Conatus Pharmaceuticals has begun Phase II clinical trials to evaluate a triple-combination drug for patients with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) who have not responded to single treatment.

The trials will test CTS-1027 in combination with pegylated interferon (Pegasys) and ribavirin (Copegus), assessing antiviral activity and safety and tolerability after up to 48 weeks of therapy.

California’s SC Liver Research Consortium and The Scripps Clinic director Paul J. Pockros said that there is a significant unmet medical need in HCV patients who have not responded to pegylated interferon and ribavirin.

“These patients often progress to cirrhosis, a life-threatening condition. CTS-1027 has the potential to increase the effectiveness of the combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin in this population,” Pockros said.

CTS-1027 is an oral small-molecule compound that inhibits the activity of key members of a class of protease enzymes, the matrix metalloproteinases or MMPs.