On Thursday one of AALS biotech holdings Sage Therapeutics announced positive outcomes from the company’s Phase 3 studies with brexanolone in women suffering from post-partum depression (PPD) – a mood disorder that occurs after childbirth and can have severe consequences both for the affected patient and for the newborn child.

In two studies, with moderate and severe PPD respectively, Sage showed a significant reduction of symptoms compared to placebo. The placebo control of studies involving the central nervous system (CNS) and mood disorders in particular is well known to be a fickle factor to handle. Because the placebo response in itself involves a positive treatment experience and expectation of symptom reliefs, studies involving cognition usually have a high response rate in the placebo arm despite the fact that no active substance is administered to the patient.

So was the case also in the now concluded Sage studies, which was further expected since both brexanolone and placebo was give through intravenous infusion. IV dosage is a particularly invasive form of drug administration and studies have shown that placebo effect is greater with IV than for example injection or pill placebos.  However the company was able to show that brexanolone’s effect was significantly greater than placebo and thereby confirming that the drug’s biological effect warrant its use in these patients.

Sage will now submit their study findings to regulatory authorities with brexanolone looking likely to be the first drug treatment to be approved in PPD. Next up, before year end, the company is also expected to report Phase 2 results for a follow-up drug candidate that can be given orally both in PPD and other CNS disorders with potential upside in addition to the approximately 50% gain the share did during Thursday trading. 

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Arctic Aurora LifeScience is an equity fund investing in global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The fund is run by former portfolio manager in the Swedish AP3 Fonder, Ulrica Bjerke, as well as Dr. Torbjørn Bjerke, both with 20 years of experience from the market. Arctic Aurora LifeScience was launched in May 2016 with both hedged and un-hedged share classes.

Past performance in Arctic Aurora LifeScience s no guarantee for future returns. Future returns depend on the market, fund manager skill, fund risk level, costs, among others. Performance in the fund may at times be negative and may for this fund vary considerably within periods.