Arena Pharmaceuticals higher on ulcerative colitis data

Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY) reported positive ulcerative colitis treatment data. The report sent shares of Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) higher.

Arena shares jump of Bristol Myers data, Stockwinners

The study tested Bristol Myers’ Zeposia in patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis. At weeks 10 and 52, the experimental ulcerative colitis treatment induced clinical remission and maintained remission, respectively.

Zeposia belongs to a class of oral drugs known as sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor modules, or S1P. This is the first time an S1P drug has shown strong effectiveness in ulcerative colitis treatment, suggesting these drugs could beat out another class called janus kinase inhibitors, or JAKs.

Arena is also testing out an S1P drug, etrasimod.

Etrasimod is a next-generation, once-daily, oral, highly selective sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptor modulator discovered by Arena, and designed for optimized pharmacology and engagement of S1P receptor 1, 4 and 5 which may lead to an improved efficacy and safety profile.

Etrasimod provides systemic and local effects on specific immune cell types and has the potential to treat multiple immune-mediated inflammatory diseases including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and atopic dermatitis.

Etrasimod is an investigational compound that is not approved for any use in any country.

Canter Comments

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Alethia Young raised the firm’s price target on Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) to $88 from $68 and reiterates an Overweight rating on the shares.

Bristol Meyers’ (BMY) positive topline data this morning from the pivotal study of its sphingosine-1-phosphate ozanimod in ulcerative colitis is a “positive readthrough” to Arena’s etrasimod ulcerative colitis program, Young tells investors in a research note.

The analyst increased her probability of success to 80% from 75% and is now “very confident” in the Phase 3 success of etrasimod.

#Young also thinks that #S1P1 as a class is shaping up to be a “big commercial opportunity” and increased her peak sales to $3B.

She thinks Arena shares will be up at least 10% today on Bristol’s news given that ozanimod and etrasimod are both S1P1s and this is the first positive Phase 3 readout for the class in ulcerative colitis, says the analyst.

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse analyst Martin Auster raised the firm’s price target on Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) to $87 from $77 and keeps an Outperform rating on the shares after Bristol-Myers (BMY) announced that S1P modulator ozanimod met its primary endpoint of clinical remission in the Phase 3 “True North” study of adults with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis.

Auster views ozanimod’s topline success as de-risking for the S1P class and sees positive read-through for Arena’s etrasimod, he tells investors. He has increased his view on the odds of success for etrasimod in ulcerative colitis following Bristol’s report, the analyst added.

ARNA is up 16% to $68.04

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Immunomedics shares soar on its cancer drug

Immunomedics obtains Fast Track designation for sacituzumab govitecan

On Monday Immunomedics (IMMU) announced that its Phase 3 confirmatory ASCENT study will be halted due to compelling evidence of efficacy. This decision was based on the unanimous recommendation by the independent Data Safety Monitoring Committee, during its recent routine review of the ASCENT study.

Immunomedics receive’s FDA’s Fast Track designation for ASCENT, Stockwinners

ASCENT is a Phase 3 confirmatory study designed to validate the promising safety and efficacy data of sacituzumab govitecan observed in a Phase 2 study of heavily pretreated patients with metastatic TNBC. The primary endpoint for the study is progression-free survival, and secondary endpoints include overall survival and objective response rate, among others.

A biologics license application resubmission seeking accelerated approval of sacituzumab govitecan for the treatment of patients with mTNBC who have received at least two prior therapies for metastatic disease is currently under U.S. Food and Drug Administration review, with a PDUFA target action date of June 2, 2020.

The FDA previously granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation for sacituzumab govitecan in this disease setting.

Today Immunomedics announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Fast Track designation for sacituzumab govitecan for the treatment of adult patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer who have previously received a programmed death receptor-1 or programmed death-ligand 1 inhibitor, and a platinum containing chemotherapy in the neoadjuvant/adjuvant, locally advanced or metastatic setting, including patients who are platinum ineligible and have previously received a PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitor in the neoadjuvant/adjuvant, locally advanced, or metastatic setting.

Sacituzumab govitecan is currently being evaluated in the Phase 2 TROPHY U-01 study of patients with mUC.

Interim results from 35 patients included in the 100-patient cohort of cisplatin-eligible patients who have relapsed or are refractory to PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitor and platinum-based chemotherapy were presented at the 2019 European Society for Medical Oncology Annual Congress and showed an overall response rate of 29 percent, consistent with previously reported data in this population.

Enrollment for the full cohort of 100 patients with prior platinum-based and PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitor therapies has been completed, with topline data expected to be available in the second half of 2020.

While enrollment for the second cohort of 40 cisplatin-ineligible patients is expected to be completed later this year, the company has recently broadened the study to include a third cohort of PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitor-naive patients to assess the combination of sacituzumab govitecan with pembrolizumab.

