Akero Therapeutics announced results of a 16-week analysis of secondary and exploratory endpoints in its Phase 2a BALANCED study of efruxifermin (EFX), formerly known as AKR-001, in patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
The BALANCED study is an ongoing randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in NASH patients. The company previously reported that each of the 28, 50 and 70 mg EFX dose groups met the primary endpoint compared to placebo, with absolute reductions of 12, 13 and 14 percent of liver fat, respectively, compared with 0.3 percent for placebo, and relative reductions of 63, 71 and 72 percent, compared to 0 percent for placebo. All of these results were highly statistically significant. The new data reported showed that of the 40 treatment responders who had end-of-treatment biopsies, 48% achieved at least a one-stage improvement in fibrosis without worsening of NAFLD activity score (NAS) and 28% achieved at least a two-stage improvement in fibrosis. In addition, 48% of responders achieved NASH resolution with no worsening of fibrosis. Improvements in glycemic control and dyslipidemia, as well as weight loss, were also observed across all dose groups.
“We believe the BALANCED study data, which exceeded our expectations, demonstrate the strong potential of efruxifermin to be a foundational monotherapy for the treatment of NASH,” said Andrew Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Akero. “We look forward to the continued development of efruxifermin and are working diligently to deliver this potentially leading treatment to patients. We are extremely grateful to all of our investigators and study patients, particularly given that this study cohort was completed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Efruxifermin (EFX), formerly known as AKR-001, is designed to reduce liver fat and inflammation, reverse fibrosis, increase insulin sensitivity and improve lipoproteins. This holistic approach offers the potential to address the complex, multi-system disease state of NASH, including improvements in lipoprotein risk factors linked to cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death in NASH patients. Engineered to mimic the biological activity profile of native FGF21, EFX offers convenient once-weekly dosing and has been generally well-tolerated in clinical trials to date.
NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) is a serious form of NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) and is estimated to affect 17 million Americans. NASH is closely linked to the obesity and diabetes epidemics seen around the world. NASH is characterized by an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver that causes stress and injury to liver cells, leading to inflammation and fibrosis, which can progress to cirrhosis, liver failure, cancer and eventually death. NASH is a leading cause of liver transplants in the US and Europe.