Chimerix losses rise in Q4 as research costs intensify

Chimerix, the Durham developer of antivirals, posted a significantly larger financial loss for the 2014 fourth quarter as the drugmaker boosted spending on clinical trials and related activities to meet research deadlines.

The 15-year-old company, with no drugs on the market, is intensifying development expenditures as it nears the finish line for commercial release of its experimental antiviral drug, as early as 2016. Chimerix had nearly $286 million available to fund operations as of Dec. 31 and hired 25 people last year in anticipation of commercializing the drug.

Analyst Jonathan Aschoff of Brean Capital wrote in a research report Friday that Chimerix is sufficiently capitalized to complete development of the drug and operate for several years.

The drug, brincidofovir, is being developed as a potential lifesaving compound for U.S. defense stockpiling and for a spectrum of potential future public health applications.

As for the company’s financial losses, Aschoff wrote the quarterly numbers are “immaterial metrics,” now that the focus has shifted to clinical trial results and meeting deadline targets.

Chimerix said Friday that it lost $20.2 million, or 52 cents per share, in the last three months of 2014, compared to losing $8.2 million, or 31 cents per share, in the same three-month period in 2013.

At the same time, Chimerix’s fourth-quarter revenue increased to $1.2 million from $879,000 a year earlier. The increase was due to higher payments from a federal research contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Chimerix is developing brincidofovir for the prevention of several types of viruses that are generally harmless or mild in healthy people but can be fatal in people with compromised immune systems.

The company said its primary focus now is a clinical trial of brincidofovir for the prevention of cytomegalovirus in bone marrow transplants. The trial is expected to fully enroll in mid-2015 and conclude in 2016.

Chimerix said it has enrolled more than 80 percent of the 450 subjects it plans to sign up for this critical test.

If approved, brincidofovir would be the first and only drug for the prevention of cytomegalovirus in bone marrow transplants, Chimerix said. Analyst Phil Nadeau of Cowen and Co. estimated that brincidofovir will deliver $400 million in sales in 2019 to prevent cytomegalovirus infections among stem cell transplant patients.

Chimerix is also testing brincidofovir for patients infected with the adeneovirus, which causes the common cold in healthy people. More than 100 patients have been enrolled in the past year for the drug trial.

In bone marrow transplant patients, adenovirus results in mortality rates of up to 80 percent. But preliminary results have shown that brincidofovir can cut mortality by about half in some patients.

Chimerix is also developing brincidofovir against smallpox disseminated by a bioterror attack or accidental release. It would be the first drug approved for the treatment of smallpox, analyst Aschoff noted. Chimerix next plans to begin testing brincidofovir on kidney transplant patients this year.

Until recently the company was planning clinical trials of the drug for use in patients with the deadly Ebola virus. The company withdrew last month from that research as the outbreak in West Africa subsided and patients became hard to recruit.

Last month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent for brincidofovir extending its exclusivity until 2034.

Brincidofovir works by inhibiting certain DNA viruses from replicating in their human hosts. It is administered in a pill that can be stored at room temperature and does not require refrigeration.

Founded in 2000, Chimerix has 80 employees and relies on federal research funding for revenue.

For the full year, Chiermix said it lost $59.3 million, compared to a loss or $36.4 million in 2013. Revenue dropped to $4 million in 2014 from $4.4 million the year before.

Chimerix stock traded at $39.01 Friday, down $1.77 in midmorning trading. Share value is up more than 100 percent in the past year.

Murawski: 919-829-8932