Bloomberg News

Bionor Rises Most in 15 Months on AIDS Drug Study: Oslo Mover

February 15, 2012

(Updates with closing share price in second paragraph.)

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Bionor Pharma ASA, the Norwegian developer of an experimental AIDS treatment, jumped the most in 15 months after it confirmed the injection fought HIV in a study and described plans to develop a drug it once gave up for dead.

Bionor rose 37 percent to 3.45 kroner in Oslo trading, giving the company a market value of 623 million kroner ($108 million). The gain was the biggest since Nov. 18, 2010. More than 21 million shares were traded, more than 20 times the daily average for the past six months and the most in a day since Dec. 13, 2010.

A final analysis of data from a trial of the company’s Vacc-4x injection showed that the shot reduced the amount of HIV in patients’ blood by 64 percent when added to standard anti- AIDS pills, compared with those who got a placebo injection with the pills, Oslo-based Bionor said in a statement today. The company announced preliminary results in September.

The findings are helping Bionor revive Vacc-4x after it said in October 2010 it would abandon the shot because six-month data showed it didn’t work. The stock plunged 81 percent on the announcement. The company reversed the decision in November 2010 after further analysis indicated the treatment lowered viral levels. The company said it’s planning three further trials to decide the best strategy for developing and marketing the drug, and said finding a partner is “a natural next step.”

Therapeutic Vaccine

The first study, planned for the first half of this year, involves giving subjects additional injections with Vacc-4x in an effort to reduce their viral loads even further. The second strategy is to combine Vacc-4x with Celgene Corp.’s cancer drug Revlimid to boost patients’ immune systems.

The third trial will combine Vacc-4x with Bionor’s Vacc-C5, which is designed to stimulate antibodies against HIV. That combination may “potentially revolutionize the management of HIV infections,” Bionor said in the statement.

The company is also testing whether Vacc-4x works as well in nasal drops as injections.

Unlike pills such as Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Atripla that are the mainstay of HIV treatment, Vacc-4x is a so-called therapeutic vaccine designed to fight the virus by marshaling the body’s immune system against it. While the shot hasn’t yet been shown to subdue the virus as well as antiretroviral therapy, regular injections that keep it at relatively low levels may save patients from the side effects, costs and inconvenience of daily pills.

Trial Design

The trial involved 136 patients in five countries who had been using anti-AIDS drugs to control HIV for at least six months. Two-thirds received six shots of Vacc-4x in addition to their regular pills over 28 weeks, while the remainder received an injection of water with their medicines. After 28 weeks, both groups stopped taking the regular treatment.

Six months later, those who got Vacc-4x had 64 percent less virus in their blood than those who got the water injection, Bionor said. In the preliminary analysis announced in September, the company said the shot had helped as many as 30 percent of patients stay off treatment for more than a year, compared with 18 percent of the placebo group.

Bionor’s announcement today contained little new information, said Jonas Peciulis, an analyst at Terra Markets AS in Oslo.

“Today’s rally and such strong share price appreciation during the last couple of months is excessive, in our view,” he said in an e-mail. “Coupled with few triggers in the short term, we maintain our ‘reduce’ recommendation.’’

--Editors: Phil Serafino, Kristen Hallam

To contact the reporter on this story: Simeon Bennett in Geneva at sbennett9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net


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