U.S. sues Teva Pharmaceuticals for kickbacks

Justice Department files False Claims Act against Teva Pharmaceuticals

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed a complaint under the False Claims Act against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA. and Teva Neuroscience (TEVA), the maker of Copaxone, a drug for multiple sclerosis.

The government alleges that Teva conspired with a specialty pharmacy, Advanced Care Scripts, and two purportedly independent foundations, Chronic Disease Fund and The Assistance Fund, to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act by using the foundations as conduits to subsidize Medicare co-pays for Copaxone, all while steadily raising Copaxone’s price, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Teva Pharma. is accused of offering kickbacks

The government alleges that, from 2006 through at least 2015, Teva paid the two foundations well over $300M with the intent and understanding that the foundations would use Teva’s money to cover the Medicare co-pays of patients taking Copaxone. During the same period, Teva raised the price of Copaxone from approximately $17,000 per year to over $73,000 per year, according to the DOJ.

Copaxone is used to treat multiple sclerosis

Copaxone is a brand-name prescription drug. It’s approved to treat certain forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) in adults.

Chronic Disease Fund is accused of being part of the scheme

With MS, the immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves. The damaged nerves then have trouble communicating with brain. This condition can cause a wide variety of symptoms, such as muscle weakness and fatigue (lack of energy).

The Assistance Fund is accused of being part of the price kickback

Copaxone contains the active drug glatiramer acetate. It’s a disease-modifying therapy for MS. Copaxone helps to stop the immune system from attacking the nerves. The drug can reduce the number of MS relapses and also slow worsening of the disease.

Copaxone comes as a solution that’s given by subcutaneous injection (an injection under your skin).

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Limited is an Israeli pharmaceutical company. The firm develops, manufactures, markets, and distributes generic medicines, specialty medicines, and biopharmaceutical products in North America, Europe, and internationally. It is one of the largest generic drugmakers in the world.

Shares of Teva are down 9% to $10.52 in morning trading. 

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Fulgent Genetics shares soar on Covid-19 testing

Fulgent Genetics surges after ‘record’ Q2 results

Shares of Fulgent Genetics (FLGT) have surged during Wednesday’s session after the company reported second quarter results after the market close last night.

The company noted that it had “record” figures for quarterly revenue, billable tests, adjusted earnings, and adjusted EBITDA, as it has commercially launched several tests for COVID-19 since March 2020.

EARNINGS

In its latest report, Fulgent Genetics reported Q2 adjusted EPS of 17c on revenue of $17.3M, compared to analysts’ estimates of (5c) and $10.05M.

The company delivered 180,513 billable tests in the quarter, an increase of 1003% year-over-year, and gross margin for the quarter improved roughly eight percentage points from the previous quarter and roughly 81% year-over-year.

Commenting on the results, chairman and CEO Ming Hsieh said, “The global COVID-19 pandemic has tested who we are as a company, and now more than ever we have demonstrated that Fulgent is a technology company with a proprietary platform built for massive scale.

Our technology is the cornerstone for all facets of our business, including cloud computing, pipeline services, record management, web portal services, clinical workflow, sequencing as a service and automated lab services.

Covid-19 Test Kit

Our second quarter results illustrate how we quickly applied our technology to the needs of today, organically developing and launching multiple tests to detect COVID-19 with Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, including an at-home test offered through Picture Genetics, our patient-initiated product.

These offerings have attracted major new customer accounts, resulting in an inflection point in our business and outlook.”

GUIDANCE:

On Fulgent’s quarterly conference call, CFO Paul Kim said that based on the “explosive” demand the company is seeing from the market and the quality of its customers, he continues to see the upward trajectory and transformation of the business continuing for the balance of 2020.

Fulgent now projects test volumes for 2020 to be over 1.3M, which translates to into over $120M in revenues. Kim added that he sees adjusted net income of $25M, or about $1.00 per share in FY20.

Analysts had expected the company to report FY20 EPS of 12c on revenue of $45.02M.

Analysts Comments:

Following the results, Piper Sandler analyst Steven Mah maintained an Overweight rating on Fulgent Genetics and raised his price target on the stock to $68 from $31.

Mah, who continues to believe COVID-19 testing is durable for the coming years, said he is encouraged by Fulgent’s early success in test volume, adding that his higher revenue estimates are due to increased COVID-19 expectations.

PRICE ACTION:

In afternoon trading, Fulgent Genetics shares are up nearly 23%, trading at $36.46.

