Achillion Pharma strikes deal to raise $41.8M as hep C results loom

Hepatitis C drug developer Achillion Pharmaceuticals ($ACHN) expects to haul in  $41.8 million proceeds of a common stock sale to QVT Financial. And the funding comes ahead of some important clinical trial results from the New Haven, CT-based developer's pipeline of hep C treatments.

Achillion, which expects the stock sale to close on Sept. 4, has been the subject of M&A speculation over the past year as large drugmakers scooped up its hep C rivals Pharmasset and Inhibitex for billions. Achillion saw its shares skyrocket amid the buyout frenzy in late-2011 through early-2012 and fall back to earth after the company failed to get acquired. Analysts are now keeping a sharp eye on developments in Achillion's pipeline of oral hep C drugs, as impressive clinical trial results could trigger a deal.

Achillion has several experimental oral meds in early- or mid-stage trials for hep C, a liver-damaging virus that afflicts an estimated 170 million people around the globe. The biopharma stampede is chasing all-oral regimens for the illness that can spare hep C patients from lengthy treatment on injections of interferon, which causes flu-like symptoms that make patients feel worse than the infectious disease does. And Achillion's contenders offer potential ingredients in cocktail therapies of oral meds to potentially wipe out the virus without those side effects from interferon.

Yet the company might need some more upbeat evidence from trials to draw a big buyout offer from a lineup of major players in the hep C arena, where companies such as Gilead Sciences ($GILD), Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX), and Abbott ($ABT) have all-oral regimens at various stages of development. Early next year Achillion is expected to report early data from an upcoming trial that tests a combo of the company's HCV NS3 protease inhibitor sovaprevir and a compound known as ACH-3102 as an interferon-free therapy for hep C, according a recent investor note from Cowen & Company.

That study should indicate whether Achillion has a competitive horse in the race to commercialize all-oral regimens, the market for which is expected to eventually soar to around $20 billion.

- here's the release

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