December 22, 2014 / 12:55 PM / 6 years ago

Achillion data shows promise of shorter-duration hep C treatment

(Reuters) - Data from Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc’s hepatitis C drug trials showed the company could develop a shorter-duration treatment rivaling offerings from Gilead Sciences Inc and Abbvie Inc.

The company said on Monday it would test a combination of two of its experimental hepatitis C drugs after they showed promise against the virus in separate studies.

The biotechnology company’s shares rose as much as 17 percent to $16.77, their highest in more than seven years.

Data from the first study, testing a combination of Achillion’s NS5A inhibitor, ACH-3102, and Gilead’s blockbuster Sovaldi, showed signs that the virus disappeared within four weeks, following a six-week course of therapy.

Gilead’s Harvoni, which combines Sovaldi with the company’s own NS5A inhibitor, achieves this response only after eight weeks of therapy.

The main goal of Achillion’s ongoing mid-stage study is to achieve a sustained virological response 12 weeks after therapy that would constitute a cure.

The market for hepatitis C drugs has developed at a lightening pace in recent years, with several companies working on producing newer drugs to treat the disease that affects about 150 million around the world. The U.S. health regulator on Friday approved Abbvie’s hep C cocktail.

In a separate early-stage study, Achillion’s nucleotide inhibitor, ACH-3422, also demonstrated potent antiviral activity.

William Blair’s Katherine Xu said the company’s ACH-3422 was slower to exert its effects than Sovaldi, adding that its nucleotide inhibitor needs to be equally effective for Achillion to attract takeover interest.

Achillion, one of the few companies developing hepatitis C drugs independently, said it planned to start mid-stage studies to evaluate the combination next year.

Wells Fargo’s Brian Abrahams said an all-Achillion combination could still have an edge over competition as ACH-3102’s high barrier to resistance will offset ACH-3422’s slower effect.

Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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