Active Biotech gets boost from late-stage oral MS program

Active Biotech's ($ACTI) shares jumped after its partner Teva Pharmaceutical ($TEVA) touted results of a late-stage trial for an oral multiple sclerosis drug under development with Active. While the companies' body of data on the MS pill, laquinimod, have failed to impress analysts, Teva plans to push ahead with an application to gain European approval of the drug in the second half of this year. 

Teva plugged the program's results from the Phase III "Allegro" trial, in which laquinimod reduced annual relapse rates, stymied disability progression and lowered loss of brain tissue in MS patients on the drug. Those results appeared in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, when Israel-based Teva trumpeted plans for the European regulatory filing.

The news was enough to get Yilmaz Mahshid, an analyst at Pareto Securities, to raise the price target on Active's shares to 65 kronor from 50 kronor, Bloomberg reported. The news service said that the Lund, Sweden-based biotech's shares jumped as much as 13% today. 

Despite the results of the Allegro study, Teva and Active remain behind in the race to advance oral MS drugs. Novartis ($NVS), of course, got to market first with its MS pill Gilenya. Biogen Idec ($BIIB) has wowed analysts with data from its MS drug BG-12 and last month filed an NDA in hopes of securing FDA approval of the drug later this year. There's blockbuster market potential for drugs that MS patients can take orally, as opposed to the injected MS treatments that now dominate the market.

Even if Teva and Active's laquinimod gains European approval, the nod would likely trail those of its rivals and Teva would still face the challenge of gaining reimbursements from governments and insurers in Europe.

- here's Teva's release
- see Bloomberg's report