Urothelial cancer illustration

Urothelial cancer refers to cancer that begins in cells called urothelial cells that line the urethra, bladder, ureters, renal pelvis, and some other organs. Urothelial cells are also called transitional cells. These cells can change shape and stretch without breaking apart. Also called transitional cell cancer.

IMMU is up 59 cents to $19.37. Shares jumped yesterday from $5.35 to $20 before closing at $18.70.

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Watch Jazz Pharmaceuticals!

Jazz Pharmaceuticals receives EU Marketing Authorization for Sunosi

Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) announced that the European Commission approved Sunosi to improve wakefulness and reduce excessive daytime sleepiness in adults with narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea whose EDS has not been satisfactorily treated by primary OSA therapy, such as continuous positive airway pressure.

Jazz should be in play, Stockwinners

Sunosi is the first dual-acting dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor approved to treat EDS in adults living with narcolepsy or OSA and the only licensed therapy in the European Union for the treatment of EDS in adults living with OSA.

Once-daily Sunosi is approved with doses of 75 mg and 150 mg for people with narcolepsy and doses of 37.5 mg, 75 mg and 150 mg for patients with OSA.

Sunosi is approved in Europe, Stockwinners

At Week 12 of the Phase 3 clinical trial, 150 mg of solriamfetol for narcolepsy patients and both 75 mg and 150 mg doses for OSA patients demonstrated improvements in wakefulness compared to placebo as assessed via the maintenance of wakefulness test from approximately one hour post-dose through approximately nine hours post-dose.

The European Commission approval extends to all European Union Member States, as well as Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

The Marketing Authorization Application for Sunosi is based on data from four randomized placebo-controlled studies included in the Treatment of Obstructive sleep apnea and Narcolepsy Excessive Sleepiness clinical trial program.

Data from the studies in the TONES program demonstrated the superiority of solriamfetol relative to placebo.

The Marketing Authorisation Application (MAA) for Sunosi is based on data from four randomised placebo-controlled studies included in the Treatment of Obstructive sleep apnea and Narcolepsy Excessive Sleepiness (TONES) clinical trial program. Data from the studies in the TONES program demonstrated the superiority of solriamfetol relative to placebo.

JAZZ closed at $151.05.

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The Medicines Co. sold for $9.7B

Novartis to pay $85 per share in cash for each MDCO share

The Medicines Company (MDCO) announced that it has entered into definitive agreement in which Novartis (NVS) will acquire the company for $85 per share in an all-cash transaction, implying a fully diluted equity value of $9.7B.

Novartis to pay $85 per share in cash for each MDCO share, Stockwinners

The stock closed Friday down $1.21 to $68.55. See our previous blog post.

The purchase price represents a premium of approximately 45% to The Medicines Company’s closing share price of $58.65 on November 18, the last trading day prior to news reports of a potential transaction between The Medicines Company and Novartis.

Novartis receives positive CHMP opinion for Kymriah, Stockwinners
Novartis to pay $85 per share in cash for each MDCO share, Stockwinners , Stockwinners

The transaction was unanimously approved by the boards of both companies. Under the terms of the merger agreement, Novartis will commence a tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of The Medicines Company for $85 per share in cash.

Following the completion of the tender offer, a wholly owned subsidiary of Novartis will merge with The Medicines Company and shares of The Medicines Company that have not been tendered and purchased in the tender offer will be converted into the right to receive the same price per share.

Completion of the transaction is expected in Q1 of 2020, pending the successful completion of the tender offer and other customary closing conditions.

Until that time, The Medicines Company will continue to operate as a separate and independent company. The company expects to file regulatory submissions for inclisiran in the U.S. in Q4 of 2019 and in Europe in the first quarter of 2020.

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Shares of Aravive soar on its ovarian cancer drug

Aravive reports data from ongoing Phase 1b portion of AVB-500 trial

Aravive (ARAV) announced new data from the ongoing Phase 1b portion of the Phase 1b/2 clinical trial of AVB-500 in platinum-resistant recurrent ovarian cancer patients.

Ovarian cancer data sends shares sharply higher, Stockwinners

The data from the first 31 patients treated at the 10 mg/kg dose are maturing and affirm earlier findings on the relationship between AVB-500 levels and anti-tumor response.

In this data analysis, high serum drug levels of AVB-500 were strongly predictive of anti-tumor activity with statistically significant correlation to progression-free survival.

PFS is the primary endpoint for platinum-resistant ovarian cancer clinical trials.

At the 10 mg/kg dose, patients that met or exceeded the minimal efficacious concentration of AVB-500 demonstrated a greater than four-fold increase in median PFS over those with low exposure and approximately two-fold improvement in overall response rate, including one complete response.

How AVB-500 works, Stockwinners

Patients who achieved sufficient AVB-500 exposure also showed improvements in duration of response and clinical benefit rate, with reduced chance of progressing by 3.2-fold.

