Optinose shares soar on its potential Covid-19 treatment

Optinose announces anti-COVID-19 product candidate

Optinose (OPTN) announced initiation of development of a new product candidate, OPN-019.

OptiNose, Inc. focuses on the development and commercialization of products for patients treated by ear, nose, and throat; and allergy specialists in the United States.

OPN-019 will combine the Company’s proprietary nasal Exhalation Delivery System technology with an antiseptic that has been recently shown in vitro to kill the virus that causes COVID-19.

Because components of the drug-device combination product candidate, including both the active drug and delivery device, are currently commercially available in the U.S., the Company expects to be able to rapidly progress to a meeting with FDA to discuss an IND and then onward to clinical trials.

OptiNose uses this device to deliver its medicine

The Company is focused on supporting the initial stages of development within its current operating expense plan and intends to seek grants, partnerships, and/or other sources of capital to fund future development.

The company offers XHANCE, a therapeutic product utilizing its proprietary optinose exhalation delivery system that delivers a topically-acting and anti-inflammatory corticosteroid for the treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis with and without nasal polyps. It is also developing XHANCE, which is in Phase IIIb clinical trial for the treatment of chronic sinusitis; and OPN-300 for the treatment of Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic obesity disorder, as well as autism spectrum disorder. 

Note that this company is losing money and none of its products have been approved by FDA yet.

OPTN closed at $6.42, last traded at $8.70.

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Monopar files for patent for Covid-19 treatment

Monopar, NorthStar file provisional patent for development, use of RITs

Monopar Therapeutics (MNPR) and NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes announced that a provisional patent application entitled “Precision Radioimmunotherapeutic Targeting of the Urokinase Plasminogen Activator Receptor for Treatment of Severe COVID-19 Disease” has been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent application offers hope for Covid-19 patients, Stockwinners

This application covers novel compositions and uses of cytotoxic radioisotopes attached to antibodies that bind to uPAR, thereby creating precision targeted radiotherapeutics for the treatment of severe COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.

Advanced COVID-19 patients frequently develop severe, life-threatening, pulmonary inflammation as a result of a viral induced cytokine storm.

The development of this cytokine storm is associated with a high rate of mortality in severe COVID-19 patients, even with oxygen support and mechanical ventilation.

A severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly. Cytokines play an important role in normal immune responses, but having a large amount of them released in the body all at once can be harmful. A cytokine storm can occur as a result of an infection, autoimmune condition, or other disease. It may also occur after treatment with some types of immunotherapy.

Signs and symptoms include high fever, inflammation (redness and swelling), and severe fatigue and nausea. Sometimes, a cytokine storm may be severe or life threatening and lead to multiple organ failure. Also called hypercytokinemia.

uPRITs have been designed with the goal of selectively destroying the aberrantly activated white blood cells responsible for causing the cytokine storm.

If successful, healthy tissue would be spared in the process as the uPAR target is primarily only present on this unique class of white blood cells and not in healthy tissue.

The co-inventors of the provisional patent application are James Harvey, Chief Scientific Officer of NorthStar, and Andrew P. Mazar, Chief Scientific Officer of Monopar.

If granted, the patent would offer exclusivity to Monopar and NorthStar for the development and potential use of uPRITs in the treatment of severe COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.

This provisional patent application leverages the therapeutic radioisotope expertise of NorthStar and the translational expertise of Monopar to create a novel, targeted radioimmunotherapeutic.

Radioimmunotherapy uses an antibody labeled with a radionuclide to deliver cytotoxic radiation to a target cell. In cancer therapy, an antibody with specificity for a tumor-associated antigen is used to deliver a lethal dose of radiation to the tumor cells.

On June 16, 2020, Monopar and NorthStar announced a 50/50 collaboration to couple Monopar’s MNPR-101 uPAR targeting monoclonal antibody to a therapeutic radioisotope provided by NorthStar.

MNPR closed at $6.91.

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Minerva shares collapse following its drug failure

Minerva says Phase 3 trial of roluperidone did not meet primary endpoint

Minerva Neurosciences (NERV) announced that the Phase 3 trial of roluperidone to treat negative symptoms in schizophrenia did not meet its primary and key secondary endpoints.

