The trust delivered a positive return in November. Among the portfolio’s strongest performers were its US biotech holdings. In part, these stocks were beneficiaries of the post-election relief rally in the US healthcare sector, but they were also helped by some positive fundamental developments.
For example, Prothena announced highly encouraging clinical data from an early-stage trial of PRX002, a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease, which is being developed in collaboration with Roche. The PRX002 antibody appears to be safe and – crucially – it is able to penetrate into the brain. Currently available treatments only moderate the symptoms of the disease because, thus far, it hasn’t been possible to get drugs into the brain to modify the disease itself. This latest clinical data therefore offers the prospect of a major breakthrough in the struggle against a condition that affects millions worldwide as PRX002’s ability to reach the brain makes it a potentially disease-modifying therapy. Prothena now has three high potential assets under development, all of which are progressing through the pipeline rapidly and positively.
Another good performer was Theravance Biopharma, whose shares were helped by positive news on the Closed Triple (a combination of three respiratory drugs into one) therapy for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is being developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Innoviva. GlaxoSmithKline has filed a New Drug Application in the US for this therapy, marking an important milestone in its progress towards commercialisation. Recent developments bring forward the point at which Theravance will benefit from the royalty interest that it retains in the drug’s future sales.