Biotech Stocks Highlight for the Week: Achillion Pharmaceuticals Soars Due to Positive Test Results

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Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Inc (ACHN) reported positive interim results from a phase II study (n=12) on its hepatitis C virus (HCV) candidate, ACH-3102. The company’s shares jumped 9.6% following the news.

The mid-stage study is evaluating a ribavirin-free regimen of ACH-3102 in combination with Gilead’s (GILD) Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) for the treatment of patients suffering from treatment-naïve genotype 1 chronic HCV infection for eight weeks. Results from the study did not reveal any trace of the virus in any of the 12 patients in the ACH-3102 arm four weeks after completion of treatment.

Based on interim results, Achillion intends to start a six-week treatment regimen of ACH-3102 and Sovaldi (n=12). The company expects results from the study by the end of 2014.

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There is definite encouragement due to Achillion’s progress with its HCV candidates. Apart from ACH-3102, Achillion’s HCV pipeline also include ACH-3422 (phase I ongoing) and sovaprevir (phase II). The company intends to start a phase II study on ACH-3422 by the end of 2014 based on results from the phase I study which is expected during the fall of 2014.

Earlier this year the FDA removed the clinical hold on sovaprevir which was placed in Jun 2013 after elevated liver enzymes were observed in a phase I study. This came as a huge relief to the company. We expect investor focus to remain on Achillion’s HCV pipeline going forward.

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The HCV market is currently led by Gilead’s Sovaldi. The blockbuster drug recorded sales of around $3.5 billion in the second quarter of 2014. Apart from Gilead, several other companies like Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK) are developing candidates targeting the lucrative HCV market.

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