Shares tumble following its drug failure

In total, 515 patients were enrolled into the trial, and 513 patients received treatment and were included in the safety and Intent-To-Treat population.

The trial was conducted in the USA, Europe and Israel.

There were 172 patients who received placebo, 172 patients who received roluperidone 32 mg, and 171 patients who received roluperidone 64 mg.

Demographic and baseline disease characteristics were comparable across all treatment arms.

The results for both roluperidone doses versus placebo across both the primary and the key secondary endpoints to Week 12 were corrected for multiplicity using the truncated Hochberg procedure.

The primary objective of the trial was to evaluate the change from baseline to Week 12 of NSFS with 32 mg and 64 mg doses of roluperidone compared to placebo in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia presenting with moderate to severe negative symptoms.

Neither the 32 mg nor 64 mg dose of roluperidone showed a statistically significant separation from placebo.

Furthermore, neither dose showed a statistically significant separation from placebo on the key secondary endpoint, the change from baseline to Week 12 in PSP.

Schizophrenia destroys patient’s life

Although limited inferences can be drawn from this data, unadjusted statistically significant separations from placebo were observed in NSFS at Week 4 for both doses and at Week 8 for the 64 mg dose, and the 64 mg dose was statistically significantly different from placebo as measured by change in PSP at all other assessment timepoints.

Overall, subgroup analyses by region and by age groups were similar.

Roluperidone was generally well tolerated, and the incidences of patients who reported treatment-emergent adverse events over the duration of 12 weeks of treatment were 37% for the 64 mg group, 42% for the 32 mg group, and 33% for placebo.

Only 42 patients discontinued from the study due to adverse events, 16 in 64 mg arm, 18 in 32 mg arm, and 8 in placebo arm.

Two treatment-unrelated deaths were reported in the 32 mg treatment arm says Phase 3 trial of roluperidone did not meet primary endpoint.

NERV is down 82% to $2.50.

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Inovio Shares Jump on COVID-19 Data

Inovio’s COVID-19 vaccine INO-4800 generates antibodies and immune responses

Inovio (INO) announced the publication of the preclinical study data for IN0-4800, its COVID-19 DNA vaccine, demonstrating “robust” neutralizing antibody and T cell immune responses against coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Inovio reports promising data, Stockwinners

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications by INOVIO scientists and collaborators from The Wistar Institute, the University of Texas, Public Health England, Fudan University, and Advaccine. Kate Broderick, Inovio’s Senior VP of R&D and Team Lead for COVID-19 vaccine development, said, “These positive preclinical results from our COVID-19 DNA vaccine not only highlight the potency of our DNA medicines platform, but also build on our previously reported positive Phase 1/2a data from our vaccine against the coronavirus that causes MERS, which demonstrated near-100% seroconversion and neutralization from a similarly designed vaccine INO-4700.

Inovio hopes its work would lead to a vaccine, Stockwinners

The potent neutralizing antibody and T cell immune responses generated in multiple animal models are supportive of our currently on-going INO-4800 clinical trials.

” The studies demonstrated that vaccination with INO-4800 generated “robust” binding and neutralizing antibody as well as T cell responses in mice and guinea pigs.

The authors demonstrated virus neutralizing activity using three separate neutralization assays testing the vaccine’s ability to generate antibodies which can block virus infection.

Study authors also detected these antibodies in the lungs of the vaccinated animals which could be important in providing protection from SARS-CoV-2.

In addition, high levels of Spike-specific T cell responses were observed with INO-4800 vaccination, which could be important in mediating protection from the virus infection.

A Phase 2/3 efficacy trial is planned to start in July/August pending regulatory approval.

PIPER Comments:

Piper Sandler analyst Christopher Raymond noted that Inovio shares are up by a double digit percentage on the Nature Communications publication of preclinical data on the company’s CoV-19 DNA vaccine INO-4800, but he said “this isn’t new news.” The market currently has a “buy-first-ask-questions-later mentality on all things COVID,” but most of the data in this paper has been available since the pre-print in early March, said Raymond.

Additionally, while an ability to generate T-cell responses and functional neutralizing antibodies in mice and guinea pigs is important, the preclinical picture remains incomplete without non-human primate data and viral challenge data, which is needed to fully understand the potential, the analyst tells investors. Raymond, who thinks it is more prudent to reserve judgment until initial human data slated for the end of June is available, keeps a Neutral rating on Inovio shares.