The open-label, Phase 1b portion of the Phase 1b/2 clinical trial of AVB-500 enrolled patients with platinum-resistant recurrent ovarian cancer in two cohorts, one investigating a combination of AVB-500 with pegylated liposomal doxorubicin and the other a combination with paclitaxel.

All patients were treated with 10mg/kg AVB-500 every other week.

The company previously reported drug exposure-response relationship among the initial patients receiving 10 mg/kg.

The study identified a minimal efficacious concentration that is consistent with at least 95% target engagement based on independent pharmacokinetic modeling.

At the 10 mg/kg dose, 17 of 31 patients in the study achieved the minimal efficacious concentration after the first dose of AVB-500. The baseline characteristics, demographics and safety parameters were comparable between patients who achieved the minimal efficacious concentration and those who fell below that threshold.

The analysis shows that the clinical benefit at this dose level in the study can be primarily attributed to AVB-500 exposure.

Other notable findings: The patient with CR that is pending confirmation achieved the MEC of AVB-500 and was on paclitaxel. She had a baseline serum GAS6 level typical of the platinum-resistant ovarian cancer population and two-fold higher than that observed in healthy volunteers. She also exhibited poor prognostic factors, including two prior lines of therapy and platinum-free interval of less than three months.

Among the patients who responded to AVB-500, four of seven remain responders and continue on study, and two patients remain on AVB-500 as a single agent.

All four patients achieved the minimal efficacious AVB-500 concentration. Among the 13 patients whose best response was SD, four achieved the MEC of AVB-500 and remain on study. One SD patient, whose trough level was below the minimal efficacious concentration, did not progress but withdrew consent.

Because the study is still ongoing and includes only patients above the MEC, duration of response and PFS may continue to evolve.

These data confirm the company’s strategy to investigate higher doses in the current Phase 1b study, to determine if a greater proportion of patients can exceed the MEC.

According to our modeling, a dose of 20 mg/kg should allow greater than 90% of the patients to achieve the MEC.

It is anticipated 6 to 12 patients will be treated with 15mg/kg and an additional 12 patients will be treated with 20mg/kg.

An independent safety monitoring group will review data from the 15mg/kg group prior to escalation to the 20 mg/kg dose.

AVB-500 continues to be well-tolerated and there have been no serious and unexpected adverse reactions or dose-limiting toxicities to date.

ARAV closed at $6.51, last traded at $17.20.

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CRISPR Therapeutics sharply higher on gene editing data

Crispr, Vertex announce interim data from first two patients treated with CTX001

CRISPR Therapeutics (CRSP) and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (VRTX) announced positive, interim data from the first two patients with severe hemoglobinopathies treated with the investigational CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing therapy CTX001 in ongoing Phase 1/2 clinical trials.

Gene Editing shows promises in treating patients, Stockwinners

One patient with transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia received CTX001 in the first quarter of 2019 and data for this patient reflect nine months of safety and efficacy follow-up.

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Vertex and CRISPR report positive data, Stockwinners

One patient with severe sickle cell disease received CTX001 in mid-2019 and data for this patient reflect four months of safety and efficacy follow-up.

These studies are ongoing and patients will be followed for approximately two years following infusion.

Several additional patients have been enrolled and have had drug product manufactured across the two studies.

The patient with TDT has the beta0/IVS-I-110 genotype and required 16.5 transfusions per year before enrolling in the clinical study. The patient achieved neutrophil engraftment 33 days after CTX001 infusion and platelet engraftment 37 days after infusion.

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Two serious adverse events occurred, neither of which the principal investigator considered related to CTX001: pneumonia in the presence of neutropenia and veno-occlusive liver disease attributed to busulfan conditioning; both subsequently resolved.

At nine months after CTX001 infusion, the patient was transfusion independent and had total hemoglobin levels of 11.9 g/dL, 10.1 g/dL fetal hemoglobin, and 99.8% F-cells.

The patient with SCD experienced seven vaso-occlusive crises per year before enrolling in the clinical study. The patient achieved neutrophil and platelet engraftment 30 days after CTX001 infusion.

Three SAEs occurred, none of which the PI considered related to CTX001: sepsis in the presence of neutropenia, cholelithiasis, and abdominal pain, all of which resolved.

At four months after CTX001 infusion, the patient was free of VOCs and had total hemoglobin levels of 11.3 g/dL, 46.6% fetal hemoglobin, and 94.7% F-cells.

William Blair

The firm upgrades Crispr Therapeutics to Outperform after ‘impressive’ data .

William Blair analyst Raju Prasad upgraded Crispr Therapeutics to Outperform from Market Perform after the company presented initial results from the ongoing Phase I/II trials of CTX001 for the treatment of beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease.

The analyst says today’s data cut was “impressive” as it exceeds the 30% fetal hemoglobin threshold that he viewed as critical.

