another clinical candidate, saredigib. Which came after the 2009 failure of another clinical candidate, the HSP90 compound retaspimycin in a GIST trial, which failed in another clinical effort against non-small-cell lung cancer in 2013.
This is not how things were supposed to go. You can go back to this hopeful Forbes piece from 2005 for a look at how the future was. The article focuses on the HSP90 era of the company, and I have to say, HSP90 has not (to the best of my knowledge) worked out for anyone. By way of illustration the rival companies mentioned in that piece had different fates – Conforma Therapeutics was bought by Biogen in 2006, but its HSP90 inhibitor (which was renamed BIIB021) never seemed to amount to very much, although it did show some activity against GIST in the clinic. Kosan Biosciences was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2008, but its lead HSP90 compound was dropped from development a couple of years later.
Infinity stayed unbought, but as that first paragaph shows, it’s been a rough ride. I can’t think of a better illustration of how hard drug development is, and how it is no respecter of good ideas, hard work, and talent. Let me rephrase that – all these are necessary to succeed in the biopharma business, but (sadly) they are nowhere near sufficient. Nothing’s sufficient. Not yet. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something. Might be a company, some stock, consulting voodoo, what have you, but anyone who says that they’ve got this business figured out is fooling themselves and/or you.