INO closed at $14.50, last traded at $17.00

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Several retailers grab their shopping bags and file for bankruptcy

As JC Penney’s files for bankruptcy, others line up to do the same

Retailers have long been suffering from a tough retail environment due to competition from online retailers such as Amazon, Etsy and eBay; it seems like COVID-19 fired the kill shot.

J.C. Penney

J.C. Penney announced that it has received approvals from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, in Corpus Christi, TX for the “First Day” motions related to the company’s voluntary Chapter 11 petitions filed on May 15, 2020, including approval for the company to access and use its approximately $500M in cash collateral.

The 118 year old retailer files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Stockwinners

J.C. Penney entered into a restructuring support agreement with lenders holding approximately 70% of J.C. Penney’s first lien debt to reduce the company’s outstanding indebtedness and strengthen its financial position. J.C. Penney has approximately $500M in cash on hand as of the Chapter 11 filing date.

James Cash Penney started the company in 1902

JCP Gets Delisted

The New York Stock Exchange announced that the staff of NYSE Regulation has determined to commence proceedings to delist the common stock of J.C. Penney Company – ticker symbol JCP – from the NYSE. NYSE Regulation reached its decision that the company is no longer suitable for listing after the company’s May 15, 2020 disclosure that the company filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Recent Retail Bankruptcies

On May 4th, J.Crew Group announced it has reached an agreement with its lenders holding approximately 71% of its Term Loan and approximately 78% of its IPCo Notes, as well as with its financial sponsors, under which the company will restructure its debt and deleverage its balance sheet, positioning J.Crew and Madewell for long-term success.

Houston-based Stage Stores Inc. filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas last week.

GNC Holdings (GNC), the nutritional supplement retailer, avoided bankruptcy by reaching a last-minute deal with creditors that allows it to avoid bankruptcy for at least 30 days but no more than 90 days under a deal announced Friday.

GNC avoids bankruptcy for 90 days

True Religion

Even before COVID-19 forced True Religion to close its 87 stores, the denim specialist’s sales were in decline and its profits were negative. After shuttering its footprint in response to the pandemic, 80% of its sales disappeared, according to the company. 

Others on the list

According to Law.com, both Macy’s (M) and Neiman Marcus have hired bankruptcy law firm Kirkland, and Wachtell. Neiman filed for Chapter 11 last week. Macy’s should be forthcoming.

Pier 1 Imports (PIR) filed for bankruptcy protection this month. It would only make sense if it’s competitors follow the same path.

Nashville-based retailer, Kirkland’s, Inc. operates as a specialty retailer of home décor in the United States. The company’s stores provide various merchandise, including holiday décor, furniture, ornamental wall décor, decorative accessories, art, textiles, mirrors, fragrance and accessories, lamps, artificial floral products, housewares, outdoor living items,

Kirkland’s has avoided Chapter 11, Stockwinners

In 2019, seventeen major retailers filed for bankruptcy. For some of them it was their second trip to the alter including Payless, Gymboree, and Charming Charlie.

Some of the retailers that filed for bankruptcy in the past 18 months. Stockwinners

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Norwegian Cruise Line shores up its balance sheet, raises $2B

NCL Corporation announces $400M investment by L Catterton

Norwegian Cruise proposes $650M note sale

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) announced a private placement of up to $400 million in aggregate principal amount of exchangeable senior notes due 2026 to an affiliate of L Catterton.

Norwegian raises $2 billion to shore up its balance sheet

The Private Exchangeable Notes will be general senior unsecured obligations of NCLC, guaranteed by NCLH, and will be exchangeable at the holder’s option at any time prior to the close of business on the business day immediately preceding the maturity date into Series A Preference Shares of NCLC, which shall be automatically exchangeable into a number of ordinary shares of NCLH.