To date, Crispr has shown initial proof-of-concept in beta thalassemia and sickle cell that exceeded expectations and de-risks its wholly owned immuno-oncology platform, Prasad tells investors in a research note. Further, given the “optionality” of the CRISPR-Cas9 platform and potential cost-effectiveness when compared with lentiviral-based therapies, Crispr could be a potential takeout candidate, adds the analyst.

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Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs analyst Salveen Richter raised his 12-month price target for Crispr Therapeutics (CRSP) to $75 from $52 while keeping a Neutral rating on the shares.

The first clinical results from the ongoing CTX001 trial impress, Richter tells investors in a research note. The analyst, who cautions the data represents small patient numbers, is “highly encouraged” with the profile of CTX001 and sees today’s positive data as initial validation of Crispr’s ex-vivo gene editing platform.

Roth Capital

Roth Capital analyst Tony Butler raised his price target for Crispr Therapeutics to $100 from $65 and maintained a Buy rating after the company and partner Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) announced the first CTX001 early clinical data in two patients.

In a research note to investors, Butler says that though only two patients have been treated with CTX001, these data provide a hint that CRISPR-Cas9 could be curative for hemoglobinopathies, adding that gene-editing is “clearly not a fiction.”

The results utilizing gene-editing with CRISPR-Cas9 to create allogenic CAR-T cells against various cancers may also increase its probability of success based on successful editing in the CLIMB trials, he said.

Cantor Fitzgerald

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Alethia Young raised her price target for Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) to $229 from $217 after the company and partner Crispr Therapeutics (CRSP) announced the first CTX001 early clinical data in two patients.

The analyst finds the data “highly encouraging” and thinks this could be an “exciting pipeline program of focus for Vertex by this time next year.” She increased her probability of success for CTX001 to 20% from 10% and reiterates an Overweight rating on shares of Vertex.

Piper Jaffray

Piper Jaffray analyst Edward Tenthoff raised his price target for Crispr Therapeutics (CRSP) to $107 from $100 after the company and partner Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) reported first-ever CTX001 data on one beta thalassemia and one sickle cell disease patient. Tenthoff is “impressed by these early results showing potential curative effect and look for more patients and longer follow-up next year.” He reiterates an Overweight rating on Crispr Therapeutics.

CRSP is up $10 to $68.55. VRTX is up $5.07 to $215.07

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Medicines Co. is in play

Novartis holds talks about potential acquisition of Medicines Co

Medicines Co. (MDCO) has attracted takeover interest from companies including Novartis (NVS), which has been holding talks about a potential acquisition of the New Jersey-based company, Bloomberg’s Ed Hammond, Nabila Ahmed and Dinesh Nair report, citing people familiar with the matter.

Novartis is eyeing Medicines Co., Stockwinners

According to the people, Novartis is conducting due diligence on Medicines Co. Other potential acquirers have also expressed interest in buying Medicines Co., they add.

Novartis is looking for products to replace its out of patent products, Stockwinners

The Medicines Company focuses on developing therapeutics for the treatment of therosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The company is developing Inclisiran, an investigational RNA interference therapeutic that inhibits production of proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9, which controls LDL-cholesterol levels.

Novartis has historically had a strong cardiovascular drug franchise, but lost ground when Diovan, once a $6 billion-per-year seller, lost patent protection in 2012 and left the company without an immediate, innovative follow-up product.

Novartis Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan has relied on deals to sharpen the company’s focus on innovative drugs for cancer and rare diseases. The Basel, Switzerland-based company has announced close to $16 billion of acquisitions since he took over as CEO in February 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He has also spun off the Alcon Inc. eye-care division and ditched a stake in a consumer-health venture.

Baird’s Comments

Baird analyst Madhu Kumar said he has utter conviction that The Medicine’s Co. inclisiran can disrupt cholesterol therapy. The analyst cited its results from the ORION-9/10/11 trial which was released and supported his thesis. He said the remaining question is whether the company can find an acquirer or partner to help launch inclisiran.

Kumar reiterated his Outperform rating and $100 price target on The Medicine’s Co. shares.

JPMorgan’s Take

JPMorgan analyst Jessica Fye noted that Bloomberg is reporting that Novartis (NVS) and other potential acquirers have expressed interest in buying The Medicines Company (MDCO), adding that her talks with investors indicate that Novartis is viewed as the most likely buyer.

She further notes that Medicines Co. shares were trading above her standalone valuation at yesterday’s close, which she attributes to some anticipation of a deal, and that today’s move puts the stock in a price range greater than 40% above her standalone target.

Outside of Novartis, Fye also believes an acquirer could be a less expected company, but if only one company is interested they could try to “wait it out” to the point where investors might begin to worry that Medicines could have to take on the substantial inclisiran launch investment independently. However, if multiple players are interested, as Bloomberg suggests, she thinks “competitive tension” could lead to a near-term acquisition.

MDCO is up $12.35 to $71.00.

