The fight against the coronavirus is an ongoing concern and is being tackled on many fronts. Arbutus Biopharma (ABUS) is another company in the hunt for solutions, and on Tuesday, the biotech announced it had achieved the first milestone based on its agreement with X-Chem and Proteros biostructures on the road to advancing an oral pan-coronavirus treatment.
The company disclosed that it has identified a number of potent and selective small molecules which inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 nsp5 main protease (Mpro), an essential protein needed for viral replication and a validated target for the treatment of Covid-19 and possible future outbreaks of the coronavirus.
Given this milestone has been reached, Arbutus is set to gain the exclusive worldwide license to the identified molecules but in exchange must make an undisclosed but nominal milestone payment to X-Chem and Proteros.
The collaborators have concluded the screening process of X-Chem’s considerable Mpro inhibitor library. Now, making use of Proteros’ state-of-the-art structure guided methods, they are now advancing into the lead optimization stage. Following which, Arbutus will look to further develop a promising candidate – or candidates – including moving forward to clinical studies.
“We expect more guidance from the company on the timeline for this important program in January 2022,” said H.C. Wainwright analyst Ed Arce. “While this program is still quite early, we are encouraged by the rapid progress and continue to recognize the significant potential value of an oral pan-coronavirus treatment, even several years from now.”
The announcement follows on from another recent positive development. Earlier this month, the company released preliminary data from the ongoing Phase 1a/1b clinical study of AB-836, Arbutus’ next-generation oral capsid inhibitor and indicated as a therapy for chronic hepatitis B viru B virus (cHBV). The data showed the drug was generally safe and well-tolerated, while indicating strong antiviral activity. Arce believes the early signs are “very promising.”
“While this is preliminary data and the sample size (n=4) is quite small,” the analyst said, “We believe that if this robust antiviral activity at a relatively low dose is confirmed at the final result (n=10) and in other higher-dose cohorts, AB-836 may emerge with a clinical profile that is not only generally safe and well-tolerated, but also strongly efficacious and highly competitive with other HBV capsid/core inhibitors.”
These developments underpin Arce’s Buy rating and $8 price target, suggesting room for ~8`0% share appreciation form current levels. (To watch Arce’s track record, click here)
3 other analysts have been tracking ABUS’ progress with 2 imploring to Buy and 1 saying Hold, all adding up to a Strong Buy consensus rating. According to the $7 average price target, shares will be changing hands for a 60% premium a year from now. (See ABUS stock analysis on TipRanks)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analyst. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.