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Vertex’s chief commercial officer, Kurt Graves, told me his company is looking at emerging polymerase inhibitors, and NS5A inhibitors, which might someday offer patients a chance to get rid of a standard combination treatment they must take, of pegylated interferon alpha and ribavirin. Those drugs must be taken for almost a year; cause serious flu-like symptoms that make them difficult to tolerate, and only cure the virus for about one-third of patients.
The Anadys data, while still at an early stage, suggests it could be used in combinations, Worland says. Anadys saw in this Phase Ia trial that patients who took an 800 milligram dose of its drug twice-daily were able to get almost five times the amount of drug needed in the bloodstream to wipe out the virus. The drug, however, wasn’t given to actual hepatitis C patients. The next step, which the company announced earlier in the week, is to recruit 30 hepatitis C patients for another study that will look at the drug’s safety. That study also will look at early indications of its virus-killing ability at 200 milligrams, 400 milligrams, and 800 milligrams twice a day, the company has said. Data from this trial will be available in the first quarter of 2009, Worland says.
Since it’s been gaining confidence from its clinical trial results, Anadys is going to continue carrying on partnership talks with a number of companies that are interested in combining treatments, Worland says. To add some complexity to the discussions, Anadys has another drug candidate for hepatitis C, ANA773, which is designed to stimulate the body to produce interferon proteins. That could be used in combination with any number of antivirals, and could replace the standard pegylated interferon alpha, Worland says.
The market for hepatitis C drugs may grow to $8 billion in 2015, according to analyst Brian McCarthy with Merriman Curhan Ford & Co., in a note to clients earlier this year. Anadys isn’t saying when it thinks it get its first drug on the market, but if it can grab even a fraction of that kind of cash, then it will be on its way to becoming one of the bigger biotechs in San Diego. It’s still pretty early to handicap this race, though. “This is a complex poker game, with new cards being turned over every round,” Worland says.