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MorphoSys higher on lymphoma data

MorphoSys says tafasitamab B-MIND study successfully passed futility analysis

MorphoSys (MOR) announced that the ongoing tafasitamab phase 3 B-MIND study has successfully passed the pre-planned, event-driven interim analysis for futility.

MorphoSys higher on lymphoma data, Stockwinners

An independent data monitoring committee reviewed the data and recommended to increase the number of patients from currently 330 to 450.

B-MIND compares the efficacy of the CD19 antibody tafasitamab plus bendamustine with rituximab plus bendamustine in patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma, or r/r DLBCL.

Tafasitamab (MOR208) is a humanized monoclonal antibody , Stockwinners

“Within the interim analysis for futility, data were assessed by the IDMC for the probability of a positive study at primary completion.

The IDMC assessed efficacy data in both the overall patient population as well as in the biomarker-positive subpopulation. The biomarker, described as patients with a low natural killer cell count at baseline, was implemented as a co-primary endpoint in an amendment of B-MIND in the first quarter 2019.

The recommendation to enroll more patients aims to increase statistical power of the study in the biomarker-described patient subpopulation as well as the overall patient population. Data of the analysis were not shared with MorphoSys.

As a continuation of the B-MIND study protocol, enrollment will proceed according to the original inclusion and exclusion criteria to allow for ongoing comparison of the efficacy in the overall and biomarker positive patient population.

Top line results are expected to be available in Q1 2022,” the company stated.

Piper Jaffray Comments

Piper Jaffray analyst Danielle Brill said news that MOR208 successfully passed the B-MIND trial futility analysis is “a positive clearing event for investors” that de-risks the stock, even though enrollment will be expanded from 300 to 450 patients and it is unclear how strong the efficacy signal was in the overall population.

She continues to expect FDA and EMA approval for MOR208 based on L-MIND data by mid-2020 and keeps an Overweight rating on MorphoSys shares.

MOR +$1.98 to $28.09.

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BeiGene drug wins FDA approval for rare form of lymphoma

The FDA granted accelerated approval to the capsules for treatment of adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma, who have received at least one prior therapy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved BeiGene Ltd’s lymphoma drug, accepting the Chinese drugmaker’s strategy of largely using data from trials held outside the United States to file for approval.

FDA granted accelerated approval to the capsules for treatment of adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma
FDA granted approval to the capsules for treatment of aduls with mantle cell lymphoma, Stockwinners

The company tested the treatment, Brukinsa, in 118 patients with mantle cell lymphoma enrolled in two studies. About three-quarters were Asian, 21% Caucasian, and between 10% to 15% were from the United States, BeiGene said.

The FDA granted accelerated approval to the capsules for treatment of adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma, who have received at least one prior therapy.

Mantle cell lymphoma is a rare, aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer that most often affects men aged over 60. The company estimates between 3,000 and 4,000 new patients were diagnosed in the United States in 2015.

Last month, BeiGene (BGNE) and Amgen (AMGN) announced a global strategic oncology collaboration for the commercialization and development in China of Amgen’s XGEVA, KYPROLIS, and BLINCYTO, and the joint global development of 20 oncology assets in Amgen’s pipeline, with BeiGene responsible for development and commercialization in China.

In connection with the collaboration, Amgen said it will purchase a 20.5% stake in BeiGene for approximately $2.7B in cash at $174.85 per American Depositary Share, or ADS.

BGNE closed at $196.40.

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Nektar Therapeutics is in focus

Nektar presents new clinical, preclinical data from immuno-oncology pipeline

Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR) announced the presentation of five clinical and preclinical data abstracts focused on its immuno-oncology portfolio at the 2019 Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting.

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Nektar Therapeutics is in focus, Stockwinners

New clinical results from the PIVOT-02 Phase 1/2 study were shared in an oral presentation titled, “Clinical activity of BEMPEG plus NIVO in previously untreated patients with metastatic melanoma: updated results from the Phase 1/2 PIVOT-02 Study” during the Combination Phase 1-2 Clinical Trials Session on Saturday, November 9th.

Additional preclinical data presented at the annual meeting highlighted NKTR-255, an IL-15 agonist discovered by Nektar.

The presentations demonstrated that NKTR-255 enhanced activity of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity against tumor cells in vitro, and that it also enhanced in vivo efficacy of ADCC-inducing antibodies in models of human solid tumors.

NKTR-255 is designed to engage the IL-15 pathway to stimulate and expand natural killer cells and promote the survival and expansion of memory CD8+ T cells without inducing suppressive regulatory T cells.

Nektar product pipeline, Stockwinners

NKTR-255 is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial in patients with either relapsed or refractory Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or multiple myeloma.

“The data presented at this year’s SITC meeting continue to showcase the potential of our I-O portfolio, most notably our key IL-2 pathway program, bempeg, and our new IL-15 pathway program, NKTR-255,” said Jonathan Zalevsky, Ph.D., Chief Research & Development Officer at Nektar.

