Audentes Therapeutics sold for $3 billion

Astellas to acquire Audentes for $60 per share in cash

Astellas Pharma (ALPMY) and Audentes Therapeutics (BOLD) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement for Astellas to acquire Audentes at a price of $60.00 per share in cash, representing a total equity value of approximately $3B.

Under the agreement, which has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both Astellas and Audentes, Astellas will acquire Audentes through Asilomar Acquisition Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Astellas US Holding, Inc.

Gene Therapy pays off nicely for Audentes Therapeutics, Stockwinners

Asilomar will commence a tender offer for all outstanding shares of common stock of Audentes, for a price of $60.00 per share in cash.

Promptly upon successful completion of the Tender Offer, Asilomar will be merged into Audentes, and any remaining shares of common stock of Audentes will be canceled and converted into the right to receive the same $60.00 per share price.

Astellas pays $3 billion for Audentes Therapeutics, Stockwinners

The board of directors of Audentes has resolved to recommend that Audentes stockholders tender their shares to Astellas. Consummation of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including US antitrust clearance and the tender of a majority of Audentes’ outstanding shares of common stock.

The offer price represents a premium of 110% to Audentes’ closing share price of $28.61 on December 2, 2019.

The all-cash transaction is valued at approximately $3B including the purchase of all common shares, options, restricted stock units and other securities.

The Tender Offer period is expected to commence in the next few weeks and to expire 20 business days after its commencement, unless otherwise extended.

If the Tender Offer conditions are not satisfied, Astellas may be required to extend the Tender Offer under certain circumstances. Astellas is still reviewing the impact of a consummation of the transaction on its financial results for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.

Audentes Therapeutics, Inc. focuses on developing and commercializing gene therapy products for patients living with serious, life-threatening rare diseases caused by single gene defects.

The company is developing AT132, which is in Phase I/II clinical studies for the treatment of X-linked myotubular myopathy (XLMTM); AT342 that is in Phase I/II clinical studies to treat crigler-najjar syndrome; AT845, which is in preclinical studies for the treatment of pompe disease; and AT307 to treat CASQ2 subtype of catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia. 

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ChemoCentryx shares soar on data

ChemoCentryx, VFMCRP say pivotal phase-III ADVOCATE trial met primary endpoints

Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma, or VFMCRP, and ChemoCentryx (CCXI) announced positive topline data from the pivotal phase-III ADVOCATE trial of avacopan, an orally administered selective complement 5a receptor inhibitor, for the treatment of patients with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis (ANCA-associated vasculitis or ANCA vasculitis).

ChemoCentryx shares soar on its ANCA drug, Stockwinners

ANCA vasculitis is an autoimmune disease affecting small blood vessels in the body. It is caused by autoantibodies called ANCAs, or Anti-Neutrophilic Cytoplasmic Autoantibodies.

This global study, in which a total of 331 patients with ANCA vasculitis were enrolled, met both of its primary endpoints, disease remission at 26 weeks and sustained remission at 52 weeks, as assessed by the Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Score, or BVAS.

Remission was defined as a BVAS score of zero and being off glucocorticoid treatment for ANCA vasculitis for at least the preceding four weeks.

BVAS remission at week 26 was achieved in 72.3% of the avacopan treated subjects vs. 70.1% of subjects in the glucocorticoid standard of care control group.

Sustained remission at 52 weeks was observed in 65.7% of the avacopan treated patients vs. 54.9% in the glucocorticoid standard of care control group, achieving both non-inferiority and superiority to glucocorticoid standard of care.

Importantly, subjects who received avacopan experienced additional benefits compared to those in the glucocorticoid standard of care control group.

These benefits, assessed as pre-specified secondary endpoints, include: Significant reduction in glucocorticoid-related toxicity; Significant improvement in kidney function in patients with renal disease at baseline; Improvements in health-related quality of life metrics.

The topline safety results revealed an acceptable safety profile in this serious and life threatening disease with fewer subjects having serious adverse events in the avacopan group than in the glucocorticoid standard of care control group.

A full analysis of the data is underway and expanded results are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. “These results exceed our expectations,” said Thomas J. Schall, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of ChemoCentryx.

“Today we mark the dawn of a new and historic period in the lives of ANCA vasculitis patients. This day we have for the first time demonstrated that a highly targeted therapy aimed at the very center of the ANCA disease process is superior to the traditional approach of broad immune suppression therapy; a therapy which the present findings may make obsolete. Until now ANCA vasculitis patients have had to endure regimens that contain chronic high doses of steroids and all their noxious effects, but with today’s data it is clear that the time of making patients sick with steroid therapy in an attempt to make their acute vasculitis better may at last be over. Working with our partner VFMCRP, we plan to make regulatory submissions for full marketing approval to both the European Medicines Agency and the FDA in 2020.”