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Lexicon shares jump on it’s type 2 diabetes drug

Lexicon says all four Phase 3 sotagliflozin studies met primary objectives

Lexicon Pharmaceuticals (LXRX) announced topline data from four Phase 3 sotagliflozin studies in type 2 diabetes: SOTA-MONO, SOTA-SU, SOTA-GLIM and SOTA-INS.

All four Phase 3 sotagliflozin studies met their primary objectives of lowering A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes.

The observed safety profile of sotagliflozin in these studies was generally consistent with that of approved SGLT2 inhibitors.

Diarrhea, an event consistent with gastrointestinal SGLT1 inhibition, was generally more common on sotagliflozin than placebo, although it was not a meaningful cause of treatment discontinuation.

Genital mycotic infections were dose-related.

The absolute increase in the incidence of genital mycotic infections over placebo ranged from 0% to 3.7% in studies of the 200 mg dose and from 3.2% to 6.3% in studies of the 400 mg dose.

In one study, sotagliflozin showed less hypoglycemia than glimepiride, and in the other three studies, the incidences of hypoglycemia in patients on sotagliflozin were similar to those on placebo.

Lexicon does not intend to pursue any regulatory approvals of sotagliflozin for type 2 diabetes in the absence of a strategic partnership for the commercialization of sotagliflozin in such indication.

In the Phase 3, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled SOTA-MONO study, sotagliflozin 400 mg and 200 mg as monotherapy was tested for superiority versus placebo in reducing A1C after 26 weeks of treatment in patients with type 2 diabetes and inadequate glycemic control.

The study enrolled 142 patients on sotagliflozin 400 mg, 107 patients on sotagliflozin 200 mg and 150 patients on placebo. The study met its primary endpoint, demonstrating that sotagliflozin 400 mg and 200 mg significantly reduced A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes and inadequate glycemic control on diet and exercise alone.

Safety results were similar to those in other studies of sotagliflozin in type 2 diabetes, with similar incidences of hypoglycemia on sotagliflozin and placebo.

SOTA-SU was a 507-patient, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group, multicenter Phase 3 study that evaluated the efficacy and safety of sotagliflozin 400 mg added to a sulfonylurea, alone or in combination with metformin, in patients with type 2 diabetes who had inadequate glycemic control on a sulfonylurea or metformin alone.

The primary endpoint was the change in A1C from baseline to Week 26. Patients were followed for a total of 79 weeks. The study met its primary endpoint, demonstrating that sotagliflozin 400 mg significantly reduced A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes who were on sulfonylurea alone or in combination with metformin with inadequate glycemic control on a sulfonylurea or metformin alone at Week 26.

Importantly, A1C reduction persisted through 79 weeks. Safety results were similar to those in other studies of sotagliflozin in type 2 diabetes.

Mean estimated glomerular filtration rate was estimated at Week 79, and was similar for sotagliflozin and placebo. Despite the presence of sulfonylurea background therapy, the incidences of hypoglycemia were similar on sotagliflozin and placebo.

SOTA-GLIM was a 954-patient, randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, active- and placebo-controlled, parallel group, multicenter Phase 3 study that evaluated the efficacy and safety of sotagliflozin 400 mg compared to glimepiride or placebo added to metformin in patients with type 2 diabetes who had inadequate glycemic control with metformin therapy.

The primary objective of the study was to demonstrate the non-inferiority of sotagliflozin 400 mg compared to glimepiride on A1C at Week 52.

Patients were followed for a total of 52 weeks. The study met its primary objective, as the change from baseline in A1C reduction to Week 52 was the same on sotagliflozin 400 mg and glimepiride, and the 95% confidence interval excluded the pre-specified margin of non-inferiority.

Safety results were similar to those in other studies of sotagliflozin in type 2 diabetes, with less hypoglycemia on sotagliflozin than glimepiride. SOTA-INS was a 571-patient, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group, multicenter, 52-week Phase 3 study that evaluated the efficacy and safety of sotagliflozin 400 mg and 200 mg or placebo in patients with type 2 diabetes who had inadequate glycemic control on basal insulin alone or in addition to oral antidiabetic agents.

The primary endpoint was a change in A1C from baseline to Week 18. Patients were followed for a total of 52 weeks. The study met its primary endpoint, demonstrating that sotagliflozin 400 mg and 200 mg significantly reduced A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes who had inadequate glycemic control on basal insulin alone or in addition to oral antidiabetic agents.

Importantly, A1C reduction persisted at the same magnitude at 52 weeks.

Safety results were similar to those in other studies of sotagliflozin in type 2 diabetes. Despite the presence of background insulin therapy, the incidences of hypoglycemia were similar on sotagliflozin and placebo.

