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Vertex Nuke Program ALS-2200
  Vertex Announces Positive Results from Viral Kinetic Study of the Nucleotide Analogue ALS-2200 in People with Hepatitis C - (07/30/12)

Vertex Nucleotide Analysis - (08/01/12)

Excerpted from report by: Y. Katherine Xu, Ph.D.

William Blair Stock Analysts

ALS2158 Discontinued Because of Lack of Efficacy; ALS2200 Pushes Into Phase II studies

On Tuesday, September 25 before markets opened, Vertex and partner Alios BioPharma provided an update on the collaborators' nucleotide polymerase inhibitors (nuke) ALS2158 and ALS2200. The discontinuation of ALS2158 is only slightly negative to the stock, in our opinion, as the vast majority of Vertex valuation lies in the cystic fibrosis franchise.
We summarize the details below. We note that Vertex gained exclusive worldwide rights to the two nuke candidates through an agreement with Alios in June 2011.

ALS2158 development discontinued because of insufficient antiviral activity. ALS-2158, an adenosine nuke analogue, was evaluated in a seven-day, monotherapy Phase I study in genotype 1 (GT1) hepatitis C (HCV) patients. Results from the study demonstrated that seven days of dosing with up to 900 mg of ALS-2158 was well-tolerated, but a lack of antiviral activity was observed.

Combo of ALS2200 plus ribavirin delivers similar antiviral activity (4.18 log) to previously reported ALS2200 monotherapy (4.54 log, exhibit 1). Previously, only a purine-based nuke BMS094 (INX189, discontinued) demonstrated antiviral synergy with ribavirin in a seven-day study because ribavirin is a purine-based nuke as well. As ALS2200 is pyrimidine-based, it is not expected to demonstrate antiviral synergy with ribavirin in a seve-nday study. Vertex reported that a once-daily (QD) dose of 200 mg of ALS- 2200+ribavirin (R) led to a median 4.18 log drop in viral load from baseline at 7 days in treatment-naïve GT1 HCV patients (n=8). Additionally, after seven days of treatment, five patients achieved viral loads below the limit of quantification (LOQ, ≤25 IU/mL), and two of these five patients achieved viral loads below the limit of detection (LOD, ≤10 IU/mL). On the safety side, ALS-2200 was well-tolerated with no patient discontinuations due to adverse events (AEs) or no serious adverse events (SAEs). Additional details of the study are expected at upcoming American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD, November 9-13, Boston).

In July, Vertex reported that 200 mg QD ALS-2200 monotherapy led to 3.85 log drop in viral load at three days and 4.54 log drop at seven days. ALS-2200 (or VX- 135) is a uridine nuke analog, similar to Gilead's (GILD $67.16; Outperform) GS-7977, which at 400 mg QD (the dose that is used in all the later stage studies) demonstrated a 3.4 log drop at 3 days and 4.7 log drop at 7 days (exhibit 1).

Next steps: 12-week combination Phase II studies of ALS2200 to build safety database and explore efficacy. Initial combination partners include ribavirin and Incivek; however, we believe Vertex will likely need to partner ALS2200 with other companies' protease inhibitors or NS5a inhibitors to form competitive all-oral combinations. Vertex plans to conduct a series of small Phase II studies of ALS-2200+Incivek, and ALS-2200+R in GT1 HCV patients. The primary endpoint of the studies is SVR12 (sustained viral response, 12-weeks post end of treatment). In addition, the other main goal of the studies is to build up the safety database of ALS-2200 to several hundred patients and characterize 12-week safety, as the 12-week treatment duration is the goal the industry is pushing for. Since the opportunity to form a proprietary nuke+nuke combo is no longer available given the discontinuation of ALS-2158, we assume Vertex may also seek to initiate ALS-2200 combination studies with compounds from other classes as well as other companies in the near future.