CCXI is up $26.68 to $34.65

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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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Esperion Therapeutics higher on cholesterol data

Esperion announces JAMA publication of results of Phase 3 study of bempedoic acid

Esperion Therapeutics (ESPR) announce that the results from the 779 patient, 52 week, Phase 3, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study of bempedoic acid were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Esperion announces 'positive' top-line results from bempedoic acid study, Stockwinners.com
Esperion announces ‘positive’ results from bempedoic acid study, Stockwinners

Bempedoic acid is being developed as a, convenient, once-daily, oral therapy for the treatment of patients with elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol added onto maximally tolerated statin therapy.

Bempedoic acid and the bempedoic acid 180 mg + ezetimibe 10 mg fixed dose combination tablets’ new drug applications are currently under regulatory review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the marketing authorisation applications are currently under centralized review by the European Medicines Agency.

Bempedoic acid in action, Stockwinners

Study 2 evaluated the long-term safety, tolerability and efficacy, of bempedoic acid 180 mg versus placebo in 779 patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and/or heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia inadequately controlled with current lipid-modifying therapies, added-on to maximally tolerated statin therapy, which may mean no statin at all.

The JAMA publication includes results from the primary efficacy endpoint of LDL-C lowering at 12-weeks and key secondary endpoints of safety and tolerability over 52-weeks, including that bempedoic acid: significantly lowered LDL-cholesterol by 17 percent on background maximally tolerated statin therapy at 12 weeks, and the effect was durable through 52-weeks; significantly lowered high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, an important marker of the underlying inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease, by 19 percent, and the effect was durable through 52-weeks; reduced hemoglobin A1c by 0.21% vs. placebo in patients with diabetes at 12 weeks, favorable glycemic control and less worsening of diabetes persisted over the 52-week treatment period.

The study showed overall adverse event rates comparable with placebo at 52 weeks, and the proportion of patients with reported serious adverse events was similar compared with placebo at 52 weeks; and showed adjudicated 3-component major adverse cardiac event rates of 2.7% with BA and 4.7% with placebo.

“The CLEAR Wisdom trial demonstrated that bempedoic acid provided additional LDL-cholesterol lowering in patients on background maximally tolerated statin therapy and had an overall adverse event profile that was comparable to placebo,” said Anne C. Goldberg MD, FACP, FAHA, FNLA, Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Lipid Research at Washington University, St. Louis and lead study author.

ESPR +$2.42 to $41.14.

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Watch shares of Mirati Therapeutics

Mirati presents data from sitravatinib in combination with nivolumab trials

Mirati Therapeutics (MRTX) announced the presentation of initial data from its ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of sitravatinib in combination with nivolumab in metastatic urothelial cancer patients with documented progression on a platinum-chemotherapy and checkpoint inhibitor.

Mirati is in focus on cancer data, Stockwinners

The data were presented in an oral presentation at the Society of Immunotherapy of Cancer 34th Annual Meeting.

Preliminary results from the ongoing Phase 1 study of neoadjuvant sitravatinib combined with nivolumab in patients with resectable squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, SNOW trial, were also presented in a poster session.

The preliminary data suggest that the combination of neoadjuvant sitravatinib and nivolumab is safe and active in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity who are candidates for resection.

Chart shows Sitravatinib in action, Stockwinners

Tumor reduction was observed in all eight patients who were eligible for evaluation, including one complete pathological response.

All patients received postoperative radiation therapy, and none required postoperative chemotherapy.

With a median follow-up of 31.4 weeks, all patients are alive with no disease recurrence to date.

In most patients, treatment with sitravatinib led to a decrease in myeloid-derived suppressor cells and a shift towards M1-type macrophages in the tumor microenvironment, supporting previous preclinical findings.

“Sitravatinib is a spectrum-selective kinase inhibitor that potently inhibits receptor tyrosine kinases, including TAM family receptors that has the potential to increase responsiveness in patients whose tumors are resistant to checkpoint inhibitors. The initial efficacy data from the Phase 2 clinical trial presented today in patients with checkpoint refractory mUC is promising and extends the clinical benefit data beyond what has already been demonstrated by sitravatinib combined with nivolumab in checkpoint refractory non-small cell lung cancer,” said Charles Baum, M.D., CEO of Mirati.