“The 18-month follow-up data presentation for the Stage IV melanoma patients in our PIVOT-02 study reinforces the promise of BEMPEG and NIVO to work synergistically to achieve a deepening of response over time, while maintaining a favorable safety and tolerability profile. We’re pleased that at this 18 month timepoint, 85% of patients who achieved responses have ongoing responses and median PFS has not yet been reached.”

Separately, Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR) announced updated results from the first-in-human Phase 1a study of NKTR-358, a novel T regulatory cell stimulator in development for the treatment of autoimmune and other chronic inflammatory conditions.

Nektar reports new data, Stockwinners

The data, which were presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Atlanta, show that treatment with NKTR-358 led to a marked and selective dose-dependent expansion in the numbers and proliferative capacity of FoxP3+CD25bright Treg cells, and a measurable activation of Treg cells.

These data are a continuation of initial results reported at 2019 Annual European Congress of Rheumatology in June 2019.

NKTR-358 is designed to treat autoimmune and inflammatory conditions by correcting the immune system imbalance that results from reduced numbers and impaired function of immune-regulating Treg cells.

NKTR-358 works by targeting the interleukin-2 receptor complex to stimulate the proliferation and activation of Treg cells.

NKTR-358 was discovered by Nektar and is being co-developed and commercialized in partnership with Eli Lilly (LLY).

Eli Lilly announces Alimta label expanded by FDA, Stockwinners
Eli Lilly and Nektar report new data, Stockwinners

“We’re pleased to report that final results from our first-in-human Phase 1a study continue to support the positive safety and tolerability profile of NKTR-358, while reinforcing its selective and measurable impact on the numbers, expansion and activation of regulatory T cells or Tregs,” said Brian Kotzin, M.D., senior VP, Clinical Development and NKTR-358 Program Lead at Nektar.

“Autoimmune and inflammatory diseases are marked by an imbalance in the body’s self-tolerance and self-regulatory immune pathways, and the ability of NKTR-358 to expand functional Tregs could help restore normal balance.

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Watch Shares of Adverum Biotechnologies!

Adverum Biotechnologies reports additional data from Phase 1 trial of ADVM-022

Adverum Biotechnologies (ADVM) announced additional clinical data for the first cohort of patients in the ongoing OPTIC phase 1 clinical trial of ADVM-022, the company’s intravitreal injection gene therapy, in treatment-experienced patients with wet age-related macular degeneration.

Adverum Biotechnologies reports additional data from Phase 1 trial of ADVM-022 in patients with wet age-related macular degeneration, Stockwinners

Adverum also announced enrollment plans for the third and fourth cohorts in the ongoing OPTIC trial.

The third cohort has been initiated and patients will be treated with ADVM-022 at a dose of 2 x 10^11 vg/eye, the same dose used in the second cohort.

Subsequently, patients in the fourth cohort will be treated with ADVM-022 at a dose of 6×10^11 vg/eye, the same dose used in the first cohort.

Since inflammation has generally been mild and responsive to steroid eye drops, patients in the third and fourth cohorts will receive prophylactic steroid eye drops instead of prophylactic oral steroids.

Previously, on September 12, 2019, Adverum presented data from the first cohort in the ongoing OPTIC trial at a pre-specified 24-week time point.

Wet and Dry Macular Degeneration, Stockwinners

The additional data for this cohort includes key outcomes with a median follow-up of 34 weeks.

In treatment-experienced patients previously requiring frequent anti-VEGF injections to maintain vision, the data continue to demonstrate that the single ADVM-022 injection in this cohort was sufficient to maintain vision, with zero rescue injections required for any of the six patients.

Aaron Osborne, MBBS, chief medical officer of Adverum, added, “The clinical profile of ADVM-022 demonstrates this gene therapy’s potential to be a significant advance for patients with wet AMD. It is very encouraging that there continues to be zero rescue injections in this cohort of treatment-experienced patients with more than 6 months follow-up on all patients. We are expanding the development of ADVM-022 and are excited to share that enrollment is now open for the third cohort in OPTIC.

We look forward to being able to deliver this novel intravitreal gene therapy candidate as soon as possible to patients with wet AMD and diabetic retinopathy, our second indication for ADVM-022. We are grateful for all of the investigators, patients, and caregivers who continue to participate in the OPTIC trial.”

Adverum plans to begin dosing patients in the third cohort of the OPTIC trial in the fourth quarter of 2019 and plans to begin enrollment in the fourth cohort in the first quarter of 2020.

Adverum plans to present 52-week data from the first cohort of patients in the OPTIC trial as well as 24-week data from the second cohort of patients in the first half of 2020.

Adverum plans to submit an investigational new drug application for the treatment of ADVM-022 in diabetic retinopathy in the first half of 2020.