Material Terms: The Private Exchangeable Notes will accrue payment-in-kind interest at a rate of 7.0% per annum for the first year post-issuance, 4.5% per annum payment-in-kind interest plus 3.0% per annum cash interest for the following four years post issuance and 7.5% in cash for the final year prior to maturity; L Catterton will be entitled to nominate one member to the Company’s board of directors so long as a minimum ownership threshold is met, as well as one observer to the Company’s board of directors; The closing of the Private Exchangeable Notes is expected to occur upon the satisfaction of certain customary closing conditions, including a condition that the Company raises at least $1.0 billion in proceeds in the aggregate from other offerings; L Catterton will have certain registration rights in respect of the ordinary shares underlying the Private Exchangeable Notes and will be subject to certain customary transfer, voting and standstill restrictions, including a one-year lock-up agreement.

Share Offerings

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced an underwritten public offering of $350 million of ordinary shares of the company.

The company intends to grant the underwriters an option to purchase up to $52.5 million of additional ordinary shares.

The company expects to use the net proceeds from the Offering for general corporate purposes. Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and Mizuho Securities USA LLC are acting as joint book-running managers for the Offering.

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs analyst Stephen Grambling lowered the firm’s price target on Norwegian Cruise Line to $15 from $34 as he updated his estimates to reflect canceled itineraries through July, a sluggish recovery in 2020-2021 and capital markets activity over the past few weeks, but not the cruise operator’s just announced and pending transactions.

After the company announced plans to raise $600M of senior secured debt, $650M of exchangeable notes, and $350M in equity, and placed $400mn of exchangeable notes with Catterton Partners, Grambling said the added $2B in liquidity provides the company with runway of over 14 months at company estimated cash burn rates. He keeps a Neutral rating on Norwegian shares.

NCLH is down $2.80 to $11.65. We believe shares have found support at these levels.

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Retail bankruptcy filings are coming

J. Crew files for bankruptcy; Madewell to remain part of J.Crew

J.Crew Group announced it has reached an agreement with its lenders holding approximately 71% of its Term Loan and approximately 78% of its IPCo Notes, as well as with its financial sponsors, under which the Company will restructure its debt and deleverage its balance sheet, positioning J.Crew and Madewell for long-term success.

Madewell to remain part of the J.Crew Company, Stockwinners

Under the terms of the Transaction Support Agreement, the Company’s lenders will convert approximately $1.65 billion of the Company’s debt into equity.

To facilitate the restructuring contemplated by the TSA, the parent company of J.Crew Group, Inc., Chinos Holdings, Inc. and certain affiliates, have filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Company has secured commitments for a debtor-in-possession financing facility of $400 million and committed exit financing provided by existing lenders Anchorage Capital Group, L.L.C., GSO Capital Partners and Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP, among others.

Subject to Court approval, the DIP financing, combined with the Company’s projected cash flows, is expected to support its operations during the restructuring process.

As part of the TSA, Madewell will remain part of J.Crew Group, Inc.

Libby Wadle will continue in her role as CEO of Madewell.

J.Crew files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Stockwinners

“This agreement with our lenders represents a critical milestone in the ongoing process to transform our business with the goal of driving long-term, sustainable growth for J.Crew and further enhancing Madewell’s growth momentum,” said Jan Singer, CEO, J.Crew Group.

Neiman Marcus is expected to file for bankruptcy protection too

“Throughout this process, we will continue to provide our customers with the exceptional merchandise and service they expect from us, and we will continue all day-to-day operations, albeit under these extraordinary COVID-19-related circumstances.

Pier 1 Imports filed for bankruptcy protection

As we look to reopen our stores as quickly and safely as possible, this comprehensive financial restructuring should enable our business and brands to thrive for years to come.”

GNC is also expected to file for bankruptcy protection

The Company has filed a series of customary “first day” motions with the Bankruptcy Court seeking to maintain its operations during the restructuring process to help facilitate a smooth transition into Chapter 11.

JCP is inline for bankruptcy filing protection following weak sales

Note that in 2011, TPG Capital LP and Leonard Green & Partners LP privatized J.Crew in a $3 billion leveraged buyout.

Recent bankrupt retailers include Forever 21 and Pier 1 Imports.

Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy protection recently

Other retailers that may file for bankruptcy in the near future include: Neiman Marcus, JCP, GNC, and AEO. Note that Gaps (GPS) has been suffering from soft retail sales. Lands’ End (LE) is also suffering from soft sales.