Phase III studies are possible to start before year-end 2013, a timeline that could positions Vertex well in the HCV race for all-oral regimens. Vertex plans to initiate Phase III studies of oral regimens in parallel, likely before year end 2013. Should this timeline be achieved, Vertex would be among the front runners in the race of all-oral regimens. The composition of the regimen(s) to be taken into Phase III depends on data to be obtained over the next 12-15 months.


September 25, 2012

Vertex Announces New Data on ALS-2200 in People With Hepatitis C, Supporting Advancement into Phase 2 All-Oral Studies in 2012; Ends Development of ALS-2158

- ALS-2158: Well-tolerated in a seven-day viral kinetic study; development discontinued due to lack of efficacy -

- ALS-2200: Data from additional cohort of seven-day viral kinetic study with ALS-2200 (200 mg, QD) in combination with ribavirin show median 4.18 log10 reduction in HCV RNA with 5 of 8 people below the limit of quantification; treatment was well-tolerated -

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (Nasdaq: VRTX) and its collaborator Alios BioPharma, Inc. today announced results from a viral kinetic study of the adenosine nucleotide analogue pro-drug ALS-2158 for the treatment of hepatitis C. Data showed that seven days of dosing with up to 900 mg of ALS-2158 was well-tolerated in people with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C, but that there was insufficient antiviral activity to warrant proceeding with further clinical development. The companies also announced new data from an additional cohort of an ongoing viral kinetic study of the uridine nucleotide analogue pro-drug ALS-2200 in combination with ribavirin. There was a median 4.18 log10 reduction from baseline in HCV RNA after seven days of dosing with a once-daily 200 mg dose of ALS-2200 in combination with ribavirin in people with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C who were new to treatment (n=8). Five patients achieved HCV RNA levels below the limit of quantification ( < LOQ = < 25 IU/mL) and two of these five achieved HCV RNA levels below the limit of detection (Roche COBAS Taqman HCV test, Version 2) after seven days of treatment.

Similar to previously announced data from the monotherapy cohort, ALS-2200 was well-tolerated, no patients discontinued due to adverse events and there were no serious adverse events. Data from the ALS-2200 study will be presented in an oral presentation at The Liver Meeting®, the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) in Boston, November 9 to 13, 2012.

"Our goal is to develop all-oral regimens that are well-tolerated and provide a high rate of viral cure in a broad population of people with chronic hepatitis C," said Robert Kauffman, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Vertex. "We're making good progress and expect to begin all-oral Phase 2 combination studies by the end of this year."

Pending discussions with regulatory agencies, Vertex is planning one Phase 2 study to evaluate ALS-2200 (VX-135) in combination with ribavirin, and one to evaluate ALS-2200 (VX-135) in combination with INCIVEK® (telaprevir), the company's approved protease inhibitor for people with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C. These studies will evaluate 12 total weeks of treatment with a primary endpoint of SVR12 (sustained viral response: undetectable hepatitis C virus 12 weeks after the end of treatment) in people with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C.

About ALS-2200

ALS-2200 is a uridine nucleotide analogue pro-drug that appears to have a high barrier to drug resistance based on in vitro studies. It is designed to inhibit the replication of the hepatitis C virus by acting on the NS5B polymerase. In vitro studies of the compound showed antiviral activity across all genotypes, or forms, of the hepatitis C virus, including genotypes more prevalent outside of the United States.

Vertex gained worldwide rights to ALS-2200 through an exclusive licensing agreement signed with Alios BioPharma, Inc. in June 2011. The agreement also includes a research program that will focus on the discovery of additional nucleotide analogues that act on hepatitis C polymerase. Vertex has the option to select additional compounds for development emerging from the research program.


INCIVEK® (telaprevir) tablets is an oral medicine that acts directly on the hepatitis C virus protease, an enzyme essential for viral replication.

INCIVEK was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2011 and by Health Canada in August 2011 for use in combination with pegylated-interferon and ribavirin for adults with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C with compensated liver disease (some level of damage to the liver but the liver still functions), including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). INCIVEK is approved for people who are new to treatment, and for people who were treated previously with interferon-based treatment but who did not achieve a sustained viral response, or viral cure (relapsers, partial responders and null responders).