LXRX closed at $2.10, last traded at $3.25.

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IMV shares jump on it’s potential COVID-19 vaccine

IMV Inc. provides update on progress of COVID-19 vaccine program

IMV Inc. (IMV) provided further details on the company’s progress in developing its candidate vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection in response to the global health threat posed by the novel coronavirus.

The company said, “We are working closely with regulatory agencies and our collaborators to initiate clinical studies as quickly as possible.

IMV updates it’s progress on Covid-19

The design of the phase 1 clinical study, agreed with Health Canada, is a randomized controlled study, assessing the safety and immunogenicity of DPX-COVID-19, in 84 healthy adults across two age cohorts: (1) adults between 18-55 years old inclusive and (2) 56 and above. Two dose levels of DPX-COVID-19 will be tested (25 undefined or 50 undefined).

We are pleased that Health Canada has welcomed the design of a phase 1 trial that includes this vulnerable population.

The rapid progress in target selection, the vaccine formulation, manufacturing and preclinical results so far not only demonstrate the potential of our delivery platform, but also build on our previously reported clinical data from a similarly designed vaccine against RSV, the respiratory syncytial virus.

Clinical results have shown our DPX-based vaccine against RSV demonstrated a unique ability to generate safe and long-lasting immune responses in older adults.

IMV’s candidate vaccine, DPX-COVID-19, is based on IMV’s first-in-class delivery platform that generates targeted and sustained immune response in vivo.

Fully synthetic, the vaccine candidate is designed to focus the immune response on the weaknesses of the virus with the goal to optimize safety and efficacy: DPX-COVID-19 is a formulation of the DPX delivery platform with four complementary peptide antigens that were selected for their high immunogenicity and ability to bind non-overlapping areas on the virus spike and impact its infective function in preclinical studies, Importantly, our selected targets are located outside of the 614 mutation which, according to recent research, has been demonstrated to increase the virus’ ability to infect cells in vitro and suggested to potentially reduce vaccine-induced immunity.

We believe our vaccine candidate would retain its potential efficacy independently from current/future mutations of the virus at this site, Areas on the virus spike identified as potentially responsible for vaccine-enhanced disease4 have been excluded from our target selection to minimize safety risk.

Since the Company announced the selection of its candidate vaccine on May 21st, the Company has made significant progress.

Preclinical studies have demonstrated the capacity of DPX-COVID-19 to induce strong immunogenicity including the binding on target to the spike protein and viral neutralization, The Company has completed the current good manufacturing practice (“cGMP”) formulation and manufacturing process development for DPX-COVID-19, and Multiple batches have been successfully produced at IMV.”

IMV closed at $3.00, last traded at $7.00.

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NanoViricides shares jump on it’s potential Covid-19 drug

NanoViricides announces safety results from drug candidates against SARS-CoV-2

NanoViricides (NNVC) announced that safety and tolerability of the drug candidates it is developing against SARS-CoV-2 to treat COVID-19 spectrum of diseases was observed in an animal model.

The company said the nanoviricides drug candidates tested in this safety/tolerability study have previously shown strong effectiveness against lung infection by a SARS-CoV-2 like coronavirus, namely, hCoV-NL63, in an animal study as previously reported by the company.

Three different drug candidates at three different dosage levels and vehicle control were administered to separate groups of mice intravenously in the Safety-Tolerability study.

Clinical observations and gross post-mortem studies have been completed.

The tested drug candidates were safe and well tolerated, thereby clearing the path for further development towards a treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection that has caused the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Nanoviricides are designed to act by a novel mechanism of action, trapping the virus particle.

Antibodies, in contrast, only label the virus for other components of the immune system to take care of. It is well known that the immune system is not functioning properly at least in severe COVID-19 patients.

Additionally, it is well known that viruses escape antibody-drugs via mutations.

The company’s “nanoviricide” drug candidates, in contrast, are designed to be broad-spectrum, and therefore virus escape by mutations is expected to be unlikely.

In this Safety/Tolerability Study, there were no clinical signs of immune or allergic reactions such as itching, biting, twitching, rough coat, etc.

Further, there were no observable changes in any organs including large intestine or colon on post mortem in gross histology. The only reportable changes observed were, in the high dosage groups of two of the three drug candidates tested, associated with the non-absorption of water, in the colon.

This is consistent with the clinical observation of very loosened stools in the same groups. In clinical usage, the drug candidates are not anticipated to be administered in such high levels. The objective of this study was to discover the dosage level at which such an effect may occur.