Piper Jaffray

Commenting on Adverum Biotechnologies update at AAO, Piper Jaffray analyst Tyler Van Buren notes that zero rescue injections have been required and disease activity by OCT and visual acuity has been maintained with 6 ADVM-022 patients now out to a median of 34 weeks.

Importantly, despite the intense criticism over inflammation and visual acuity fluctuations during the initial data disclosure last month, numerous KOLs at the conference were unconcerned and believe that ADVM-022 looks like a potential treatment option so far, he contends.

Overall, the analyst argues that safety continues to be clean in these initial patients and looks forward to the 52-week update in first half of 2020.

Van Buren reiterates an Overweight rating and $14 price target on the shares as ADVM-022 continues to look like a viable gene therapy candidate for wet AMD, which has $1B-plus potential.

ADVM closed at $5.29.

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Sarepta reports positive results for muscular dystrophy Type 2E treatment

Sarepta announces results from gene therapy trial for beta sarcoglycanopathy

Sarepta Therapeutics (SPRT) announced the nine-month functional results from three Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy Type 2E ,LGMD2E, clinical trial participants who received SRP-9003. SRP-9003 is an investigational gene therapy intended to transduce skeletal and cardiac muscle with a gene that codes for the full-length, native beta-sarcoglycan protein, the lack of which is the sole cause of LGMD2E.

Sarepta drops after U.K. trial halt,
Sarepta rises on muscular dystrophy data, Stockwinners

In Cohort 1 of the SRP-9003 study, three participants ages 4-13 were treated with an infusion of SRP-9003 at a dose of 5x1013vg/kg.

Improvements in functional outcomes were observed at day 270 for all three participants.

“We have now observed consistent functional improvements, in addition to high levels of expression of the missing protein of interest and strong results in related biomarkers, in both of our first cohorts for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and LGMD2E. We intend to test one higher dose of SRP-9003 in LGMD2E participants, select our clinical dose and then advance our SRP-9003 program, along with our other five LGMD programs, as rapidly as possible,” said Doug Ingram, Sarepta’s president and chief executive officer.

“With the results of our first LGMD2E cohort, Sarepta continues to build its gene therapy engine, an enduring model created to design, develop and bring to the medical and patient community transformative therapies for those living with, and too often dying from, rare genetic disease.”

No new safety signals were observed and the safety profile seen to date supports the ability to dose escalate in the next cohort of the study. As previously disclosed, two participants in the study had elevated liver enzymes, one of which was designated a serious adverse event (SAE), as the participant had associated transient increase in bilirubin. Both events occurred when the participants were tapered off oral steroids and, in both instances, elevated liver enzymes returned to baseline and symptoms resolved following supplemental steroid treatment.

SPRT is up $5.52 to $86.86.

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Intercept falls on NASH study

Intercept falls after releasing ‘supportive data’ from Phase 3 NASH study

Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT) overnight announced additional “supportive data” from its Phase 3 Regenerate study of obeticholic acid in patients with liver fibrosis due to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

stockwinners.com ICPT

Intercept falls after releasing ‘supportive data’ from Phase 3 NASH study, Stockwinners

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is liver inflammation and damage caused by a buildup of fat in the liver. It is part of a group of conditions called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. You may be told you have a “fatty liver.”

The new data based on additional analyses show that obeticholic acid “demonstrated robust efficacy across a range of additional histologic and biochemical parameters,” Intercept said in a statement.

The data are being presented today at the International Liver Congress in Vienna, Austria.

The primary efficacy analysis assessed efficacy at 18 months in 931 patients with stage 2 or 3 liver fibrosis due to NASH.

Patients with biopsy proven NASH with fibrosis were randomized 1:1:1 to receive placebo, OCA 10 mg or OCA 25 mg once daily.

A repeat biopsy was conducted after 18 months for histologic endpoint assessment.

Overall, study discontinuations in the primary efficacy analysis population were balanced across treatment groups.

As previously reported, in the primary efficacy analysis, once-daily OCA 25 mg met the primary endpoint of fibrosis improvement with no worsening of NASH in 23.1% of patients compared to 11.9% of placebo patients at the planned 18-month interim analysis, the company said.

In the primary efficacy analysis, a numerically greater proportion of patients in both OCA treatment groups compared to placebo achieved the primary endpoint of NASH resolution with no worsening of liver fibrosis; however, this did not reach statistical significance.

As agreed with the FDA, in order for the primary objective to be met, the study was required to achieve one of the two primary endpoints, it added.

Additional supportive efficacy analyses were conducted using the per protocol population.

Approximately three-fold more patients in the OCA 25 mg group achieved an improvement of fibrosis by greater than or equal to 2 stages compared to placebo, Intercept reported.

ICPT is down 12%, or $14.14, to $106.54.

