NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Shares of pharmaceutical company Trimeris Inc. surged 120 percent in Monday trading after the company reported "potent results" for a new drug designed to attack the virus that causes AIDS.
The drug, T-20, "produces a potent antiviral effect" by preventing the HIV virus from penetrating and infecting human cells, Trimeris said. After two-week trials, T-20 reduced HIV levels in patients' blood by as much as 99 percent.
As a result of the results, Trimeris stock (TRMS) climbed as high as 10-3/4 from a Monday close of 4-7/8, near a 52-week low of 3-1/2 touched last month. By midday, Trimeris shares had fallen back only slightly to trade at 9-11/16, up 4-13/16.
Previous HIV inhibitors attacked the virus after it had already invaded the cell, rendering it unable to reproduce. However, their effectiveness decreases with time as the virus develops a resistance.
"There is an increasing pool of HIV-infected patients who are beginning to become non-responsive to currently available treatments," said Dr. Joseph Eron, HIV researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Because T-20 attacks the virus before it can affect a cell, it renders HIV inert before it can either reproduce or develop a resistance.
"T-20 is the only drug in Phase II clinical trials that attacks HIV by a different mechanism of action," Eron said. "This means that T-20 should be effective against the emerging multiple-drug-resistant virus that is increasingly difficult to treat."
Durham, N.C.-based Trimeris said T-20 is its leading product candidate. Future tests will determine optimal doses and gather additional data on the drug's long-term prospects and possible side effects.