Hepatitis drug shows hope at GlobeImmune

LOUISVILLE – Drug research company GlobeImmune Inc. said Monday that its developmental drug to treat hepatitis C helped patients when used in combination with another drug in a recent study.

Louisville-based GlobeImmune said its drug GI-5005 seemed to work best in patients who had a form of the hepatitus C virus considered the most difficult to treat, according to a press statement. The mid-level study on patients is one of the steps the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires before approving drugs for commercial sale.

In the study, GI-5005 was used in conjunction with the existing pegylated-interferon plus ribavirin, or P/R, drug treatment combination, or the P/R drug treatment combination was used alone, according to the press statement. GI-5005 enhanced hepatitis C-specific cellular immunity, the press statement said.

Up to 170 million people around the world are infected with hepatitis C, with an estimated 3 million to 4 million new infections every year, according to World Health Organization statistics. Hepatitis C accounts for 40 percent of all cases of end-stage cirrhosis of the liver, 60 percent of a form of liver cancer, and 30 percent of liver transplants in industrialized countries, according to the press statement.

GlobeImmune does research on drugs to treat cancer and infectious diseases based on its proprietary Tarmogen platform. Tarmogens activate the body’s immune system by stimulating cellular immunity, the company said. By contrast, traditional vaccines stimulate predominantly antibody production.

The company also is collaborating on research projects with other biotechnology heavyweights in the industry — Celgene Corp. (Nasdaq: CELG) in Summit, New Jersey, and Gilead Sciences Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD) in Foster City, California.

At the same time, GlobeImmune Inc.’s plan to raise $75 million in an initial public offering appears to remain on hold.

A company spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment on Monday. But GlobeImmune on July 2 filed documents that said it planned to raise $74.74 million by offering 5 million shares at a price range of $11 to $13. At that time, the company said it expected to use the money for future drug research and to prepare a manufacturing facility.

A variety of factors appear to have affected the IPO, industry watchers say. Turmoil in the American stock markets seems to have played a role in the delay, as well as financial problems in European markets, they say.

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