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Coronavirus induced slowdown is coming!

U.S. factory orders undershot estimates in January

U.S. factory orders undershot estimates in January, with declines of -0.5% for the headline and -0.1% ex-transportation, alongside a -0.1% factory inventory drop. Note that this report reflects the period prior to the spread of Covid-19 or Coronavirus.

Covid-19 spreads across the World.

The undershoot reflected declines of -0.8% for nondurable shipments and orders, and -0.2% for nondurable inventories, after downward December revisions, with a headwind for both from energy prices.

Factory Orders Slow in January

The equipment data from the durables report were revised modestly lower, alongside slight downward tweaks in the December levels for orders, shipments, and inventories.

The data still show encouraging January gains for most of the equipment data despite downward bumps, but lean shipments and inventory data, with January pull-backs for transportation and defense after December gains.

Analysts still expect a Q4 GDP growth boost to 2.2% from 2.1% but with -$1 B revisions for both factory inventories and equipment spending.

Factory orders fall in January

Analysts expect GDP growth of 2.0% in Q1, with a -5% (was -4%) Q1 contraction rate for real equipment spending after an estimated -4.8% (was -4.4%) Q4 pace. Analysts expect a -$20 B Q1 inventory subtraction that leaves a $9 B liquidation rate, with a big hit to inventories from reduced imports from China.

Analysts assume a -0.1% (was flat) January business inventory drop after a flat (was 0.1%) figure in December.

Earlier, we had a blog regarding slow down in truck sales was flashing an economic slowdown on the horizon. Read the blog here.

Feds Panic

Fed funds futures have continued to rally as the market prices in another 25 bps of easing at the upcoming March 17, 18 FOMC, on top of this week’s 50 bp reduction.

FOMC emergency 50bp rate cut may have hurt the market.

The market is also supported from flight from risk with declines of over 2% on Wall Street in pre-open action.

The futures are now fully priced for a 25 bps easing in two weeks, to be followed by another 25 bps at the April 28, 29 FOMC with about 75% risk, while June is now seeing about a 50-50 bet for yet one more 25 bp cut at the June 9, 10 FOMC.

Jerome Powell gives in to WH pressure and cuts rates.

That would see the policy band at 0% to 0.50%. Analysts continue believe the Fed and the markets are over-reacting and analysts doubt the economic impact of COVID-19 will be as disastrous as the market’s are pricing in.

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Alkermes submits NDA for its schizophrenia drug

Alkermes says FDA accepts ALKS 3831 NDA for review, assigns Nov. 15 PDUFA date

Alkermes (ALKS) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has accepted for review the company’s New Drug Application, or NDA, seeking approval of ALKS 3831 for the treatment of schizophrenia and for the treatment of bipolar I disorder.

Alkermes announces FDA Refusal to File letter received for ALKS 5461. Stockwinners
Alkermes announces filing on NDA for ALKS3831, Stockwinners

ALKS 3831 is an investigational, novel, once-daily, oral atypical antipsychotic drug candidate designed to provide the efficacy of olanzapine while mitigating olanzapine-associated weight gain.

The NDA has been assigned a Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, target action date of Nov. 15, 2020.

“The acceptance of the NDA for ALKS 3831 marks an important milestone toward our goal of offering a new treatment option to people living with schizophrenia or bipolar I disorder. The ALKS 3831 development program builds on Alkermes’ commitment to developing new therapeutic options that seek to address unmet needs of patients in large therapeutic areas. We believe ALKS 3831 has the potential to be a meaningful new offering for patients with these serious and complex mental health disorders, and we look forward to engaging with the FDA throughout the NDA review process,” said Craig Hopkinson, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Alkermes.

Alkermes plc researches, develops, and commercializes pharmaceutical products to address unmet medical needs of patients in various therapeutic areas in the United States, Ireland, and internationally.

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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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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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Investors unhappy with Bed Bath & Beyond

Investor group outlines strategic plan for Bed Bath & Beyond

Bed Bath & Beyond tumbles on competition. Stockwinners.com

Investor group outlines strategic plan for Bed Bath & Beyond , Stockwinners

Legion Partners Holdings, Macellum Advisors GP and Ancora Advisors released a presentation outlining the Investor Group’s Strategic Plan for Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY).

