Shares of Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) climbed this morning after the company announced some encouraging preliminary results from an ongoing trial of VX-770, a drug for cystic fibrosis. The firm’s stock opened at $18.24 and by about 11:00 was trading around $19.55, up almost 10 percent from yesterday’s close of $17.83.
Vertex’s drug targets a protein called CFTR that malfunctions in cystic fibrosis patients, causing an imbalance of salt and water that results in their lungs becoming clogged with mucus and prone to infection and inflammation. In a planned interim analysis of a Phase 2a study, Vertex found that patients who took the drug orally for two weeks had, on average, a 10 percent improvement in a standard test of lung function. Vertex called the results clinical proof-of-concept; the company plans to begin the second part of the trial in the second quarter of this year, and to meet with regulatory authorities to choose the fastest way to move the drug to market.
The CFTR-targeting approach is part of a decade-long collaboration between Vertex and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. All told, the foundation has given the company $79 million, including a $13.3 million award in March 2006 to support the accelerated development of VX-770. Vertex retains the rights to commercialize these drugs discovered through the collaboration.