Dow Jones Real-Time News for InvestorsSM
1:05 p.m. 09/30/2005
By Rob Curran
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Shares of Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VRTX) rose 6.3% after Credit Suisse First Boston raised its share-price target and boosted sales estimates for a potential Hepatitis-C treatment ahead of a Schering-Plough Corp. (SGP) progress report on a similar product.
Credit Suisse analyst Mark Augustine, who raised the target to $30 from $24, said Schering-Plough's presentation on the SCH 7 compound, which is similar to Vertex's VX-950 compound, will likely validate VX-950's potential. Augustine said VX-950 was "best positioned" to exploit the potential of the kind of combination treatment for the liver virus that Schering-Plough will demonstrate at the November American Association for the Study of Liver Disease conference.
Data from a small early-stage European trial suggests that the cure rate of VX 950 - used alone - is 90%, Think Equity Partners analyst Andrew McDonald said. The current standard treatment, a combination of the drugs peginterferon and ribavirin, has a cure rate of about 50%. McDonald, who has a price target of $29 on Vertex, a Cambridge, Mass., biotechnology company, said the company doesn't have to win the development race with Schering-Plough's SCH 7. Even if Vertex captures only 30% of the market, its Hepatitis C treatment will generate significant annual revenue.
Credit Suisse's Augustine now estimates that the company will generate VX-950 annual sales of $475 million in 2009 and $1.05 billion by 2011, compared with his prior estimates of $200 million and $560 million. Augustine now expects Vertex to turn profitable in 2009 rather than 2010.
McDonald put the market for the "protease inhibitor" drugs at between $4 billion and $8 billion, depending on pricing.
Shares of Vertex recently traded at $22.28, up $1.40, or 6.7%, on volume of 2.4 million. Average daily volume is 1.3 million.
Think Equity's McDonald said another likely driver of the stock was the perception that Vertex "was under very close scrutiny by some of the major pharmaceuticals" as an acquisition target because of its Hepatitis C potential.
Yet Vertex is lagging about six months behind Schering-Plough - which has already started a Phase II trial - on the development of the Hepatitis C compounds, McDonald said.
Vertex has yet to complete animal-toxicity trials in the U.S., never mind produced long-term human-safety data for the drug, which it intends patients to take on a three-month regimen. Thus far, the company said it has completed toxicity trials with one out of two animal species required. McDonald expects the company to complete the other animal trial soon, and expects both to go smoothly.
Credit Suisse's Augustine also cited expectations for encouraging data for the Vertex's VX-702 compound in rheumatoid arthritis trials for his price-target boost.
Credit Suisse has done investment banking for Vertex during the last 12 months and makes a market in the shares. Think Equity makes a market in the shares.
-By Rob Curran, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-5176; firstname.lastname@example.org
They didn't like this story so well over on the SGP message board, I posted it there over the weekend.
I have been shorting SGP successfully for a couple years now, it seems pretty clear to me the future is in the hands of small agile biotechs like VRTX, but it is still a very speculative stock play.
Waiting for clinical trial results now....
Your are comparing apples with oranges: There is a lot of data know for 950 in human trials. For ACH806 so far only animal data are known. How can you compare potency and toxicity from animal data with human trial data ?
And how do you know that 806 will be especially good for combination when there are no human data on drug-drug interaction known ?
And 806 is a protease inhibitor as shown here which might or might not have a slightly different MOA but overall it is clearly a HCV protease inhibitor:
It can only be seen as a better candidate after it is proven to be, and it hasn't. It's results are not likely to be better than 950, as that is a huge hurdle. Being the same isn't good enough either, because it is behind 950. As far as combos go, MMPD and 950 would be one way to go, and it would be an in-house combo.
Your timeline may be right. I'm no longer following it closely since I got out (partly due to message 8944). Guess we'll see how it fleshes otu.
Material information...phase I and planned initation of phase II trials is not material enough for big pharma (if they derive a competitive advantage from nondisclosure) to put in the 10q unlike a biotech who's survival depends on it and have to disclose it and benefit from increased share price and raising financing/secondary offers.
Good luck and good night. Sox one inning away!
They stated yesterday that Phase II "starts by the end of this year". That is likely the one month trial with interferon. There is another that should start in January, and that might be the monotherapy trial.
One thing we all forget about 950 is this: Phase I was done as an oral suspension, and their pill form has shown to be much more bioavailable in 2 animal models. They have stated that they feel less dosing with improved efficacy is likely to be seen in Phase II. Also, the pill they have made is small, and has an extremely high drug load of 75%. They will not reveal what the dosage is of it yet.
As for me, I would not be concerned if I took 250 mgs or 750mgs, as long as it works, and works best.
Also, you mention they don't mention the drug in their papers, well I checked their 10q last week, and didn't see it in there either. Isn't that material enough to be in there?
Although my wishes are for VRTX to lead the way in this, the most important thing is for SOMEONE to cure it.
Not so much comfort as insight and visibility I think but yes many others to choose from. "There's always a bull market somewhere."
As far as particulars on the SGP compound see message 8944 (from from MR Wooo hooo, stymie)
From their talk in DC last week I believe they are a real contender. Here are the stat's
Mwt = 519
IC50 (replicon) = 200 nM
Ki* = 14nM
%F in -
Dog = 38 (PO)
Mouse = 36(PO)
Rat = 28(PO)
Monkey = 4-11%(PO)(seems a strange thing to report a range but thats what they did)
HNE / HCV = 2000
At the meeting they announced that it is either moving into P-1 or is already in P-1, it wasn't clear and the session was running late so the speaker was moving quickly and English was not his native tongue.
The dosing will be ~250 mg x 2 day, far less than VX-950's 750mg 3 x day and it seems to be give higher levels in liver than else where in the body (which, I suppose, isn't all that hard to believe given nearly all drugs gather there at some point)
Oddly enough, SGP has published 4 papers in the last month outlining their HepC program but yet their clinical candidate does not appear in any of them. The molecule is a truncated form of their lead compound. It is still a tripeptide with a keto amide as a serine trap and only a NH2 in the P1' position. The P2 possesses a cyclopropanated proline and P3 is t-butyl gly followed by a t-butyl urea capping group. If anyone is interested in seeing the actual structure give me a email and I�ll send you a pict file.
Funny thing is that this compound, along with VX-950, gives plenty of room for success. More to follow
Last I heard VRTX was initiating phase II next year so I think 6 months is probably accurate. Like I said I see some major red flags on recent upgrade but as long as you can ride her and she's doing you well don't get off.
Looks lke the real benefit here is that someone among SGP, VRTX and/or other competitors are going to have HCV on the run in 2009-10.