The European Association of the Study of Liver Disease wrapped up on Sunday in Copenhagen. Here are some of the hightlights of all things hepatitis C:

INFORM-1 Data

Roche, InterMune ( ITMN) and Pharmasset ( VRUS) provided the most eagerly anticipated clinical data of the conference Saturday with results from a 14-day trial combining two experimental direct antivirals -- InterMune's ITMN-191 with Pharmasset's R7128 -- given to patients with treatment-naïve hepatitis C. Roche is a development partner on both drugs.

The companies called the INFORM-1 study "ground breaking" and rightly so in that this trial was the first time that two oral drugs -- both of which stop the hepatitis C virus from replicating itself, albeit in different ways -- were shown to be safe and effective in lowering viral loads in patients when taken in combination.

Biotech Select

However, the viral load reductions and number of patients with undetectable levels of virus achieved by various dose combinations of ITMN-191 and R7128 over 14 days fell short of past studies combining a more potent oral drug like Vertex Pharmaceuticals' ( VRTX) telaprevir with standard of care for hepatitis C (long-acting injectable interferon and ribavirin).

The INFORM-1 study is a solid proof of concept that an all-oral combination therapy for hepatitis C is possible, but Roche, InterMune and Pharmasset are going to have to show that higher doses of the drugs, especially of InterMune's ITMN-191, produce stronger antiviral efficacy in order to make it possible to eliminate the use of interferon and ribavirin.

Vertex's Telaprevir

Vertex had a fairly quiet EASL conference, mainly because telaprevir is in the middle of phase III studies that won't have data available until next year. Still, the company did present previously disclosed data showing that telaprevir is capable of significantly improving cure rates in the most difficult-to-treat patients who had failed prior treatment with the current standard drug regimen for hepatitis C -- a 48-week course of long-acting interferon plus ribavirin.

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