This Analyst Says Arbutus' EASL Presentations Outline Path For A Functional Cure For Chronic Hepatitis B

  • JMP Securities reiterates its Market Outperform rating but reduces the price target to $9 from $10 on Arbutus Biopharma Corp ABUS after data presentation at the European Association for the Study of the Liver International Liver Congress.
  • The analysts said that AB-729 produces consistent s-antigen reductions across e-antigen positive and negative chronic hepatitis B patients, and e-antigen reductions were also observed for all patients. 
  • JMP views that the results should support the potential use of AB-729 as a component of the functional cure across a broad range of patients.
  • Arbutus also presented initial results from CHB patients dosed QD with 50 (n=9), 100 (n=11), 200 (n=10) mg of capsid inhibitor AB-836, or placebo (n=5). 
  • Patients experienced robust reductions in HBV DNA, up to 4 log10, but there were also several ALT and AST elevations (elevated liver enzymes). 
  • Arbutus will conduct a study in healthy volunteers, likely with a longer duration, to determine if the liver enzyme elevations are beneficial or toxic. 
  • JMP suspects an "on target" effect causing the toxicity. However, Enanta Pharmaceuticals Inc ENTA reports similar DNA reductions for capsid inhibitor EDP-514 with no clinically significant ALT/AST elevations in 19 patients across three doses.
  • The analysts have lowered AB-836 probability of approval from 60% to 50%, resulting in a new price target of $9.
  • Price Action: ABUS shares are down 1.49% at $2.64 during the market session on the last check Tuesday.

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