Drug Development

Little Abivax sees volatile shares rocket up on a (very early-stage) report of an HIV breakthrough

Linos Vandekerckhove, University of Ghent

Abivax is witnessing the latest gyration in its stock price after claiming it’s gathered evidence of success in eliminating a significant amount of the reservoirs of HIV that linger in patients. But it’s early days yet for this drug and a company that has seen plenty of ups and downs over the last year.

The Paris-based biotech {$ABVX.PA} says that in a small study with 30 HIV patients — split 3-1 on drug and placebo — ABX464 was combined with their current antiretroviral regimen to test its effect after 28 days.

Checking total HIV DNA detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, researchers reported that among the 14 evaluable patients in the study, 7 had a mean change of -40%, ranging from -27% to -67%, hitting the mark for a qualified response of at least -25%. None of the placebo patients responded similarly.

Shares jumped more than 150% on the report.

This isn’t the first wild roller coaster ride for this stock. It’s seen a number of highs and lows, first with a setback on its lead program for hep B and then with news about the HIV program. The stock dropped by half last summer when the biotech said that the Phase III hep B program was headed to a failure. And it brought the price back up by focusing on HIV and a program that it claims can provide a “functional cure” for HIV.

Red flags should be noted on the small number of patients reported out, the early stage of the work, the size of the problem and the fact that the biotech was already boasting about its potential well ahead of any data.

HIV patients keep the virus in check these days with cocktails of very effective therapies. Eliminating the HIV that lurks in patients, always threatening to rebound, has been a Holy Grail in this field for decades.

“This is the first time we see a signal with any therapeutic candidate that it may be possible to reduce HIV reservoirs in patients,” said Professor Linos Vandekerckhove, Head HIV Cure Research Center at the Department of Internal Medicine, at the University of Ghent, Belgium, a principal investigator involved in the study. ‘’Now we are looking forward to learn how this drug can be optimized to be part of a multitarget approach to further reduce the viral reservoir.”


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