GRAIL bought back by Illumina for $8B

Illumina to acquire GRAIL for $8B in cash, stock consideration

Illumina (ILMN) announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Illumina will acquire GRAIL for cash and stock consideration of $8B upon closing of the transaction. In addition, GRAIL stockholders will receive future payments representing a tiered single digit percentage of certain GRAIL-related revenues.

Illumina buys back GRAIL

The agreement has been approved by the boards of Illumina and GRAIL.

GRAIL was founded by Illumina in 2016 and was spun out as a standalone company, powered by Illumina’s NGS technology, to develop data science and machine learning and create the atlas of cancer signals in the blood, enabling multi-cancer early detection tests.

GRAIL raised approximately $2B to support its technology platform and develop Galleri.

An earlier version of Galleri was able to detect more than 50 cancer types, over 45 of which have no recommended screening in the United States.

Galleri is expected to launch commercially in 2021 as a multi-cancer, laboratory developed test for early cancer detection from blood.

GRAIL plans to follow Galleri with future blood-based tests for cancer diagnosis, detection and post-treatment monitoring of cancer patients.

Under the terms of the agreement, at closing, GRAIL stockholders will receive total consideration of $8B, consisting of $3.5B in cash and $4.5B in shares of Illumina common stock, subject to a collar. Illumina currently holds 14.5% of GRAIL’s shares outstanding, and approximately 12% on a fully diluted basis.

The collar on the stock consideration will ensure that GRAIL stockholders excluding Illumina receive a number of Illumina shares equal to approximately $4B in value if the 20-trading-day volume weighted average price of Illumina stock as of 10 trading days prior to closing is between $295 and $399.

GRAIL stockholders excluding Illumina will receive approximately 9.9M Illumina shares if the 20-trading-day volume weighted average price of Illumina stock as of 10 trading days prior to closing is above $399 and approximately 13.4M Illumina shares if the 20-trading-day volume weighted average price of Illumina stock as of 10 trading days prior to closing is below $295.

Upon closing of the transaction, current Illumina stockholders are expected to own approximately 93% of the combined company, while GRAIL stockholders are expected to own approximately 7% based on the mid-point of the collar.

The cash consideration to GRAIL stockholders excluding Illumina of approximately $3.1B is expected to be funded using balance sheet cash of both Illumina and GRAIL plus up to $1B in capital raised through either a debt or equity issuance.

In advance of this anticipated issuance, Illumina has obtained financing commitments for a $1B bridge facility with Goldman Sachs Bank USA.

In connection with the transaction, GRAIL stockholders will also receive contingent value rights, which will entitle holders to receive future payments representing a pro rata portion of certain GRAIL-related revenues each year for a 12-year period. This will reflect a 2.5% payment right to the first $1B of revenue each year for 12 years.

Revenue above $1B each year would be subject to a 9% contingent payment right during this same period. Illumina will offer GRAIL stockholders the option to receive additional cash and/or stock consideration, in an amount to be determined prior to closing, in lieu of the contingent value rights.

The company expects the transaction will be accretive to Illumina revenue starting in 2021, and to accelerate revenue growth over time.

ILMN closed at $270.13 on Monday.

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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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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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AstraZeneca and Merck report prostate cancer data

AstraZeneca, Merck presents results from Phase 3 PROfound trial of LYNPARZA

AstraZeneca (AZN) and Merck (MRK) presented detailed results from the Phase 3 PROfound trial in 387 men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer who have a mutation in their homologous recombination repair genes and whose disease had progressed on prior treatment with new hormonal agent treatments e.g. abiraterone or enzalutamide.

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AstraZeneca and Merck report prostate cancer, Stockwinners

The trial was designed to analyze men with mCRPC harboring HRR-mutated genes in two cohorts: the primary endpoint was in those with mutations in BRCA1/2 or ATM genes and then, if LYNPARZA showed clinical benefit, a formal analysis was performed of the overall trial population of men with HRRm genes.

Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study, Stockwinners
AstraZeneca and Merck report prostate cancer , Stockwinners

Results showed a statistically-significant and clinically-meaningful improvement with LYNPARZA in the primary endpoint of radiographic progression-free survival in BRCA1/2 or ATM-mutated tumors reducing the risk of disease progression or death by a median of 7.4 months versus 3.6 months for those receiving abiraterone or enzalutamide.

LYNPARZA reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 66% for these men. The trial also met the key secondary endpoint of rPFS in the overall HRRm population, where LYNPARZA reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 51% and improved rPFS to a median of 5.8 months vs. 3.5 months for those receiving abiraterone or enzalutamide.

In the key secondary endpoint of time to pain progression, median TTPP was not reached with LYNPARZA and was 9.92 months with abiraterone and enzalutamide in patients with BRCA1/2 or ATM mutations.

Results also showed a trend at this interim analysis time point for improvement in overall survival, another key secondary endpoint. LYNPARZA extended OS to a median of 18.5 months versus 15.1 months for abiraterone or enzalutamide in men with BRCA1/2 or ATM-mutated tumors, of which 81% started on abiraterone or enzalutamide and, following confirmed disease progression, then switched to LYNPARZA.

At this interim analysis, the OS endpoint did not meet statistical significance. In an exploratory analysis, a similar trend in OS was observed at this interim analysis in the HRRm population with a median of 17.5 months for men treated with LYNPARZA vs. 14.3 months for those receiving abiraterone or enzalutamide.

The trial showed a confirmed overall response rate a key secondary endpoint of 33.3% for LYNPARZA vs. 2.3% for abiraterone or enzalutamide in patients with BRCA1/2 or ATM mutations.

In an exploratory analysis of patients in the overall HRRm population, confirmed ORR was 21.7 % for LYNPARZA vs. 4.5% for patients receiving abiraterone or enzalutamide. The safety and tolerability profile of LYNPARZA in the PROfound trial was in line with that observed in prior clinical trials.

The most common adverse events greater than or equal to20% for LYNPARZA compared to abiraterone or enzalutamide were anemia, nausea, fatigue and asthenia, decreased appetite, and diarrhea. Grade 3 or above AEs were anemia, fatigue and asthenia, vomiting, dyspnea, urinary tract infection, nausea, decreased appetite, diarrhea, and back pain. AEs led to discontinuation of treatment in 16% of patients on LYNPARZA vs. 9% on abiraterone and enzalutamide.

AstraZeneca and Merck are also exploring additional trials in prostate cancer, including the ongoing Phase 3 PROpel trial, evaluating LYNPARZA as a first-line therapy in mCRPC for patients with or without HRR mutations, in combination with abiraterone acetate.

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Incyte to present at ASCO meeting in Chicago

Incyte announces abstracts featuring genomic profiling data for ASCO

Incyte Corp. (INCY) announces that multiple abstracts highlighting data from its oncology portfolio will be presented at the upcoming 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting, to be held from May 31-June 4, in Chicago, Illinois; and the 24th Congress of the European Hematology Association, to be held June 13-16, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Abstracts accepted for presentation at ASCO feature genomic profiling data from Incyte’s ongoing Phase 2 FIGHT-202 trial evaluating its selective fibroblast growth factor receptor inhibitor, pemigatinib, in patients with cholangiocarcinoma, as well as efficacy and safety data from the Novartis-sponsored GEOMETRY mono-1 trial of capmatinib, the investigational selective MET inhibitor licensed to Novartis (NVS) by Incyte.

Additionally, data to be presented at EHA will showcase the continued study of Incyte’s JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor, #ruxolitinib, in myeloproliferative neoplasms.

“Our presence at ASCO and EHA illustrates Incyte’s ongoing commitment to discovering and developing therapeutic options that address significant unmet medical needs for patients,” said Steven Stein, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Incyte.