Sitravatinib offers hope for cancer patients, Stockwinners

“In addition, we are evaluating sitravatinib in patients who have progressed on checkpoint therapy, including those with NSCLC and renal cell cancer, and we continue to expand development efforts of sitravatinib through our collaboration with BeiGene in multiple indications including NSCLC, renal cell cancer, hepatocellular cancer, ovarian cancer, and gastric cancer.”

MRTX closed at $104.78.

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Amag Pharma announces publication of PROLONG trial in journal

AMAG Pharmaceuticals (AMAG) announced that the results of the PROLONG trial were published online in the American Journal of Perinatology.

Amag Pharma shares rise ahead of FDA meeting, Stockwinners

AMAG Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (AMAG) announced that the results of PROLONG (Progestin’s Role in Optimizing Neonatal Gestation) were published online in the American Journal of Perinatology. PROLONG was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluating 17-OHPC (17-α-hydroxyprogesterone caproate or Makena®) in patients with a history of a prior spontaneous singleton preterm delivery. The PROLONG trial was conducted as part of an approval commitment under the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) “Subpart H” accelerated approval process. 

As previously announced, the PROLONG trial did not meet the two pre-specified co-primary endpoints of a reduction of preterm birth and a reduction in the neonatal morbidity and mortality index, in contrast to the original Meis trial results published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

PROLONG reaffirmed that the 17-OHPC safety profile is comparable to placebo, the company said.

Amag Pharma (AMAG) shares rise ahead of FDA meeting, Stockwinners

Makena is a progestin indicated to reduce the risk of preterm birth in women pregnant with a single baby who have a history of singleton spontaneous preterm birth.

Makena was approved by the FDA in February 2011 and was granted orphan drug exclusivity through February 3, 2018. In February of 2018, AMAG introduced the prefilled Makena auto-injector containing a short, thin, non-visible needle for subcutaneous use, offering patients and providers a new administration option.

The FDA will hold a meeting of the Bone, Reproductive and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee on October 29 to “better understand and interpret the PROLONG trial data,” AMAG added.

Analysts’ Comments

Piper Jaffray analyst Christoper Raymond said the briefing documents posted this morning ahead of Tuesday’s advisory committee meeting to discuss Makena’s failed confirmatory PROLONG trial “leave the door open” for the continued marketing of the drug.

Draft questions propose pursuing withdrawal of Makena’s approval, leaving Makena on the market but requiring a new confirmatory trial, or leaving it on the market without a new confirmatory trial and he thinks it appears that the FDA “is leaning toward the latter two options.”

However, he also thinks that the detailed PROLONG data that have now been provided for the first time “make a strong argument for the drug’s withdrawal,” Raymond tells investors.

The analyst sees the full PROLONG data having “some chilling effect” on overall use whether the FDA pulls the drug or not and he keeps a Neutral rating on Amag Pharmaceuticals shares.

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Assembly Biosciences reports chronic hepatitis data, shares jump

Assembly Biosciences announces presentation of ABI-H0731, ABI-H2158 data

Assembly Biosciences (ASMB) announced that data on its lead HBV core inhibitor candidates, ABI-H0731 and ABI-H2158 for the treatment of chronic HBV will be featured in a late-breaking poster session during the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases Annual Meeting.

Shares jump on hepatitis data, Stockwinners

A hepatitis B infection can result in either an acute infection or a chronic infection. When a person is first infected with the hepatitis B virus, it is called an “acute infection” (or a new infection). Most healthy adults that are infected do not have any symptoms and are able to get rid of the virus without any problems. Some adults are unable to get rid of the virus after six months and they are diagnosed as having a “chronic infection.”

Title: Continued Therapy with ABI-H0731+Nrtl Results in Sequential Reduction/Loss of HBV DNA, HBV RNA, HBeAg, HBcrAg and HBsAg in HBeAg-Positive Patients.

Abstract Summary: Final results from Phase 2a are reported for HBeAg+ patients with chronic HBV infection treated with 731+Nrtl for 24 weeks.

In Study 202, greater mean log10 declines in HBV DNA and RNA were achieved with 731+Nrtl versus entecavir alone.

In Study 201, the proportion of patients on 731+Nrtl versus Nrtl alone achieving DNA target not detected was 69% vs 0%, and the proportion of patients achieving RNA less than35 U/mL whose RNA was greater than or equal to35 U/mL at baseline was 52% vs 0% respectively.

In Study 211, there are 64 HBeAg+ patients currently on extended treatment beyond 24 weeks. Among the 27 HBeAg+ patients receiving 731+Nrtl in Study 201, 41% have now achieved DNA TND along with RNA less than35 U/mL and HBeAg less than1 IU/mL.

