October 13, 2011 | last updated June 1, 2012 1:50 pm

Achillion counts another hep C milestone

New Haven drug developer Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Thursday yet another potential one-a-day oral treatment against the highly infectious hepatitis C liver disease.

Achillion said its new candidate, designated ACH-3102, is second-generation treatment that targets and disrupts the blood-borne virus' NS5A gene, neutralizing the germ.

"Inhibition of the NS5A target is one of the most compelling approaches to treating hepatitis C,'' Mingjun Huang, Achillion's vice president of virology, said in a statement Thursday, announcing the discovery.

Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver failure in the U.S., many of which require transplants. It can be spread by sharing needles or having sex with an infected person, authorities say.

Achillion's pipeline includes several other anti-viral compounds for battling blood-borne ailments, including HIV. Achillion's drugs are meant to replace conventional, big-molecule hepatitis C treatments that involve regularly dosing patients with an intravenous cocktail of drugs laced with interferons.

In mid-July, Achillion began trial dosing of ACH-2928, a small-molecule drug for treating the hepatitis C virus. The U.S. trial involves 48 healthy volunteers 20 patients infected with hepatitis C.

In late June, Achillion opened Phase 2 of its clinical trial in the U.S. and Europe on 60 patients to test the efficacy and tolerability of its other drug compound, ACH-1625, as an effective treatment for chronic hepatitis.

In addition, the bioscience firm is near the end of a 12-week trial involving 60 patients in the U.S. and Europe in the second segment of its trial of ACH-1625 for the treatment of the hepatitis C virus. Results are due this quarter.

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