Market Overview

ContraVir CEO Talks Hep. B Treatment's Future

ContraVir CEO Talks Hep. B Treatment's Future

ContraVir Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: CTRV) is a micro-cap biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of antiviral drugs for the treatment of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections.

Earlier this month, shares spiked up after the company reported positive results for its Phase 2a multiple ascending dose study assessing CMX157 for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Last week, the stock rallied again, although no new developments had taken place. We have no explanation for last Tuesday’s high trading volume, the company told Benzinga.

To follow up on what ContraVir is up to, Benzinga sat down with CEO James E Sapirstein, former founder and CEO of Tobira Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ: TBRA), which was acquired by Allergan plc Ordinary Shares (NYSE: AGN) a few weeks ago.

David & Gilead

The HBV drug mentioned above, CMX157, recently proved more efficient than Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD)’s version, Viread, for it accomplishes comparable efficacy at 1/12th the dose.

“The issue with Viread is you have a lot of free tenofovir [the drug] floating around in your system, in your blood, in your tissue, and the amount of free tenofovir that’s in there for so many years in chronic patients tends to cause some breakdown in kidney tissue and bone tissue,” Sapirstein explained.

“What we found in our proof of concept study, at least in the data that I pointed out, which is our 25 mg cohort, showed that we don’t seem to have as much free tenofovir floating in the tissues and the body,” he added.

So, What’s Next?

“We need to figure out which is the best dose,” Sapirstein continued. “What I mean the best dose is not only the one that’s equivalent to Viread, but the one that beats Viread,” in terms of efficacy and/or safety. “We will have to make those decisions once we have the final read out of the trial.”

How Big Is The Market?

ContraVir’s CEO went on to evaluate the market potential of its HBV drug. This market, which comprises about 350 million patients, can stand around $100 billion to $125 billion. “Tenofovir, whichever drug, whether it’s Gilead’s or ours, is going to be a major player and probably take up 20 percent to 30 percent of that market. So you’re looking at a product easily with $2 to $3 billion a year revenue potential,” he noted.

Would You Like To Enter HIV Treatment Down The Road?

“[I]f we feel, after we get the HBV indication under control, that in HIV we might be able to find better safety parameters with our drug, we certainly will go after HIV as well. But right now we’re a small company. We have to use our cash wisely and HBV seems to be the better opportunity.”

A Look Into Financials

When asked about the company’s financials, Sapirstein said:

  • Balance sheet is “pretty strong.”
  • ContraVir is not looking to raise money right now.
  • Maybe next year, an opportunity to raise cash arises, given the right conditions.
  • Partners might be another way to go – and there are “several potential partners” the company is talking to.
  • They will probably need money by the end of next year, as they will have three drugs in the clinic.

Nicholas Donato participated in this report.


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