Healthcare Business

Why One Analyst Is Doubling Its Target After Hepatitis B Study

Chris Lange

Arbutus Biopharma Corp. (NASDAQ: ABUS) shares jumped on Tuesday after the company reported positive data from its early stage clinical trial in patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. As a result, one analyst took a liking to Arbutus and doubled its price target.

Specifically, the company reported positive follow-up data from Phase 1a/1b clinical trial in chronic HBV subjects on nucleos(t)ide therapy who received a single subcutaneous injection of 60 mg of AB-729, a proprietary GalNAc delivered RNAi compound.

William Collier, president and CEO of Arbutus, noted that the new data from the study further demonstrated the robust activity of AB-729. He added that “these data keep us on track for achieving our goal of delivering a combination therapy that includes HBsAg reduction in chronic hepatitis B subjects.”

Wedbush weighed in on Arbutus, upgrading to an Outperform rating from Neutral and raising its price target to $4 from $2, implying an upside of 114% from the most recent closing price of $1.87.

The boutique brokerage firm detailed in its report:

We see the favorable safety profile, and overall magnitude and continued reduction of HBsAg levels through Week 12 at this dose as an indication that AB-729 is potentially competitive to other HBV RNAi agents in development. Furthermore, ABUS’ ultimate strategy may be differentiated by the company’s greater insight into durability of HBsAg knockdown from a single dose vs. competitors, which ultimately may allow for less frequent dosing within a defined combination treatment regimen. While we await progression of ABUS’s HBV preclinical pipeline into the clinic to gain further insight into a potential combination path, we believe ABUS shares are currently undervalued given the value attributed to similar competitor assets.

Arbutus Biopharma stock traded up about 30% to $2.45 on Tuesday, in a 52-week range of $0.82 to $3.66. The consensus price target is $9.32.