Sixteen mice in each group were administered one of the three drug candidates at one of the three dose levels, and additionally, one group was administered vehicle control, for seven days by daily tail-vein intravenous infusion in this blinded study with additional evaluations on eighth day.

This non-GLP safety/tolerability study was conducted under GLP-like conditions.

The company believes that loose or very loose stools at very high dosages in such a study is an expected and acceptable side effect of the polyethylene glycol, or PEG, moiety, which forms the backbone of the nanoviricides drug candidates.

PEG is used prior to colonoscopy in humans to promote loose stools and internal cleaning of the intestines, by causing non-absorption of water.

The company has previously reported that these drug candidates have shown strong effectiveness in a lethal lung infection model in rats using a coronavirus that uses the same ACE2 receptor as SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19, namely hCoV-NL63.

The company has found that hCoV-NL63, which causes a milder disease than SARS-CoV-2, causes substantially similar clinical pathology in this efficacy animal model as has been reported for SARS-CoV-2 associated lung infections in humans. In this previously reported lethal direct-lung-infection model efficacy study, animals in all groups developed lung disease which later led to multi-organ failures, a clinical pathology resembling that of the SARS-CoV-2.

Reduction in loss of body weight at day seven was used as the primary indicator of drug effectiveness. Rats were infected directly into lungs with lethal amounts of hCoV-NL63 virus particles and then different groups were treated separately with five different nanoviricides drug candidates, remdesivir as a positive control, and the vehicle as a negative control.

The treatment was intravenous by tail-vein injection once daily for five days, except in the case of remdesivir wherein it was by tail-vein injection twice daily. In this efficacy study, animals treated with the five different nanoviricides showed significantly reduced body weight loss.

The body weight loss in female animals ranged from only 3.9% to 11.2% in the different nanoviricide-treated groups, as compared to 20% in vehicle-treated control group, and 15.2% in a remdesivir-treated group. The body weight loss in male animals ranged from 8% to 10.9% in the different nanoviricides-treated groups, as compared to 25% in the vehicle-treated control group, and 18.6% in remdesivir-treated group.

Smaller numbers mean less loss in body weight compared to starting body weight in the group, and indicate greater drug effectiveness.

The effectiveness of nanoviricide drug candidates in the lung-infection model is consistent with the effectiveness observed in cell culture studies against infection of both hCoV-NL63, which was used in the efficacy study, and hCoV-229E, another circulating coronavirus that uses a distinctly different receptor, namely APN. Prior to filing for human clinical trials,

NanoViricides plans on requesting a pre-IND Meeting with the FDA for regulatory guidance.

NNVC is up $2.04 to $8.97.

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California Resources on the verge of bankruptcy!

The oil driller is preparing near-term bankruptcy filing, WSJ reports

California Resources Corporation (CRC) operates as an oil and natural gas exploration and production company in the State of California.

The company sells crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids to marketers, California refineries, and other purchasers that have access to transportation and storage facilities. It holds interests in approximately 2.2 million net acres of mineral acreage. As of December 31, 2019, the company had net proved reserves of 644 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Interest Payment

California Resources skipped an interest payment to lenders and could file for bankruptcy as soon as next week, The Wall Street Journal’s Alexander Gladstone reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company said in an 8-K filing that it entered into forbearance agreements most of its lenders, who have agreed not to exercise “remedies” under the credit agreements. 

The oil driller said Monday it has entered into an agreement with a majority of its senior lenders to wait until Sunday before they can declare a default, the author notes.

2-Year price chart for CRC

The company has suffered from a sharp selloff in crude oil futures prices to start this year, as a result of the drop in demand from the COVID-19 pandemic and the price war between Saudia Arabia and Russia.

CRC is up 67 cents to $2.68.

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Iterum Therapeutics drug fails, shares cut in half

Iterum says Phase 3 trial of sulopenem did not meet primary endpoint

Iterum Therapeutics (ITRM) announced that sulopenem did not achieve statistical non-inferiority relative to ertapenem in its SUlopenem for Resistant Enterobacteriaceae 2 clinical trial in complicated urinary tract infection.

Iterum shares collapse following it’s drug failure

The primary U.S. Food and Drug Administration endpoint was overall clinical and microbiologic response on Day 21 in the micro-MITT population as evaluated using a 10% non-inferiority margin.

The randomized, multi-center, double-blind SURE 2 clinical trial enrolled 1,395 patients to measure the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of IV and oral sulopenem for the treatment of cUTI in adults.

