Updated with current stock price.
) --A tiny Israeli drug maker that few investors have ever heard of announces a licensing deal Tuesday with a French company similarly unknown, but the deal involves an oral hepatitis C pill so shares of the Israeli company doubling in value.
Just another day inside Wall Street's ever-expanding hepatitis C bubble.
shares are up $3.45, or 104%, to $6.75 after announcing the licensing deal for hepatitis C drug BL-8020, developed by the privately held French firm
. Almost 5 million BioLineRx shares have traded hands Tuesday already, blowing away the stock's average daily volume of a miniscule 3,600 shares.
Terms of the BioLineRx-Genoscience deal were not disclosed.
Little is known about BL-8020, which is still in preclinical testing, meaning the drug hasn't yet been studied in humans. But with all of Wall Street looking for the next hot hepatitis C drug stock, the mere mention of a potentially new oral therapy for the viral liver disease was enough to make BioLineRx the hot speculative biotech trade for Tuesday morning, fueled by a robust Twitter buzz.
BL-8020 may belong to the class of direct-acting antiviral agents known as protease inhibitors, according to an overview of the drug discovery research in hepatitis C noted on
Victrelis are both protease inhibitors and most of the other big Hep C players, including
Johnson & Johnson
, already have protease inhibitors in development.
is also developing a protease inhibitor and has been seeking a partner for the drug or a suitor to buy the entire company.
If you missed Tuesday's BioLineRx move, the next Hep C-related stock action could come early next month when Bristol-Myers Squibb is expected to close out its $2.5 billion tender offer for
( INHX). Around the same time, Inhibitex (or Bristol) is expected to announce early data from a phase II study of INX-189, the company's lead hepatitis C drug candidate.
Investors are also waiting for
to announce the FDA's decision on lifting a clinical hold on IDX184, which will allow the company to push the hepatitis C drug into additional clinical studies.
Or perhaps, clear the way for Idenix to be acquired.
Both Inhibitex's INX-189 and Idenix's IDX184 are so-called nucleoside "nuc" polymerase inhibitors -- otherwise known as the hottest and most sought after class of hepatitis C drugs currently in development. Gilead spent $11 billion to acquire
and its nuc PSI-7977.
--Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.
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Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback;
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