Enanta Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s (ENTA:NASDAQ) antiviral EDP-235 "could be a best-in-class oral treatment for SARS-CoV-2, with the potential to circumvent viral rebound with novel dosing regimens," reported ROTH Capital Partners analyst Zegbeh Jallah in a June 2 research note.
Jallah highlighted that the COVID-19 antiviral market represents a significant opportunity for Enanta and its clinical phase EDP-235. For example, an approved oral drug similar to EDP-235, Pfizer's Paxlovid, is expected to generate $22 billion in sales this year, the company estimates.
Recent reports indicate some COVID patients treated with Paxlovid have experienced a recurrence of symptoms, and this raises concern that treatment with EDP-235 might also result in viral rebound, Jallah noted.
Such rebound could possibly be avoided with EDP-235, the analyst purported, simply by starting treatment later, specifically after peak viral loads, or giving it for a longer time period. He bases this theory on the results of a 2020 study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash.
Their analysis of data obtained on COVID patients showed that viral rebound happened when antiviral treatment was initiated before viral loads peaked. The researchers claim that when viral loads peak, it triggers an innate immune response in which infected or susceptible cells get removed. Yet when antiviral treatment is administered before viral loads spike, the response does not get activated fully and all suspect cells are not cleared out. This opens the door to viral rebound when viral loads peak post-treatment.
Further, when the researchers looked at viral rebound with respect to five versus 10 days of COVID-inhibiting treatment, they discovered it only occurred with five days of treatment, not 10.
Enanta's EDP-235 is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial, but neither later treatment initiation nor longer treatment duration is being evaluated in it. It is unknown if Enanta will investigate either factor in the future.
The in-progress Phase 1 study is evaluating safety and pharmacokinetics. Results are expected shortly, sometime this month.
This "data update should be important for determining EDP-235's potential to tap into this large market," wrote Jallah.
The analyst expects, If the results are positive, big pharma to be interested in Enanta's COVID inhibitor.
What EDP-235 already has going for it, Jallah wrote, is a longer half-life than Paxlovid and, potentially, increased potency, Jallah indicated. Accordingly, EDP-235 should have a longer therapeutic window than Paxlovid and should not need a subsequent booster treatment, as Paxlovid does (it is boosted with Ritonavir).
ROTH Capital Partners has a Buy rating and a $70 per share target price on Enanta, which is trading now at around $40.22 per share.
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Disclosures for Roth Capital Partners, Enanta Pharmaceuticals Inc., June 2, 2022
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