Updated with current stock price. JERUSALEM ( TheStreet) -- 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. BioLineRx ( BLRX) 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 Genoscience. 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 Genoscience's web site. Both Vertex Pharmaceuticals' ( VRTX) Incivek and Merck's ( MRK) Victrelis are both protease inhibitors and most of the other big Hep C players, including Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ), Gilead Sciences ( GILD), Abbott ( ABT) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY), already have protease inhibitors in development. Achillion Pharmaceuticals ( ACHN) 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 Inhibitex ( 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 Idenix Pharmaceuticals ( IDIX) 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 Pharmasset and its nuc PSI-7977. --Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Adam Feuerstein. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/adamfeuerstein. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.