SVB Leerink upgraded Aclaris Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ACRS) to “outperform” from “market perform” and raised its price target to $3.50 from $1.50, citing a new focus at the company. The stock closed at $1.41 on Oct. 21.
Analyst Dr. Pasha Sarraf writes that after the failure of Aclaris’ lead assets in immunodermatology and its struggles with its commercial dermatology assets, Aclaris has now chosen to focus on early pipeline assets, with the company “looking more like a scientific reverse merger into Confluence, the firm Aclaris acquired in 2017.”
The Confluence team were a group of ex-Pfizer drug discoverers, with a long list of discoveries, including Xeljanz. At Aclaris, they are now focused to go after difficult to target kinases.
“The targets they are going after, in our view, are as close to the edge of innovation as those of any company in the space,” Mr. Sarraf said, which represents a metamorphosis for an organization that up until now has been primarily focused on specialty dermatology assets.
“We spent time with the Aclaris discovery team, independently reviewed the science and walked away impressed and urge investors to have their own relook,” he added.
The immediate near-term catalysts for Aclaris are top-line Phase 3 results for A-101 45% topical in common warts expected this quarter; completion of the SAD/MAD Phase 1 study for ATI-450 in early 2020; a launch of a Phase 2 proof-of-concept trial for ATI-450 in rheumatoid arthritis, with results expected by the end of 2020; and an IND and first in human study for ATI-1777 in atopic dermatitis.