The group said, “The plan outlines the path forward to modernizing Bed Bath’s retail practices and delivering a significant earnings per share improvement which could drive $5.00 per share of annual earnings – a level that Bed Bath achieved just a few short years ago.

The Investor Group’s Strategic Plan includes the following highlights: Revamp executive management – recruiting a top-flight CEO to lead Bed Bath going forward and instill a world-class winning culture.

We plan to launch a search in the near term to address this key position. Reverse sales weakness – fixing the merchandise over-assortment problem through a detailed SKU rationalization process as well as developing a merchandise architecture that will better resonate with customers.

Making the in-store experience something that drives traffic to the stores will be a major priority.

Turn around Company culture – increase focus on employee training and education to improve motivation; empower employees to better use technology and improve customer experience.

Significantly expand gross margins – improve vendor relations and drive profits by establishing a direct sourcing strategy and private label program as well as fixing mix issues created by the Company’s shift to commoditized and lower margin products.

Implement cost cutting – conducting an extensive reassessment of the increases in expenses over the last five years, including the explosion of the Company’s advertising budget, seemingly endless array of initiatives that have failed to produce meaningful results and extensive use of consultants.

Improve inventory – increasing inventory turns which would result in a substantial release of cash tied up in slow moving goods. Fix capital allocation – reviewing all non-core businesses and assessing their value as part of the business or their potential value to other parties.

Excess cash created could be applied to share or debt repurchases, both of which are significantly accretive given discounted trading levels.

Lastly, the increase in capital expenditures will be addressed. Above all, the Investor Group’s director nominees have the relevant experience and commitment to execute on these priorities and hold management accountable for delivering results.”

BBBY last traded at $16.68

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Economy expanded at a moderate rate

Fed’s Beige Book says “economic activity continued to expand”



Fed’s Beige Book says economic activity continued to expand , Stockwinners


Fed’s Beige Book: “economic activity continued to expand in late January and February,” said the report.

But 10 Districts noted “slight-to-moderate” growth, with Philly and St Louis reporting flat conditions. That’s the most tepid characterization in sometime, as the more normal description has been “moderate” to “modest.”

About half of the Districts said the shutdown weighed on some sectors, including consumer spending was mixed, but in part due to “harsh winter weather and higher costs of credit.”

Manufacturing generally strengthened but “numerous” contacts worries about weaker global growth, higher costs due to tariffs, and continued trade policy uncertainty.

The service sector increased at a modest-to-moderate pace. Also, residential construction activity was steady or slightly higher in most of the U.S., but home sales were generally lower.

There was little change in the employment outlook, with employment increasing in most Districts, with “modest-to-moderate gains in a majority of Districts and steady to slightly higher employment in the rest.

Labor markets remained tight for all skill levels.

Wages continued to increase for both low- and high-skilled positions, and a majority of Districts reported increases were moderate.

And for prices, they continued to increase at a modest-to-moderate pace, “with several Districts noting faster growth for input prices than selling prices. The ability to pass on higher input costs to consumers varied by region and industry.”

The report (prepared by KC Fed with data collected on or before February 25) is consistent with the FOMC’s outlook for slower growth with tame inflation.

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EQGP Holdings sold for $20.00 per share

Equitrans Midstream to acquire EQGP Holdings for $20.00 per unit in cash

Equitrans Midstream Corporation (ETRN) announced that it has entered into definitive purchase agreements with certain unitholders of EQGP Holdings (EQGP) to acquire limited partner interests in EQGP for $20.00 per unit in cash, which is a 17.5% premium to the EQGP closing market price as of November 29, 2018.

The Private Purchases are expected to close on or about December 31, 2018, after which ETRN and its affiliates will own more than 95% of the outstanding EQGP Common Units. Upon closing of the Private Purchases, ETRN intends to exercise the Limited Call Right under EQGP’s partnership agreement to acquire all remaining EQGP Common Units not then owned by ETRN and its affiliates.

If the Limited Call Right is exercised, the remaining holders of EQGP Common Units will receive at least the same cash price per unit that will be paid in the Private Purchases.

The Limited Call Right is expected to close in January 2019 and will be a taxable transaction for EQGP unitholders.

