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May 18, 2005
Vertex Turns Over a Winner
Vertex announced some impressive clinical data against hepatitis C the other day, which has been a fine thing for their stock price. It looks to be a fine thing for people infected with hepatitis as well, with better results than the current interferon therapy in a much shorter time.
I'd have to guess that the side effects are lower, too, interferons being rather powerful things. Schering-Plough and Roche have been beating each other silly in that market for years now - these results point to a future where they might each end up with a much lower market share. (If Vertex's drug works even better in combination with them, though, everyone might still do just fine.)
Other things being equal, or even in the neighborhood of equal, a small organic molecule is going to beat a biotech protein every time. They're easier and cheaper to make, and easier to store and dispense. And as for dosing, well, you can get orally active small molecules (like Vertex's) - try getting an orally active protein, and get back to me when you do. Mind you, it looks like Vertex's compound really has to be taken in mighty quantities (750 mg t.i.d., that is, three times a day), but anti-infectives often have to be hammered in like this. It's still surely going to be cheaper than interferon therapy.
Vertex being Vertex, I'm sure that there's a nice presentation about all the contributions that molecular modeling made to this compound's development. But I've no doubt that their large bunch of capable medicinal chemists made their mark on it, too. Congratulations to the lot of them!
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