An experimental rheumatoid arthritis drug being tested in a mid-stage trial by Belgian group UCB has failed to excite despite meeting its primary endpoint.

Top-line data from the Phase IIb study of olokizumab (CDP6038), which was given to adult RA patients who had failed on prior anti-TNF therapy, show a significant cut in the disease activity (versus placebo) across all doses tested.

However, analyses of data from a comparator arm of the trial suggest that olokizumab is 'merely' comparable to Roche's RoActemra/Actemra (tocilizumab) in terms of efficacy, and it is this that seems to have disappointed the firm.

"Current data do not suggest sufficient differentiation potential versus the active comparator," said Ismail Kola, President of UCB New Medicines, UCB’s research and early development division.

The company is now looking at its options for olokizumab - a humanised monoclonal antibody targeting the IL-6 cytokine - including partnering, he said.

250m-Euro loan secured

Meanwhile, UCB will be celebrating the European Investment Bank's (EIB) decision to grant financing of up to 250 million euros for its research and development programme focusing on central nervous system disorders. 

The programme aims to develop innovative new medicines for patients with epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, restless legs syndrome and diabetic neuropathic pain.

The funds will come through the EIB/European Commission's Risk Sharing Finance Facility, established to facilitate access to loans within research, technological development, demonstration and innovation, as well as create additional funding capacity in these fields.