Patients were randomized to receive either IV sulopenem once daily for a minimum of five days followed by oral sulopenem twice daily to complete seven to ten days of treatment, or IV ertapenem once daily for a minimum of five days followed by either oral ciprofloxacin or, for quinolone resistant isolates, amoxicillin-clavulanate twice daily.

Responder rates at the test of cure visit for sulopenem were 67.8% and for ertapenem were 73.9% with a difference of -6.1%.

The difference in response rates was driven almost entirely by higher rates of asymptomatic bacteriuria on sulopenem relative to ertapenem, only evident at the test of cure visit; the rates of patients receiving additional antibiotics or with residual cUTI symptoms was similar.

Clinical response at the test of cure in the Modified Intent to Treat patient population and Clinically Evaluable patient population sulopenem vs ertapenem: 0.4% was similar.

The outcome at other secondary endpoints was also similar, including the overall response at the end of therapy visit at Day 10.

Strategic Alternatives

Based on the trial results, Iterum Therapeutics is evaluating its corporate, strategic and financial alternatives with the goal of maximizing value for its stakeholders while prudently managing its remaining resources.

These alternatives could potentially include the licensing, sale or divestiture of the company’s assets or proprietary technologies, a sale of the company, a merger or other business combination, another strategic transaction involving the company, restructuring activities, winding down of operations, dissolving and liquidating assets or seeking protection under bankruptcy laws.

ITRM shares are down 54% to $1.95.

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Chesapeake Energy may file for bankruptcy

Chesapeake Energy slides as company considers bankruptcy, strategic alternatives

Shares of Chesapeake Energy (CHK) are tumbling after the company warned that it might not be able to stay in business amid low commodity prices caused by a global price war and depressed demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chesapeake is near bankruptcy

EVALUATING STRATEGIC ALTERNATIVES:

On Monday, Chesapeake Energy announced that it filed its Form 10-Q for the three-month period ended March 31, 2020 and, in light of the unprecedented market environment, has withdrawn the financial outlook it previously provided on February 26, 2020.

The company also reinstated a “going concern” warning. “Fluctuations in oil and natural gas prices have a material impact on our financial position, results of operations, cash flows and quantities of oil, natural gas and NGL reserves that may be economically produced.

Historically, oil and natural gas prices have been volatile; however, the volatility in the prices for these commodities has substantially increased as a result of COVID-19 and the OPEC+ decisions […]

Historical oil prices represented in 2020 dollar, Stockwinners

If the current depressed prices persist, combined with the scheduled reductions in the leverage ratio covenant and an expected significant reduction in our borrowing base in our scheduled determination, then our liquidity and our ability to comply with our financial covenants during the next 12 months will be adversely affected,” Chesapeake said in the filing.

Boom to bust for CHK

“Based on our current forecast, we do not expect to be in compliance with our financial covenants beginning in the fourth quarter of 2020. Failure to comply with these covenants, if not waived, would result in an event of default under our revolving credit facility, the potential acceleration of outstanding debt thereunder and the potential foreclosure on the collateral securing such debt, and could cause a cross-default under our other outstanding indebtedness.

As a result of the impacts to the company’s financial position resulting from declining industry conditions and in consideration of the substantial amount of long-term debt outstanding, the company has engaged advisors to assist with the evaluation of strategic alternatives, which may include, but not be limited to, seeking a restructuring, amendment or refinancing of existing debt through a private restructuring or reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

However, there can be no assurances that the company will be able to successfully restructure its indebtedness, improve its financial position or complete any strategic transactions. As a result of these uncertainties and the likelihood of a restructuring or reorganization, management has concluded that there is substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

REVERSE STOCK SPLITs NEVER WORK:

Chesapeake stock has lost about 50% of it’s value since a 1-for-200 reverse stock split took effect after the close of trading on April 14, 2020.

The company had implemented the reverse split to raise its share price enough to regain compliance with listing standards, but it was viewed as validation of investor concerns as the company struggled with falling commodities prices, high debt levels and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the author added.

The company lost its way after Aubrey McClendon, a founder and former chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, died in a fiery car crash in 2016, a day after he was charged with conspiring to rig bids for oil and natural gas leases. Many believe he committed suicide.

Aubrey McClendon

McClendon — a key player in the U.S. shale boom — co-founded Chesapeake in 1989 and stepped down from the company in 2013. Chesapeake used to be the second-largest natural gas producer in the United States.

PRICE ACTION: In afternoon trading on Tuesday, shares of Chesapeake have dropped almost 22% to $10.13.