Vertex developed telaprevir in collaboration with Janssen and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma. Vertex has rights to commercialize telaprevir in North America where it is being marketed under the brand name INCIVEK (in-SEE-veck). Janssen has rights to commercialize telaprevir in Europe, South America, Australia, the Middle East and certain other countries. In September 2011, telaprevir was approved in the European Union and Switzerland. Telaprevir is known as INCIVO® in Europe. Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma has rights to commercialize telaprevir in Japan and certain Far East countries. In September 2011, telaprevir was approved in Japan and is known as Telavic®.



INCIVEK® (telaprevir) is a prescription medicine used with the medicines peginterferon alfa and ribavirin to treat chronic (lasting a long time) hepatitis C genotype 1 infection in adults with stable liver problems, who have not been treated before or who have failed previous treatment. It is not known if INCIVEK is safe and effective in children under 18 years of age.

Important Safety Information

INCIVEK should always be taken in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. Ribavirin may cause birth defects or death of an unborn baby. Therefore, a patient should not take INCIVEK combination treatment if she is pregnant or may become pregnant, or if he is a man with a sexual partner who is pregnant. Patients must use two forms of effective birth control during treatment and for the 6 months after treatment with these medicines. Hormonal forms of birth control, including birth control pills, vaginal rings, implants or injections, may not work during treatment with INCIVEK.

INCIVEK and other medicines can affect each other and can also cause side effects that can be serious or life threatening. There are certain medicines patients cannot take with INCIVEK combination treatment. Patients should tell their healthcare providers about all the medicines they take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements.

INCIVEK can cause serious side effects including skin reactions, rash and anemia that can be severe. The most common side effects of INCIVEK include itching, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, anal or rectal problems, taste changes and tiredness. There are other possible side effects of INCIVEK, and side effects associated with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin also apply to INCIVEK combination treatment. Patients should tell their healthcare providers about any side effect that bothers them or doesn't go away.

Please see full Prescribing Information for INCIVEK including the Medication Guide, available at www.INCIVEK.com.

About Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, which is spread through direct contact with the blood of infected people and ultimately affects the liver.1 Chronic hepatitis C can lead to serious and life-threatening liver problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.1 Though many people with hepatitis C may not experience symptoms, others may have symptoms such as fatigue, fever, jaundice and abdominal pain.1

Unlike HIV and hepatitis B virus, chronic hepatitis C can be cured.2 However, approximately 60 percent of people do not achieve SVR,3,4,5 or viral cure,6 after treatment with 48 weeks of pegylated-interferon and ribavirin alone. If treatment is not successful and a person does not achieve a viral cure, they remain at an increased risk for progressive liver disease.7,8

More than 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis C.6 In the United States, up to 5 million people have chronic hepatitis C and 75 percent of them are unaware of their infection.9,10 Hepatitis C is four times more prevalent in the United States compared to HIV.10 The majority of people with hepatitis C in the United States were born between 1945 and 1965, accounting 82 percent of people with the disease.11 Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantations in the United States and is reported to contribute to 15,000 deaths annually.12,13 By 2029, total annual medical costs in the United States for people with hepatitis C are expected to more than double, from $30 billion in 2009 to approximately $85 billion.10

About Vertex

Vertex creates new possibilities in medicine. Our team discovers, develops and commercializes innovative therapies so people with serious diseases can lead better lives.

Vertex scientists and our collaborators are working on new medicines to cure or significantly advance the treatment of hepatitis C, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other life-threatening diseases.

Founded more than 20 years ago in Cambridge, Mass., we now have ongoing worldwide research programs and sites in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Today, Vertex has more than 2,000 employees around the world, and for three years in a row, Science magazine has named Vertex one of its Top Employers in the life sciences.

Vertex's press releases are available at www.vrtx.com.

