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(Reuters) – Viking Therapeutics Inc said on Tuesday its experimental drug met the main goal of a mid-stage trial to treat patients with a type of fatty liver disease, sending its shares about 6% higher in early trade.
With no approved treatments for the disease yet, several drugmakers including Novo Nordisk and other smaller companies such as Madrigal Pharmaceuticals Inc and Akero Therapeutics Inc are racing to enter what is expected to be a multibillion dollar U.S. market.
The California-based company said the study of the drug achieved its primary goal of reducing liver fat content, with up to 85% of patients receiving the drug VK2809 experiencing at least a 30% relative reduction in liver fat content.
The progressive fatty liver disease – non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) – is also the fastest-growing cause of liver transplants in developed countries. An estimated 5% of adults in the U.S. are affected by the disease, according to the American Liver Foundation.
Viking Therapeutics said it looked forward to reporting its 52-week data on biopsy results from some patients in the study in the first half of 2024.
The company in March said its experimental obesity drug helped reduce weight and was safe in an early-stage study.
Successful results of the two assets sets Vikings up in a good position for both partnerships and potential acquisitions, BTIG analyst Justin Zelin said.
“The only concern is that it will take longer time and cost additional finances for this drug to make it to the commercial market.”
Intercept Pharmaceuticals’ experimental drug is currently furthest in the race for getting its NASH treatment approved, with the regulator’s advisory panel set to discuss its candidate on Friday based on late-stage data. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision is expected June 22.
(Reporting by Raghav Mahobe and Sriparna Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Rashmi Aich)
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