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Why Enanta Pharmaceuticals Inc. Shares Soared

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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Enanta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ENTA  ) , a developer of small-molecule drugs to treat infectious diseases, rallied as much as 18% after it and development partner AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV  ) reported positive results from its late-stage hepatitis-C trial involving AbbVie's direct-acting antiviral combo.

So what: According to the press release, the DAA combo drug, of which Enanta supplied ABT-450, successfully demonstrated efficacy and safety in its final four trials involving genotype 1 patients, the most common, but most difficult to treat variation of the disease. Although I would strongly encourage you to look at the results from each individual trial to gauge performance, the primary conclusion is that sustained virologic response -- with the exception of the genotype 1a, treatment-naïve study utilizing the DAA combo without ribavirin which produced "only" a 90% SVR after 12 weeks – was 92% to 100% throughout its four studies. In fact, the majority of studies delivered an eradication of detectable levels of the virus of 96% to 99%.

Now what: Clearly these are strong results, and they're very likely to merit an approval from the Food and Drug Administration before 2014 is over barring some unforeseen curveball. Plenty of investors are worried about competition from Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ: GILD  ) Sovaldi, which is more convenient in that there are fewer pills for a patient to take on a daily basis. I would contend, though, that based on the overwhelmingly strong efficacy of both drugs, that each has the opportunity to share the space and attain blockbuster status. I'd urge you not to count your chickens before they are hatched, but if my arm were twisted I'd say Enanta and AbbVie are both sitting on a potentially lucrative hepatitis-C therapy at the moment.

Enanta shares have soared in the past couple of months, but even it may have a hard time keeping up with this top stock in 2014
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Sean Williams

A Fool since 2010, and a graduate from UC San Diego with a B.A. in Economics, Sean specializes in the healthcare sector and in investment planning topics. You'll usually find him writing about Obamacare, marijuana, developing drugs, diagnostics, and medical devices, Social Security, taxes, or any number of other macroeconomic issues.

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