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ContraVir Rallies As NASH Drug Shows Efficacy In Preclinical Study

Shanthi Rexaline

Shares of the nano-cap, thinly traded biotech ContraVir Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: CTRV) were trading nearly 150-percent higher Thursday. 

What Happened

ContraVir, which focuses on therapies for liver diseases arising from non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, as well as chronic viral infection, announced Thursday ahead of the market open that a preclinical study of its lead product candidate CRV431 showed that it significantly reduced the extent of fibrosis in a second animal model of liver fibrosis.

Fibrosis is the scarring of liver — and is a chief symptom of NASH that impairs liver function.

ContraVir is developing CRV431 for NASH, fibrosis and other liver diseases such as viral hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma. A Phase 1 single ascending dose study of CRV431 was safe and well-tolerated in humans, the company said.

ContraVir said it used obeticholic acid, or OCA, as a comparator drug in the study.

OCA is a semi-synthetic bile acid analog drug approved for the treatment of primary biliary cholangitis that's being evaluated in a late-stage study for NASH by Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: ICPT). 

OCA did not decrease the extent of fibrosis in the study, ContraVir said. 

Why It's Important

NASH has no FDA-approved treatment. Large-cap pharma Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) had to change course with its NASH pipeline and is now pinning its hopes on combo treatment options.

ContraVir CEO Robert Foster said in a statement that CRV431's superior efficacy profile is "very promising," particularly given the antiviral and anticancer properties demonstrated in other preclinical studies. 

What's Next

ContraVir said it will continue to study additional fibrosis models in preparation for future NASH clinical trials.

Contravir shares were trading higher by 117 percent at $10.85 at the time of publication Thursday, while Intercept shares were down by 2.45 percent at $82.36. 

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Photo by Nephron/Wikimedia. 

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