Healthcare Business

Why Akero's Liver (NASH) Treatment Could Take This Stock Much Higher

Akero Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: AKRO) has only been public for about a year now, and despite shares surging over 30% to an all-time high in Wednesday’s session, analysts think this stock can go much higher. Wednesday’s jump came from positive results from its midstage trial for the treatment of patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Specifically, the company announced results from a 16-week analysis of secondary and exploratory endpoints in its Phase 2a Balanced study of efruxifermin (EFX), formerly known as AKR-001, in patients with NASH.

A main highlight of the report was that of the 40 treatment responders who had end-of-treatment biopsies, 48% achieved at least a one-stage improvement in fibrosis without worsening of NAFLD activity score (NAS) and 28% achieved at least a two-stage improvement in fibrosis. Additionally, 48% of responders achieved NASH resolution with no worsening of fibrosis.

At the same time, Akero saw improvements in glycemic control and dyslipidemia, as well as weight loss, across all dose groups. Treatment with EFX was reported to be generally well tolerated.

Management was quick to say that the Balanced study data exceeded expectations and demonstrated the strong potential of EFX to be a foundational monotherapy for the treatment of NASH. Andrew Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Akero, added, “We look forward to the continued development of efruxifermin and are working diligently to deliver this potentially leading treatment to patients.”

Obviously, these are stellar results for a midstage trial, and they seem to suggest that the potential for EFX as a treatment for NASH could be tremendous. Analysts agreed with this sentiment with a few hiking their targets in response:

  • Evercore ISI raised its price target to $80 from $35.
  • Canaccord Genuity reiterated a Buy rating and raised its target to $51 from $36.
  • H.C. Wainwright reiterated a Buy rating and raised its price target to $45 from $33.
  • Jefferies reiterated a Buy rating and raised its target price from $31 to $48.
  • JPMorgan reiterated it as Overweight and raised its price target to $41 from $28.

Akero Therapeutics stock gained 34% Wednesday to close at $33.37, but it was last seen at $31.99 on Thursday, within a 52-week range of $10.78 to $35.20. The consensus price target is $34.33.