Leerink starts Protagonist Therapeutics at outperform

Leerink Partners launched coverage of Protagonist Therapeutics (NASDAQ:PTGX) with an “outperform” rating and $17 price target in 12 months. The stock closed at $12.08 on Friday.

Protagonist is aiming to become the standard of care therapy for moderate-to- severe irritable bowel disease (IBD) patients, a large and growing market opportunity.

Analyst Joseph Schwartz writes that currently approved therapies are insufficient for IBD, with upwards of 50% of moderate and severe patients failing to achieve a sustained response to currently available treatments.

Protagonist’s PTG-100 drug candidate is an oral peptide treatment for ulcerative colitis that has distinct advantages over current therapies. Beyond the convenience of oral administration, Mr. Schwartz said PTG-100 also is absorbed directly into the gut, allowing for PTG-100 to bind to α4β7 integrins within the gastrointestinal associated lymphoid tissue, which large antibodies approaching via systemic circulation largely fail to accomplish.

He said a Phase 2b trial for PTG-100 is on track to begin in the fourth quarter this year, with an interim futility analysis update expected in mid-2017 and top-line results in the first half of 2018.

In addition, he said the company is completing IND-enabling studies for PTG-200 for Crohn's disease and PTG-300 for iron overload disorders.