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Smile Direct receives patent for its concept

SmileDirectClub granted patent for SmileShop retail concept

SmileDirectClub (SDC) announced it has been issued a patent for its SmileShop intellectual property from the United States Patent & Trademark Office.

SmileDirect receives patent for its concept, Stockwinners

The patent, U.S. Patent No. 10,636,522, further strengthens the telehealth dentistry pioneer’s efforts to bring affordable, accessible oral care to more people through its unique and innovative teledentistry platform and direct-to-consumer business model.

The patent ensures no clear aligner competitor will be able to duplicate SmileDirectClub’s unique model for 18 years.

The patent encompasses the unique SmileShop concept and process, including scheduling of an appointment at a SmileShop, sending the scheduling confirmation to the customer, conducting the intraoral scan, generating a treatment plan, receiving approval of the treatment plan by a licensed dentist or orthodontist, producing aligners in accordance with the treatment plan, and sending those aligners to the customer.

Smile Direct eliminates the middle man, Stockwinners

SmileDirectClub’s clear aligner therapy platform has helped more than 1,000,000 customers achieve a straighter and brighter smile.

Furthermore, the company announced it is making plans to slowly reopen its SmileShops beginning in May in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland as local governments begin to lift business restrictions.

After its shops temporarily closed in March, SmileDirectClub, one of North America’s largest 3D printing manufacturers, dedicated some of its capacity to producing 3D printed personal protective equipment to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Smile Direct has an alliance with WalMart, Stockwinners

The company has shipped more than 40,000 face shields to medical organizations, elder care facilities, dentists and orthodontists during this time, and will supply all of its SmileShop team members with face shields and other PPE along with staggered appointment times, temperature scans and other social distancing measures to ensure a safe, sanitary experience upon reopening.

SDC closed at $5.39, it last traded at $7.20.

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Cash for Cannabis

Members of Congress look for marijuana industry included in virus relief

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter to congressional leaders asking that cannabis businesses be included in future federal relief packages due to COVID-19.

The letter which was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said in part:

“Thank you for your efforts to address the needs of the American people during the COVID-19 outbreak.

As you draft the next COVID-19 relief bill, we write to ask that you address one of the shortcomings of the CARES Act-the exclusion of state-legal cannabis businesses and their employees.

The COVID-19 crisis response demands the full participation of the American people, businesses, and workforce. However, without relief, a very large population is left without the means to execute the required public health measures and continue to provide financially for their families.

The state-legal cannabis industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy and workforce, employing over 240,000 workers across 33 states and four territories, and generating $1.9 billion in state and local taxes in 2019.

As states respond to the COVID-19 crisis by shuttering businesses to mitigate the virus’ spread, jurisdictions across the country have recognized cannabis businesses as “essential.”

Essential businesses, in many places, can operate during the pandemic provided they abide by required public health safety measures. Like other businesses with continued operations, cannabis businesses have met the moment by preserving access to treatment for patients with chronic conditions, donating protective clothing, and manufacturing equipment for medical use.

However, unlike other small businesses, cannabis businesses are not eligible for the CARES Act programs.”

Publicly traded companies in the space include Aphria (APHA), Aurora Cannabis (ACB), CV Sciences (CVSI), CannTrust Holdings (CNTTF), Canopy Growth (CGC), Cronos Group (CRON), General Cannabis (CANN), India Globalization Capital (IGC), Tilray (TLRY), Trulieve Cannabis (TCNNF) and Zynerba (ZYNE).

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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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Amarin shares tumble as court voids patent

Amarin ‘strongly disagrees’ with ruling in Vascepa ANDA litigation

Shares of Amarin (AMRN) tumbled in after hours trading after a federal judge ruled patents on its best selling drug, Vascepa was invalid. The company issued the following statement after shares tumbled 65 percent.

Amarin loses patent on its Vascepa, Stockwinners

Vascepa (Icosapent ethyl) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, a fat found in fish oil. It is used along with a proper diet to help lower fats (triglycerides) in the blood. This medication is thought to work by decreasing the amount of triglycerides made by the body.

Amarin Corporation (AMRN) commented on the United States District Court for the District of Nevada’s ruling in favor of the generic companies in the company’s patent litigation against two filers of abbreviated new drug applications, or ANDAs, for Amarin’s VASCEPA capsule franchise.

Vascepa is derived from fish oil, Stockwinners

Based on Amarin’s review of U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, an ANDA for VASCEPA has not been approved, which would be required for launch of a generic product in the United States.

The company thus does not believe there is an impending generic launch by the litigants that would compete with VASCEPA at this time.

