Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NasdaqGS:VRTX - News) along with partner Alios BioPharma, Inc. recently announced the initiation of two early-stage trials with candidates ALS-2200 and ALS-2158. The companies are studying the two candidates as a treatment for chronic genotype-1 hepatitis C (:HCV). Expectedly, data from the trials will be presented in the second quarter of 2012.
Following the release of the data from these phase I trials, Vertex Pharma and Alios BioPharma plan to initiate mid-stage combinations studies in the second half of 2012, to evaluate multiple all-oral, interferon-free combination regimens for HCV. These phase II trials will evaluate the combination regimens of ALS-2200 or ALS-2158 with Vertex Pharma’s lead product Incivek (telaprevir) or pipeline candidate VX-222, and ribavirin, in order to generate sustained viral response (viral cure) data.
Incivek is used in combination with pegylated-interferon and ribavirin for the treatment of HCV in both treatment-naïve and treatment-failed adult patients. It is available in the European Union (NYSEArca:EU - News) and certain other countries under the brand name of Incivo. VX-222 is currently in mid-stage trials, being evaluated in combination with Incivek as a treatment for HCV.
Vertex Pharma acquired the worldwide rights to ALS-2200 and ALS-2158 from Alios BioPharma in June 2011, as a part of an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement. The agreement also includes a research program that will focus on the discovery of additional HCV treatments.
We believe that the development of ALS-2200 and ALS-2158 will expand Vertex Pharma’s HCV portfolio, which currently has quite a few candidates in its pipeline which are being studied for HCV.
We currently have a Neutral recommendation on Vertex Pharma. The stock carries a Zacks #2 Rank (Buy rating) in the short-run.
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