ETRN intends to use the cash proceeds from a newly issued Term Loan B to finance the Private Purchases and the purchases pursuant to the Limited Call Right.

ETRN has secured committed financing in support of these purchases. ETRN also announced that it has made a proposal to EQM Midstream Partners (EQM) for the exchange of its incentive distribution rights and the economic general partner interest in EQM for 95 million units in EQM and a non-economic general partner interest in EQM, subject to the closing of the Private Purchases and completion of the Limited Call Right.

ETRN expects that a portion of the units received will be in the form of Payment-In-Kind Units.

The PIK Units would receive distributions in the form of additional PIK Units and would convert on a one-to-one basis into common units representing limited partner interests in EQM at a date to be determined.

Final terms of the Proposed IDR Transaction are subject to negotiation with the board of directors of EQM’s general partner or its conflicts committee, and assuming an agreement is reached, ETRN expects that the Proposed IDR Transaction would close in the first quarter of 2019.

Upon completion of the Private Purchases, the Limited Call Right, and the Proposed IDR Transaction, ETRN will have accomplished a full simplification of EQGP and EQM, resulting in a projected 61% ownership of EQM.

Additionally, EQM will be the only publicly traded partnership under ETRN and is expected to benefit from the elimination of the IDR burden, as well as stronger coverage and balance sheet metrics.

Highlights: The proposed transactions would not result in a distribution cut for EQM unitholders; Targeting 6% – 8% annual distribution growth beginning in 2019; 2019 distribution coverage in excess of 1.0x; Long-term distribution coverage target in excess of 1.2x beginning in 2020; Long-term debt to EBITDA target of 3.5x – 4.0x beginning in 2020; PIK Units will provide balance sheet and coverage support; Improves cost of capital; No equity issuance is required to fund capital projects for the next several years; Reduces corporate overhead associated with the elimination of a publicly traded entity.

ETRN expects that the EQM Conflicts Committee will review the Proposed IDR Transaction. Unitholder voting is not required in connection with the Private Purchases, the exercise of the Limited Call Right, or the Proposed IDR Transaction.


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LSC Communications sold for $1.4 billion

Quad/Graphics to acquire LSC Communications in all-stock deal valued at $1.4B

LSC Communications sold for $1.4 billion, Stockwinners
LSC Communications sold for $1.4 billion, Stockwinners

Quad/Graphics (QUAD) and LSC Communications (LKSD) announced that their boards of directors have approved a definitive agreement whereby Quad will acquire LSC Communications in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $1.4B, including the refinancing of LSC Communications’ debt.

As of September 30, 2018, the combined company would have had annual revenue of approximately $8B.

The deal is expected to close in mid-2019, and be accretive to earnings, excluding non-recurring integration costs.

Net synergies are expected to be approximately $135M, and will be achieved in less than two years and result in substantial additional Free Cash Flow generation.

Under the terms of the agreement, LSC Communications shareholders will receive 0.625 shares of Quad Class A common stock for each LSC Communications share they own, representing approximately 29 percent total economic ownership of the combined company and approximately 11 percent of the vote of the combined company.

Based on the closing share prices of both companies on October 30, 2018, the merger consideration represents a premium of 34 percent to LSC Communications shareholders.

Quad shareholders will continue to own Class A and Class B shares, representing approximately 71 percent total economic ownership of the combined company and approximately 89 percent total voting power of the combined company.

The transaction supports Quad’s long-term strategic vision by preserving the Quadracci Family leadership and voting control in the company. Quad expects the transaction to be accretive to earnings, excluding non-recurring integration costs.

Net synergies are expected to be approximately $135 million, and will be achieved in less than two years, through the elimination of duplicative functions, capacity rationalization, greater operational efficiencies and greater efficiencies in supply chain management that will also benefit our clients.

Joel Quadracci will be Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the combined company.

Quad will expand its board of directors to include two members from LSC Communications’ existing board.

The transaction is expected to close in mid-2019, subject to approval by Quad and LSC Communications shareholders, regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.

The Quadracci Family Voting Trust, holder of approximately 64 percent of the voting power of Quad’s outstanding common stock, has entered into a voting agreement with LSC Communications pursuant to which it will vote in favor of the issuance of shares in connection with the transaction.


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