ASCO’s annual meeting is May 31-June 4 in Chicago, Stockwinners

“We are pleased to highlight new data on two investigational medicines – pemigatinib and capmatinib – that were discovered by Incyte scientists and for which we anticipate applications for initial U.S. regulatory approvals later this year, as well as data that furthers our understanding of the treatment of MPNs.”

Incyte Corporation focuses on the discovery, development, and commercialization of various therapeutics in the United States. The company offers JAKAFI, a drug for the treatment of myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera cancers; and Iclusig, a kinase inhibitor to treat chronic myeloid leukemia and philadelphia-chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Its clinical stage products include ruxolitinib, a drug in Phase III clinical trial for steroid-refractory acute graft-versus-host-diseases (GVHD); and Phase II trial for the treatment of essential thrombocythemia and refractory myelofibrosis.

In addition, the company engages in the development of itacitinib, which is in Phase III clinical trial to treat naïve acute and chronic GVHD, as well as Phase I/II clinical trial in combination with osimertinib for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC); and pemigatinib that is in Phase II clinical trial for treating bladder cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, and 8p11 myeloproliferative syndrome, as well as a pivotal program for solid tumors with driver activations of FGF/FGFR.

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Advaxis jumps on its prostate cancer drug data

Advaxis says ADXS-PSA in combination with KEYTRUDA prolonged survival in mCRPC

Advaxis jumps on its prostate cancer drug data, Stockwinners

Advaxis (ADXS) announced updated data from the Phase 1/2 KEYNOTE-046 study in metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer.

Castrate-resistant prostate cancer refers to prostate cancer that keeps growing even when the amount of testosterone in the body is reduced to very low levels. Many early-stage prostate cancers need normal levels of testosterone to grow, but castrate-resistant prostate cancers do not. 

Androgens are required for normal growth and function of the prostate. Androgens are also necessary for prostate cancers to grow. Androgens promote the growth of both normal and cancerous prostate cells by binding to and activating the androgen receptor, a protein that is expressed in prostate cells Once activated, the androgen receptor stimulates the expression of specific genes that cause prostate cells to grow .

Early in their development, prostate cancers need relatively high levels of androgens to grow. Such prostate cancers are called castration sensitive, androgen dependent, or androgen sensitive because treatments that decrease androgen levels or block androgen activity can inhibit their growth.

This trial is being conducted in conjunction with Merck (MRK) and is evaluating ADXS-PSA, one of Advaxis’ Listeria monocytogenes-based immunotherapies, alone and in combination with KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy.

Findings will be highlighted in a poster discussion entitled “Effects of ADXS-PSA with or without Pembrolizumab on Survival and Antigen Spreading in Metastatic, Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer Patients” at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting underway in Atlanta.

KEYNOTE-046 is an open-label, multicenter, dose-determining safety and tolerability Phase 1/2 trial of 50 heavily pretreated patients conducted in two parts, with a Phase 2 expansion cohort. The objective of the study is to evaluate ADXS-PSA alone and in combination with KEYTRUDA for primary endpoints that include safety, tolerability and dosing.

Secondary endpoints include anti-tumor activity and progression-free survival, and exploratory endpoints include associations between biomarkers of immunologic response with clinical outcomes.

Key findings from the combination arm of KEYNOTE-046 include the following: The majority of treatment-related adverse events consisted of transient and reversible Grade 1-2 chills/rigors, fever, hypotension, nausea and fatigue.

The combination of ADXS-PSA and pembrolizumab has been well-tolerated, to date, with no additive toxicity observed. Median overall survival was 21.1 months at data cutoff in this dataset of 37 patients.

Correlative immune analyses showed T-cell responses against PSA in 75% of subjects and antigen spreading in 85% of subjects. Broader immune stimulation, including B-cell activation, was observed in the combination arm than in the ADXS-PSA monotherapy arm.

ADXS closed at $5.91, it last traded at $8.15. MRK closed at $83.17.

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