Investors grabbed shares of
furiously Friday and sent the stock soaring 34% in reaction to a magazine article that reported the company's positive tests for a drug that could counter human immunodeficiency virus, the disease that causes AIDS.
Stock of the Farmingdale, NY-based company, which is engaged in the genetic engineering of drugs, jumped 31 to 120 as investors seized on an article in
of the drug's Phase I trials.
Enzo is in early trials of a drug that is aimed at boosting the immune systems of HIV-infected patients to counter the opportunistic virus that weakens an immune system's response to other viruses.
Enzo president Barry Weiner declined to comment on the stock market's reaction to the
story. But in a telephone interview, he expressed optimism about the company's early trials of a drug designed to block the replication of the virus that causes AIDS.
"In this particular trial we do have some efficacy endpoints," Weiner said.
Efficacy of a drug is typically the domain of Phase II trials on a larger group of patients.
Phase I trials are the first of a three-phase system of trials for a drug to become commercially available. In Phase I trials, a drug is tested on a group of patients to determine its safety and toxicity in the body. The completion of the next two trials can take years and very few drugs survive these tests to become an approved medicine.
Weiner said Phase I trials will be completed this year. This particular trial includes eight patients.
Using its patented gene-transfer device, known as antisense technology, Enzo has been able to boost patients' defenses against invading viruses, according to the study. Enzo's approach to HIV is different than the prevalent protease cocktail treatment that attacks the virus itself. Rather, Enzo takes stem cells from the bone marrow, which produces the blood cells for the immune system, makes them resistant to the virus, and puts them back in the body.
Through a process known as transduction, HGTV43, Enzo's vehicle for transferring genes to the patient's bone marrow or "stem" cells, was effective and took a fraction of the time previously thought possible, Weiner said in an annual meeting last week.
"This short transduction period has many advantages. Most of all, the stem cells will not differentiate to a great degree and thus, the patient will have a greater chance of receiving true stem cells," Weiner said at the meeting. "More importantly," he said in the interview, "in the post-transduction we are finding circulating cells that are demonstrating the effects of this medicine."
HIV medicines tend to capture the public's frenzied attention, he said in the interview. "But the bigger point is that theoretically the technology will work against any viral diseases," Weiner said.
Enzo will provide more details on the trial at the
Seventh Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections
in San Francisco on Jan. 30-Feb 2.