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Arpita  Dutt

Biotech Stock Roundup: Achillion Scores in Mid-Stage Study, Gilead's Sovaldi Remains in Focus

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With second quarter earnings season coming to an end, focus in the biotech sector is back on pipeline and regulatory updates. Last week’s highlights included Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s impressive interim data on its experimental hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment, Gilead Sciences’ legal victory and Amgen’s hit and miss on the clinical front.

Recap of the Week’s Most Important Stories

1. Achillion, which focuses on the development of HCV treatments, scored a huge win last week with its experimental HCV treatment, ACH-3102. The company reported impressive interim data on the second-generation NS5A inhibitor which is being evaluated in combination with Gilead’s Sovaldi in a mid-stage study.

Based on these results, Achillion intends to start a six-week treatment regimen of ACH-3102 and Sovaldi. Shares were up 9.6% and touched a 52-week high. The HCV market represents immense commercial potential. Even though treatments options like Sovaldi are currently available, newer and improved treatment options are highly awaited (Read more: Achillion Pharmaceuticals Soars on Mid-Stage HCV Study Data).

2. More HCV-focused news flowed in last week with Gilead scoring a legal win over Roche in an arbitration related to its HCV treatment, Sovaldi. There was more good news in store for Gilead with NICE – the UK’s drug cost-effectiveness watchdog – backing Sovaldi. The positive recommendation came soon after Gilead submitted additional information about the drug’s cost effectiveness (Read more: Gilead Scores Legal Victory Over Roche for Sovaldi, Shares Up).

3. Amgen had two sets of clinical data last week – the first on cancer treatment, Kyprolis and the second on AMG-416. The highly awaited Kyprolis data from the phase III FOCUS study was a disappointment with the primary endpoint being missed. However, this should not stop Amgen from going ahead with its plans to file for regulatory approval in the EU based on encouraging ASPIRE data presented earlier this month (Read more: Amgen's FOCUS Study on Multiple Myeloma Drug Kyprolis Fails).

Meanwhile, Amgen’s AMG-416 fared well in a late-stage study conducted for the treatment of secondary hyperparathyroidism in patients with chronic kidney disease, receiving hemodialysis (Read more: Amgen Reports Encouraging Top-Line Data on AMG 416).

4. Biogen continues to strengthen its position in the multiple sclerosis (MS) market. The company has added yet another MS drug to its portfolio in the U.S. with the FDA approval of Plegridy. Plegridy’s less frequent dosing schedule (once every two weeks) could help it gain share from other beta interferon treatments that are currently available (Read more: Biogen Strengthens MS Portfolio with Plegridy FDA Approval).

Performance

Last week, Gilead led the major biotechs with its price increasing 8.48% on positive Sovaldi updates. Vertex was a close second with shares moving up 7.62%. Overall, it was a good week for the biotech sector with the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index gaining 6.17% (See the last biotech stock roundup here: Amgen Plans Job Cuts, Regeneron's Eylea Continues to Impress).

Gilead was the biggest gainer over the last six months as well (up 22.47%). Meanwhile, Alexion shares were down 5.9% over the last six months.
 

Company Last Week Last 6 Months
AMGN 5.30% 8.95%
BIIB 6.43% 5.29%
GILD 8.48% 22.47%
CELG 5.68% 12.10%
REGN 2.56% 6.92%
ALXN 5.69% -5.90%
VRTX 7.62% 11.28%

What's Next in the Biotech World?

While nothing specific is lined up later this week, stay tuned for the usual pipeline and regulatory updates. Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>

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