InterMune Shares Rise On FDA Panel Recommendation

lungsShares in InterMune soared this week after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel recommended approval for the company’s lung-disease treatment. The recommendation caused a 64 percent jump in InterMune stock prices and fueled speculation that the Brisbane, Calif.-based company is ripe for acquisition.

InterMune of Brisbane, Calif., is developing pirfenidone to treat pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that causes thickening and scarring of the lung tissue. An estimated five million people worldwide suffer from pulmonary fibrosis. Symptoms include shortness of breath, dry cough, fatigue and weakness. Patients often die of respiratory failure within three to five years. The panel’s recommendation makes the drug much more likely to be approved by the FDA. A final decision is expected in May.

No effective treatment currently exists for pulmonary fibrosis. If pirfenidone (also known as Esbriet) is approved, InterMune will have access to a market of over a billion dollars. According to Wall Street, larger pharmaceutical companies may not be able to resist such a considerable market opportunity. One analyst told the Wall Street Journal that InterMune would be a natural fit for Gilead and Roche. Roche is currently partnered with InterMune to develop hepatitis drugs.

InterMune may eventually face competition from NeoPharm. In January, we reported that the Illinois-based biopharmaceutical company filed an investigational new drug application for IL13-PE to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. On Wednesday, NeoPharm announced that it had filed for orphan drug status with the FDA. Orphan drug status is granted to those therapies that have the potential to treat rare diseases and medical conditions. NeoPharm is planning a Phase I human clinical trial of IL13-PE.

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