“Amarin strongly disagrees with the ruling and will vigorously pursue all available remedies, including an appeal of the Court’s decision and a preliminary injunction pending appeal to, if an ANDA is approved by FDA, prevent launch of generic versions of VASCEPA in the United States,” said John F. Thero, president and chief executive officer of Amarin.

“At Amarin, we have a strong balance sheet with capacity and flexibility, and we plan to fight to protect our VASCEPA franchise for the benefit of our patients, physicians, the broader healthcare community and our investors.

We believe we are favorably situated to obtain an injunction against generic launch pending appeal, subject to our posting a bond to secure generics’ lost profits in the event that generics prevail on appeal.

UK’s Hikma Pharma. had asked for overturn of the patent

As we work to take all legal actions necessary to defend and protect our intellectual property, we will continue to press forward with our educational and promotional efforts for VASCEPA in treating indicated patients at high risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke. After we determine the outcome of our effort to prevent a generic launch (if an ANDA approval is obtained), we expect to provide an update on how we would adjust certain promotional activities for VASCEPA in the United States.”

Generic drug maker Dr. Reddy’s will be making generic Vascepa

Generic drugmakers Hikma Pharmaceuticals of UK and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Limited  (RDY) had asked to overturn the patents so they can begin making generic versions of the medication.

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Miragen Therapeutics shares soar on leukemia data

Miragen Therapeutics announces data from Phase 1 trial of cobomarsen

Miragen Therapeutics (MGEN) announced new efficacy and safety data from the ATLL arm of its ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial of cobomarsen, which will be presented at the 12th Annual T-Cell Lymphoma Forum in La Jolla, CA, which is taking place from January 30th to February 1st.

Miragen shares soar on its test data, Stockwinners

Of note are the data from the subtype of aggressive ATLL patients (Adult T-Cell Leukemia Lymphoma (ATLL)) who at study entry had persistent residual disease after chemotherapy or other therapy.

In the trial, six patients of this subtype had an MST of 26 months with three patients still on treatment at the time of data analysis.

Adult T-Cell Leukemia Lymphoma does not have a cure, Stockwinners

The Company was most encouraged, however, by the observed biomarker activity showing that disease stabilization is marked by a decrease in biomarkers of tumor cells activation and proliferation, providing evidence of the biological mechanism effect of cobomarsen on disease stabilization.

The Company is evaluating cobomarsen in an ongoing Phase 1 basket trial of cancers where the disease process appears to be correlated with an increase in miR-155 levels, including ATLL, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Today’s announcement includes results for the first 15 patients with aggressive subtypes of ATLL who were treated with three doses of cobomarsen by intravenous infusion, including 600, 900 and 1200 mg doses.

The preliminary results from this first-in-human Phase 1 clinical trial of the miR-155 inhibitor, cobomarsen, in patients with ATLL was observed to improve disease stabilization and reduce biomarker expression associated with ATLL cellular proliferation and activation in patients with persistent residual disease after chemotherapy and other therapies.

Of the 15 ATLL patients treated with cobomarsen, nine were actively relapsing at the time of screening, and six had residual nodal or circulating leukemic disease after chemotherapy or other systemic therapies.

For these six patients, the duration of cobomarsen treatment ranged from 4.5 to 23.7 months, with three patients still on study as of October 17, 2019.

MST of these patients was 26 months, compared with the 7.4 months MST from a retrospective external historical cohort based on a literature search of peer-reviewed papers. The Company compiled a historical external control which includes a series of studies with ATLL patients treated with standard of care over the past 10 years.

These studies included more than 6,000 ATLL patients. The Company calculated an MST from diagnosis of 7.4 months for patients with the aggressive ATLL subtypes, regardless of the type of therapy or number of therapies administered.

Five of these six patients treated with cobomarsen were alive as of the October 17, 2019 data analysis. In the trial, disease stabilization was marked by an observed decrease in Ki-67, a biomarker of cell proliferation, as well as other biomarkers of cell activation on circulating tumor cells, providing evidence of the biological mechanism effect of cobomarsen on disease stabilization.

For the clinical trial, the Company established a retrospective external historical cohort based on a literature search of peer-reviewed papers which reported MST from diagnosis and PFS on large cohorts of ATLL patients over the last decade.

A total of 16 papers describing unique cohorts of patients from Japan, the United States, South America and Europe were included in the MST retrospective analysis, of which 12 included data regarding MST for combined aggressive subtypes and eight reported MST for both acute and lymphomatous sub-types separately but not for the combined aggressive subtypes.

