Vertex touts success with PhII flu drug, scouts collaboration

Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX) says it nailed solid mid-stage data for VX-787, an experimental influenza drug in a new class of medications that promises to prevent the virus from replicating. And the biotech added that it will be in hot pursuit of a new collaboration on the drug.

Investigators say that they gathered statistically significant results demonstrating that the antiviral drug reduced the amount of virus found in nasal secretion over 7 days, hitting the primary endpoint in the trial. Flu symptoms that lingered for 3.7 days in the placebo arm lasted only 1.9 days in the drug group. And 93% of the patients in the drug group demonstrated no clinical symptoms after three days, compared to 41% of the patients receiving a placebo.

VX-787 is one of several core therapies that the biotech has been pushing through clinical trials, though not as significant as its work on a next-gen hepatitis C drug or a new combo approach to cystic fibrosis. Nevertheless, Vertex has highlighted the program as a contender as it prepares for the rapid erosion of its market for Incivek, which is expected to be toppled soon by competing therapies.

"There is an urgent need for new medicines targeting influenza that work more quickly, address resistant and pandemic strains, and are effective when taken more than two days after symptoms appear," said Chris Wright, M.D., Ph.D., Vertex's SVP of global medicines development and medical affairs. "Further development of VX-787 may offer an opportunity to address these needs. The data from this proof-of-concept study validate VX-787's new mechanism of action, and underscore its potential to significantly reduce the severity and duration of influenza."

A group of volunteers were exposed to the live H3N2 influenza A virus in the study. No adverse events were reported strong enough to force anyone out of the study.

- here's the press release

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