At their last time point, Study 202 patients now in Study 211 have demonstrated mean DNA and RNA declines of 6.1 and 3.0 logs, respectively, with observed mean log changes of greater than or equal to 0.6 for HBeAg, greater than 0.8 log for HBcrAg and greater than or equal to 0.4 log for HBsAg.

731 continues to exhibit a favorable safety and tolerability profile in patients treated for up to 1 year, with only mild/moderate adverse events and lab abnormalities, and only a single discontinuation due to a Grade 1 rash.

The combination of 731+NrtI results in faster and deeper declines in HBV DNA and RNA than NrtI alone, as well as subsequent declines in the surrogate markers of cccDNA predictive of cccDNA pool depletion, and HBsAg.

A Visual Guide to Hepatitis, Stockwinners

The emergent data supports the continued development of 731.

Abstract data are as of the time of submission; the poster is expected to include updated safety and efficacy results. Title: The Second-Generation Hepatitis B Virus Core Inhibitor ABI-H2158 is Associated with Potent Antiviral Activity in a 14-Day Monotherapy Study in HBeAg-positive Patients with Chronic Hepatitis B.

Abstract Summary: The Phase 1b study is enrolling sequential cohorts of 9 patients and each cohort will be randomized to receive 2158 or placebo QD for 14 days in a blinded manner.

Dosing in the 1st cohort has been completed. In patients receiving 2158, mean declines from Baseline to Day 15 in HBV DNA and RNA levels were 2.3 log10 and 2.1 log10 IU/mL respectively.

No serious AEs, dose limiting toxicities or premature discontinuations were reported.

Three patients reported a total of 5 mild, drug-related AEs that recovered without intervention; dizziness, fatigue, rash, headache and upper abdominal pain.

Treatment emergent laboratory abnormalities were infrequent, mild and transient, with no ALT elevations Grade greater than or equal to 1 in severity.

Day 14 plasma 2158 Cmax and AUC0-24hr were 3,390 ng/mL and 46,100 hr*ng/mL, respectively.

Results from the initial 100 mg low dose of ABI-H2158 cohort demonstrated potent antiviral activity, a favourable safety profile when administered for 14 days, and support once daily dosing in CHB patients.

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Zogenix tumbles on FDA action

Zogenix gets refusal to file letter from FDA on Fintepla NDA


Zogenix gets refusal to file letter from FDA on Fintepla NDA , Stockwinners

Zogenix (ZGNX) announced that it received a Refusal to File, RTF, letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding its New Drug Application for FINTEPLA, for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome.

Dravet syndrome is a rare, catastrophic, lifelong form of epilepsy that begins in the first year of life with frequent and/or prolonged seizures. Previously known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), it affects 1:15,700 individuals, 80% of whom have a mutation in their SCN1A gene.

Upon its preliminary review, the FDA determined that the NDA, submitted on February 5, 2019, was not sufficiently complete to permit a substantive review.

In the letter, the FDA cited two reasons for the RTF decision: first, certain non-clinical studies were not submitted to allow assessment of the chronic administration of fenfluramine; and, second, the application contained an incorrect version of a clinical dataset, which prevented the completion of the review process that is necessary to support the filing of the NDA.

The FDA has not requested or recommended additional clinical efficacy or safety studies.

The company will seek immediate guidance, including a Type A meeting with the FDA, to clarify and respond to the issues identified in the RTF letter.

“We remain highly confident in FINTEPLA’s clinical profile demonstrated in the Phase 3 program in Dravet syndrome and are committed to advancing the product candidate as a potential new treatment option for this and other rare and often catastrophic epileptic encephalopathies,” said Stephen J. Farr, Ph.D., President and CEO of Zogenix.

“We are fully committed to working with the FDA as quickly as possible to address the open issues and clarify the path to successfully re-filing our application.”

Zogenix’s Marketing Authorization Application, MAA, for FINTEPLA for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome was previously accepted for review by the European Medicines Agency, EMA, and the Company anticipates an approvability decision could be reached by the EMA in the first quarter of 2020.

Piper Jaffray

Piper Jaffray analyst Danielle Brill lowered her price target on Zogenix to $68 after it received a refusal to file letter from FDA on its Fintepla new drug application.

The analyst notes that while the issues mentioned by the FDA sound like a simple fix, if the agency requires the company to conduct new toxicity studies, the re-submission could be delayed another 12-15 months.

In spite of the “discouraging news”, longer term, Brill still keeps her Overweight rating on Zogenix and believes that “the company should be able to leverage existing ICH data with fenfluramine” based on their reported prior FDA interactions, modeling a launch in Q2 of 2020.

ZGNX closed at $51.85, it last traded at $35.00.

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