The number of patients included in each publication varied from 54 to 1,792, for a total of 6,440 patients.

Chronic administration of cobomarsen has been generally safe and well tolerated with a favorable safety profile over one year of dosing on a weekly basis.

There were 196 total reported adverse events as of October 17, 2019, with only 22% of the total AEs considered possibly related to study drug, and 86% of the total AEs considered mild or moderate. 14% of the total AEs were Grade 3 or 4 and most resolved within 11 days.

With no drug related deaths and only two serious adverse events occurring in the same patient and deemed possibly related to the study drug, the observed safety profile of cobomarsen in ATLL through October 17, 2019 appears to be benign and well tolerated with chronic dosing.

MGEN closed at $1.69, last traded at $2.80.

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FSB Bancorp sold for $17.80 per share

Evans Bancorp to acquire FSB for $17.80 per share, in accretive transaction

Evans Bancorp (EVBN) and FSB Bancorp (FSBC), jointly announced the execution of a definitive merger agreement whereby Evans will acquire FSB for $17.80 per share for total consideration of approximately $34.7M.

FSB sold for $34.8M, Stockwinners

The transaction is proposed to be comprised of 50% stock and 50% cash. Unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of each company, the transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval and FSB stockholder approval.

An investor presentation summarizing the transaction is available at www.evansbancorp.com.

Evans buys FSB for $17.80 per share, Stockwinners

Under the terms of the merger agreement, FSB stockholders will have the right to receive at their election either 0.4394 shares of Evans common stock or $17.80 in cash for each share of FSB common stock, subject to possible adjustment and 50/50 proration.

This transaction will qualify as a tax-free reorganization for those FSB stockholders who receive Evans common stock in the transaction. The merger consideration represents an 8% premium to FSB’s tangible book value as of September 30, 2019, and a 5.9% premium to FSB’s closing share price on December 18, 2019.

Evans’ management expects this transaction will be 4.7% accretive to 2021 earnings with tangible book value earn back of approximately 3.5 years.

Based on information as of September 30, 2019, the combined company will have 20 financial centers with approximately $1.8 billion in total assets, $1.5 billion in total deposits and $1.5 billion in total loans.

Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals and the approval of FSB stockholders.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, at closing of the transaction, FSB and its wholly owned bank subsidiary, Fairport Savings Bank, will be merged with and into Evans Bancorp and its subsidiary bank, Evans Bank.

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Axsome shares soar on its depression drug

Axsome Therapeutics: AXS-05 achieves primary endpoint in Phase 3 trial, Shares jump 77%

Axsome Therapeutics (AXSM) announced that AXS-05, a novel, oral, investigational NMDA receptor antagonist with multimodal activity, met the primary endpoint and rapidly and significantly improved symptoms of depression in the GEMINI Phase 3 trial in major depressive disorder.

Axsome Therapeutics shares soar on its Gemini depression drug study, Stockwinners

The GEMINI study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center, U.S. trial, in which 327 adult patients with confirmed moderate to severe MDD were randomized to treatment with either AXS-05 or placebo once daily for the first 3 days and twice daily thereafter for a total of 6 weeks.

AXS-05 met the primary endpoint by demonstrating a highly statistically significant reduction in the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale total score compared to placebo at Week 6, with mean reductions from baseline of 16.6 points for AXS-05 and 11.9 points for placebo.

AXS-05 rapidly and durably improved depressive symptoms as compared to placebo with statistical significance on the MADRS total score demonstrated at Week 1, the earliest time point assessed, and at all time points thereafter.

Rates of remission from depression were statistically significantly greater for AXS-05 compared to placebo at Week 2 and at every time point thereafter, being achieved by 39.5% of AXS-05 patients compared to 17.3% of placebo patients at Week 6.

AXS-05 demonstrated rapid onset of action with statistically significant improvement as compared to placebo on numerous endpoints at Week 1, or only 4 days after the start of twice daily dosing.

Statistically significant improvements at Week 1 were observed for MADRS total score; Patient Global Impression-Improvement; Clinical Global Impression-Severity; Clinical Global Impression-Improvement; Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology-Self-Rated; Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire-Short Form; and other endpoints.

On all secondary endpoints including the following, AXS-05 demonstrated statistically significant improvement at Week 6 compared to placebo, reflecting increasing treatment effects over time: clinical response on the MADRS total score; PGI-I; CGI-S; CGI-I; QIDS-SR-16; Sheehan Disability Scale; and Q-LES-Q-SF.

AXSM is up 77% to $82.66.

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