Vertex advancing all-oral Hep C pipeline amid big 3Q profits

Vertex ($VRTX) is making progress with development of its next generation of hepatitis C treatments as sales of its likely blockbuster Incivek moved the company into profitability in the third quarter. The company now has multiple programs under development to offer people with the liver-damaging disease all-oral treatments without interferon injections.

The company's late-stage pipeline highlight was the completion of its filing for EU approval of cystic fibrosis drug VX-770, which is expected to be the company's next major seller after Incivek with potential approvals in key markets next year. The European application sought approval of the drug in a subset of CF patients with the G551D mutation and other disease-related mutations, expanding the number of patients it can potentially serve.

With competitors such as Abbott and Pharmasset racing to advance their own oral cocktails against hep C, Cambridge-based Vertex gave updates on the oral programs that could secure its leadership in the market in future years. It wrapped enrollment of a Phase II for its three-drug combo that features its developmental compound VX-222 given with Incivek and ribavirin and data from all arms of the trial are expected next year. The firm plans to showcase new data on viral cures from the study at the 2011 Liver Meeting in San Francisco early next month. Vertex is also on track to hit the clinic this year with partner Alios to gauge the safety of ALS-2200 and ALS-2158, two compounds that Vertex is also eyeing to be part of all-oral cocktails against hepatitis C.

"As we enter 2012, we expect to have more than a dozen ongoing clinical trials across our broad and diverse pipeline, which we believe may lead to additional new medicines to support our future growth," Matthew Emmens, chairman, president and CEO of Vertex, said in statement.

Vertex's $221 million in profit for the third quarter was the big news on the financial side of the business. The profitability was made possible with a huge $420 million in sales of Incivek. These impressive numbers make the company's $189.1 million in third-quarter R&D spending appear well worth the investment.

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