(Adds CEO and analyst comments)
By Saumya Joseph
June 14 (Reuters) - Enanta Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Friday its treatment for a highly contagious respiratory infection met the main goal of reducing virus levels in the body in a mid-stage study.
The therapy, EDP-938, developed for treating respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection which currently has no available treatment, also helped improve symptoms in patients compared to placebo, the company said.
RSV could lead to serious lung infections and even death in babies and the elderly who have a weaker immune system.
Enanta's EDP-938 works by inhibiting the replication of the RSV virus within the infected cell, while certain other experimental treatments attempt to stop the virus from infecting the cell.
"We know that people, by the time they are symptomatic, have a lot of infected cells and we're hoping that that might mean we can treat at a later stage in the infection with our drug versus some of the others," Chief Executive Officer Jay Luly told Reuters.
An average of 57,527 children younger than 5 years and 177,000 adults older than 65 years are hospitalized due to RSV infections every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Luly said the condition represents a potential market opportunity of hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States and about a billion dollars globally.
EDP-938 is "hitting the virus where it hurts", said Roth Capital Partners analyst Yasmeen Rahimi, adding that the clean safety data potentially allows Enanta to test higher doses in future studies.
Drugmakers such as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and Johnson & Johnson have abandoned certain programs to find a treatment for the condition, and an experimental vaccine developed by Novavax Inc had failed a late-stage trial, earlier this year.
EDP-938 was generally safe and well tolerated and no drug discontinuations were observed, the results showed (Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)