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Ascendis Pharma reports positive data, shares jump

Phase 3 heiGHt trial met primary objective in children with pediatric growth hormone deficiency

Ascendis Pharma (ASND) announced positive top-line results from the phase 3 heiGHt Trial, a randomized, open-label, active-controlled trial that compared once-weekly TransCon Growth Hormone to a daily growth hormone in children with pediatric growth hormone deficiency.

Ascendis Pharma reports positive data, shares jump, Stockwinners

The trial met its primary objective, demonstrating that TransCon hGH was observed to be non-inferior and, additionally, superior to the daily hGH on the primary endpoint of annualized height velocity at 52 weeks.

In the primary analysis of the intent-to-treat population using ANCOVA, TransCon hGH demonstrated an AHV of 11.2 cm/year compared to 10.3 cm/year for the daily hGH.

The treatment difference was 0.86 cm/year with a 95% confidence interval of 0.22 to 1.50 cm/year.

The AHV for TransCon hGH was significantly greater than the daily hGH.

The AHV was greater for TransCon hGH than for the daily hGH at each visit, with the treatment difference reaching statistical significance from and including week 26 onward.

The incidence of poor responders was 4% and 11% in the TransCon hGH and daily hGH arms, respectively. All sensitivity analyses completed from the trial support the primary outcome, indicating the robustness of these results.

Results from the trial indicate that TransCon hGH was generally safe and well-tolerated, with adverse events consistent with the type and frequency observed with daily hGH therapy and comparable between arms of the trial.

ASND is up $44.64 to $113.95.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Alethia Young raised her price target for Ascendis Pharma to $185 from $100 as she was “positively surprised” that the TransCon hGH study for growth hormone achieved a superior result on annualized growth velocity of .86cm.

The analyst thinks that the expectation had been non-inferiority with a slightly favorable numerical trend. Young also thinks safety was clean as well, which has been a challenge with other long acting growth hormones.

She would expect shares to trade up 50%-100% based on her model, and sees continued upside from shares as additional programs, such as TransCon PTH, achieve proof of concept and more candidates from the proprietary TransCon platform enter the clinic. The analyst reiterates an Overweight rating on the shares.

Growth hormone (GH) has been available for management of the short stature associated with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) for more than 60 years; recombinant DNA-derived human growth hormone (rhGH) has been available since 1985. While availability is no longer a problem, there still remains a number of difficulties with the diagnosis of GHD, resulting mainly from the lack of appropriate tools to make (or exclude) the diagnosis reliably.

The incidence of short stature associated with GHD has been estimated to be about 1:4000 to 1:10000 . It is the primary indication for GH treatment in childhood, which presently requires daily subcutaneous injections for the patient and substantial cost for the healthcare system. Based on these premises, it is clear that an accurate diagnosis is essential

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Spark Therapeutics sold for $4.8 billion

Roche acquires Spark Therapeutics for $114.50 per share, a 122% premium

Spark tumbles on hemophilia study , Stockwinners

Roche acquires Spark Therapeutics for $114.50 per share , Stockwinners

Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement for Roche (RHHBY) to fully acquire Spark Therapeutics at a price of $114.50 per share in an all-cash transaction.

This corresponds to a total equity value of approximately $4.8B on a fully diluted basis, inclusive of approximately $500M of projected net cash expected at close.

The per share price represents a premium of 122% to Spark’s closing price on Feb. 22, 2019. The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of both Spark and Roche.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Roche will commence a tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of Spark’s common stock, and Spark will file a recommendation statement containing the unanimous recommendation of the Spark board that Spark shareholders tender their shares to Roche.

Spark Therapeutics will continue its operations in Philadelphia as an independent company within the Roche Group.

The closing of the transaction is expected to take place in Q2 of 2019.

Bernstein analyst Vincent #Chen notes that he has long seen Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) as a takeout candidate in gene therapy after the Wall Street Journal reported Roche (RHHBY) is near acquiring the company for close to $5B.

The analyst thinks the deal makes sense as adding hemophilia gene therapy to Hemlibra sets up Roche as a leader in next-gen non-factor hemophilia drugs, CNS gene therapy pipeline is a good fit for Roche’s growing neuroscience franchise, and as it serves as a cornerstone in establishing Roche as a gene therapy leader, to rival the likes of Novartis (NVS).


Credit Suisse analyst Martin Auster notes that the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Roche (RHHBY) is nearing a deal with Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) for $5B.

The analyst believes the transaction value implies the re-emergence of Spark’s hemophilia A gene therapy program with a competitive profile and substantial value assigned to additional pipeline programs, such as SPK-3006 for Pompe, and the technology platform.

Spark’s acquisition would further strengthen the company’s position in the hemophilia space, he contends. Further, Auster argues that the deal may increase M&A interest among other gene therapy names in his coverage universe, which include BioMarin (BMRN), Sarepta (SRPT), Ultragenyx (RARE), PTC (PTC) and Solid Biosciences (SLDB). He sees particularly strong read-through to Sarepta.


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