Human Genome Sciences
In a trial on patients infected with genotypes 2 and 3 of the hepatitis C virus, Albuferon worked just as well as Roche's Pegasys. (Genotypes refer to the virus's different genetic variations.) Fortunately, it didn't have to work better than Pegasys, because it's given every other week. The other interferon treatments, Pegasys and Schering-Plough's
Still, to get approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Human Genome Sciences and its marketing partner Novartis
Genotype 1 is also harder to treat, requiring 48 weeks of treatment versus the 24 weeks that patients infected with genotype 2 and 3 must undergo. Considering the issues that Albuferon has had with side effects -- a higher dose had to be scaled back during this trial because of serious pulmonary side effects -- the drug isn't out of the woods yet.
Investors won't have to wait too long to find out whether Albuferon is up to the task. The results from the trial testing genotype 1 patients are due in March.
Human Genome Sciences also has to worry about up-and-coming drugs like Schering's boceprevir and Vertex Pharmaceuticals'
Fellow Fool Brian Lawler called it right earlier this year, when he said Human Genome Sciences was overpriced with an $800 million market cap. Now, with a market cap far less than $300 million, and one clinical trial under its belt, Human Genome Sciences is looking a little more investment-worthy. Just don't put all your eggs in its basket.