Biotechnology company Benitec Biopharma (ASX: BLT) has secured a US patent for its hepatitis B treatment, which, if successfully developed, could provide a “functional cure” for the disease.
The patent covers the company’s RNA interference (RNAi) agent and its use for treating the hepatitis B virus.
About 2 billion people are believed infected with hepatitis B worldwide, with 400 million people becoming chronically infected. It’s estimated hepatitis B and its complications is fatal for 1 million people each year.
Additionally, 80% of people who are chronically infected with the virus develop hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with around 500,000 people dying from the cancer annually.
Other complications from hepatitis B can comprise liver diseases such as chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Available treatments include long-term antiviral therapies which don’t completely eradicate the virus.
“The grant of this US patent is considered to be an important addition to Benitec’s intellectual property portfolio and provides protection for our advanced stage research activities towards new treatments for hepatitis B,” Benitec chief executive officer Greg West said.
Mr West said this latest patent follows two earlier grants.
Benitec’s patented treatment works by restoring immune response and destroying the virus-producing cells, providing a “functional cure”.
According to the company, pre-clinical results have shown a one-time treatment using its patented drug in conjunction with daily nucleoside inhibitor doses can provide “superior” suppression of hepatitis B.
The premise of Benitec’s treatment is to “permanently silence disease causing genes” using a combination of gene therapy and its RNAi science.
“We believe our technology has the potential to provide a one-shot cure for a wide range of diseases that are currently addressed by strict ongoing treatment regimens that have no effective treatment or only palliative care options,” the company claimed.
Benitec shares jumped more than 16% in trade, on the back of the announcement.