Bristol-Myers Expands Hepatitis C Accord With J&J, Medivir

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. agreed to conduct two trials of experimental hepatitis C treatments in collaboration with Medivir AB and Johnson & Johnson. Medivir shares rose as much as 5.7 percent in Stockholm.

The companies will conduct a late-stage trial of Bristol-Myers’ daclatasvir and J&J and Medivir’s TMC435, depending on the outcome of a mid-stage study, Stockholm-based Medivir said today in a statement. A drug interaction study of TMC435 with Bristol-Myers’ BMS-986094 will also be conducted, they said. That expands a collaboration between J&J and Bristol-Myers announced Dec. 2, Medivir said.

The Bristol-Myers drug in the second study entered the company’s pipeline with the acquisition of Inhibitex Inc. for $2.5 billion in February. TMC435 is a protease inhibitor, which blocks the action of the protease enzyme the hepatitis virus needs to replicate, directly stopping it from spreading. BMS-986094 is a nucleotide polymerase inhibitor, which works differently to block the virus’ ability to replicate in the body.

“We see the expanded clinical collaboration as a strong validation of TMC435, especially as we know of no other competing protease inhibitors running interferon-free combination trials with other direct-acting antivirals externally,” which include polymerase inhibitors, said Hans Jeppsson, an analyst at Danske Bank, in a note to investors today.

Medivir shares rose 4.6 percent to 73.25 kronor at 2:17 p.m. in Stockholm, giving the company a market value of 2.29 billion kronor ($339 million).

Drug Combinations

Other nucleotide polymerase inhibitors include Gilead Sciences Inc.’s 7977 compound, which was gained through the company’s acquisition of experimental hepatitis C-treatment maker Pharmasset Inc. for $10.8 billion in November. Bristol-Myers, based in New York, and Medivir are also testing their experimental treatments in combination with Gilead’s 7977.

Drugmakers are exploring cocktails of hepatitis C treatments that exclude interferon, a component of the current standard of care, because of the injectable therapy’s side effects.

Hepatitis C affects as many as 170 million people globally, putting them at risk of developing liver cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The disease is most commonly transmitted through contaminated blood transfusions, organ transplants, contaminated syringes and needle-injected drug use, according to the WHO.

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