About Alios BioPharma

Alios BioPharma is a biotechnology company located in South San Francisco, California, that is developing novel medicines aimed at the treatment of viral diseases. Alios has an innovative team of highly experienced scientists and clinical researchers who are developing direct acting antiviral agents against several human viral pathogens of public health importance including HCV, RSV, Influenza and other chronic, acute and emerging viral diseases. The overall goal for the Alios therapeutic platform is to maximize patient benefits in areas of high unmet medical need through optimization of potency, safety and tolerability.

Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including, without limitation, Dr. Kauffman's statements in the third paragraph of this press release and statements regarding (i) data supporting the advancement of ALS-2200 into Phase 2 all-oral studies this year and (ii) Vertex's plans regarding the design of these Phase 2 studies. While the company believes the forward-looking statements contained in this press release are accurate, there are a number of factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements. Those risks and uncertainties include, among other things, that the initiation of Phase 2 studies of ALS-2200 may be delayed or prevented, outcomes from any future studies of ALS-2200 may not be favorable and the other risks listed under Risk Factors in Vertex's annual report and quarterly reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and available through Vertex's website at www.vrtx.com. Vertex disclaims any obligation to update the information contained in this press release as new information becomes available.



1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C Fact Sheet: CDC Viral Hepatitis. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/PDFs/HepCGeneralFactSheet.pdf Updated June 2010. Accessed September 21, 2012.

2 Pearlman BL and Traub N. Sustained Virologic Response to Antiviral Therapy for Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection: A Cure and So Much More. Clin Infect Dis. 2011 Apr;52(7):889-900.

3 Manns MP, McHutchison JG, Gordon SC, et al. Peginterferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin compared with interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin for initial treatment of chronic hepatitis C: a randomised trial. Lancet. 2001;358:958-965.

4 Fried MW, Shiffman ML, Reddy KR, et al. Peginterferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin for chronic hepatitis C virus infection. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:975-982.

5 McHutchison JG, Lawitz EJ, Shiffman ML, et al; IDEAL Study Team. Peginterferon alfa-2b or alfa-2a with ribavirin for treatment of hepatitis C infection. N Engl J Med. 2009;361:580-593.

6 Ghany MG, Strader DB, Thomas DL, Seeff, LB. Diagnosis, management and treatment of hepatitis C; An update. Hepatology. 2009;49 (4):1-40.

7 Morgan TR, Ghany MG, Kim HY, Snow KK, Lindsay K, Lok AS. Outcome of sustained virological responders and non-responders in the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) trial. Hepatology. 2008;50(Suppl 4):357A (Abstract 115).

8 Veldt BJ, Heathcote J, Wedmeyer H. Sustained virologic response and clinical outcomes in patients with chronic hepatitis C and advanced fibrosis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2007; 147: 677-684.

9 Chak, E, et. al. Hepatitis C Virus Infection In USA: An Estimate of True Prevalence. Liver Intl. 2011;1096 -1098.

10 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Hepatitis and liver cancer: a national strategy for prevention and control of hepatitis B and C. Colvin HM and Mitchell AE, ed. Available at: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/Hepatitis-and-Liver-Cancer-A-National-Strategy-for-Prevention-and-Control-of-Hepatitis-B-and-C.aspx Updated January 11, 2010. Accessed September 21, 2012.

11 Smith, BD, et al. Hepatitis C Virus Antibody Prevalence, Correlates and Predictors among Persons Born from 1945 through 1965, United States, 1999-2008. AASLD 2011 Annual Meeting.

12 Volk MI, Tocco R, Saini S, Lok, ASF. Public health impact of antiviral therapy for hepatitis C in the United States. Hepatology. 2009;50(6):1750-1755.

13 S.D. Holmberg, K.N. Ly., et.al. The Growing Burden of Mortality Associated with Viral Hepatitis in the United States, 1999-2007. AASLD 2011 Annual Meeting.

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