White House selects vaccine finalists

Novavax sinks after White House omits as COVID vaccine finalist

The New York Times reports that Moderna (MRNA) is among the five finalists selected by the Trump administration as the most likely to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Moderna (MRNA) is one of the finalists

By narrowing the field, the White House is betting it can identify the most promising vaccines at an early stage, speed along the process of determining which will work and ensure that the winner or winners can be quickly manufactured in large quanities, the Times said.

Pfizer is also one of the finalists

The announcement of the decision will be made at the White House in the next few weeks, government officials said.

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AstraZeneca is one of the five companies.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top epidemiologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hinted at the coming action on Tuesday when he told a medical seminar that “by the beginning of 2021 we hope to have a couple of hundred million doses.”

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Johnson & Johnson is also a finalist for Covid 19 vaccine

Finalists

A White House announcement is expected in the new few weeks. In addition to Moderna, the winners are AstraZeneca (AZN), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Merck (MRK) and Pfizer (PFE), according the Times.

Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study, Stockwinners
Merck is the final company on the list.

B. Riley FBR

B. Riley FBR analyst Mayank Mamtani views the selloff today in shares of Novavax on the New York Times report that the company was not selected as a finalist for the White House’s “Operation Warp Speed” as overdone.

Mamtani reiterates a Buy rating on Novavax. NVAX closed down 11% to $44.25.

Novax did not make the final cut, shares tumble

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Arena Pharmaceuticals higher on ulcerative colitis data

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

Arena shares jump of Bristol Myers data, Stockwinners

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

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

Arena is also testing out an S1P drug, etrasimod.

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

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

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

Canter Comments

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

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

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

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

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

Credit Suisse

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

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

ARNA is up 16% to $68.04

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Tesla sues Fremont and Alameda county

Tesla to move HQ and future plants to Texas and Nevada

Tesla (TSLA) said that, “Contrary to the Governor’s recent guidance and support from the City of Fremont, Alameda County is insisting we should not resume operations.

This is not for lack of trying or transparency since we have met with and collaborated on our restart plans with the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.

Unfortunately, the County Public Health Officer who is making these decisions has not returned our calls or emails. […] the County’s position left us no choice but to take legal action to ensure that Tesla and its employees can get back to work.

Tesla’s only U.S. manufacturing plant is located in California

We filed a lawsuit on May 9 asking the court to invalidate the County Orders, to the extent the County claims they prevent Tesla from resuming operations.

Tesla’s Alameda County Plant, Stockwinners

Meanwhile, CEO Elon Musk said in a series of tweets that, “Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. The unelected & ignorant “Interim Health Officer” of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense! […] Frankly, this is the final straw.

Musk plans to move Tesla out of California

Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately.

If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependent on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.

In March, Musk clashed with California officials over whether his company had to halt production in Fremont – home to Tesla’s only U.S. vehicle factory.

A county official on Friday said that its health department has had many discussions with Tesla and recommended it wait at least another week to monitor infection rates and discuss safe ways to resume production.

TSLA closed at $819.42.

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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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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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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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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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Argenx issues positive guidance, shares rise

Argenx says beginning 2020 in an ‘exciting position’

In a regulatory filing, Argenx (ARGX) provided strategic outlook for 2020 outlining key priorities for its broad pipeline and path towards achieving its ‘argenx 2021’ integrated commercial vision.

Argenx issues positive guidance, Stockwinners

“We begin 2020 in an exciting position, having met all our objectives for our clinical programs.

This includes the completion of enrollment of our Phase 3 ADAPT trial of efgartigimod in gMG, the launch of key efgartigimod clinical trials in ITP and CIDP, and the initiation of cusatuzumab clinical trials in two AML settings with Janssen.

In addition, we’re announcing today positive proof-of-concept data for efgartigimod in PV, our third ‘beachhead’ indication, further demonstrating our initial development strategy of targeting pathogenic autoantibodies and creating commercial opportunities in several therapeutic areas.

Looking forward to the remainder of 2020, we plan up to five registrational efgartigimod trials and further expansion of the cusatuzumab global development plan with Janssen,” said Tim Van Hauwermeiren, Chief Executive Officer of argenx.

“Most importantly, we are continuing to execute on the ‘argenx 2021’ vision to become a global, integrated immunology company with our first launch of efgartigimod in gMG expected in 2021.

At the core of this growth strategy is a commitment to expanding our early-stage pipeline with immunology breakthroughs and advancing our late-stage candidates while extending our reach to bring first-in-class medicines to patients,” continued Van Hauwermeiren.

As part of its 2021 vision, Argenx highlights: leadership in FcRn and its therapeutics immunology potential; launch of MyRealWorld MG; and a “strong” financial foundation. In addition, Argenx reported “positive” proof-of-concept data in PV, the third beachhead indication as part of the broad efgartigimod development strategy.

Argenx has a close relationship with Janssen, Stockwinners

Within its neuromuscular franchise, Argenx is evaluating efgartigimod in gMG and efgartigmod in CIDP; within its hematology/oncology franchise, it is evaluating efgartigimdo in ITP and cusatuzumab in collaboration with Janssen (JNJ).

ARGX shares are up 5.2% to $165.00 in Thursday’s trading.

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Epizyme’s Tazemetostat receives FDA’s okay

Epizyme says FDA advisory committee votes unanimously in favor of tazemetostat

Epizyme (EPZM) announced that the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted 11 – 0 in favor of the benefit-risk profile of tazemetostat as a treatment for patients with metastatic or locally advanced epithelioid sarcoma not eligible for curative surgery.

Epizyme shares halted ahead of FDA meeting, Stockwinners

“Today’s ODAC outcome is a significant step toward addressing the critical needs of ES patients.

This is a remarkable achievement marking the culmination of years of hard work by the entire Epizyme team. If approved, we will have the opportunity to change how patients with this devastating cancer are treated.

Our commercial-readiness is complete, and we look forward to finalizing our dialog with the FDA,” said Robert Bazemore, president and CEO of Epizyme.

Epizyme’s New Drug Application, or NDA, for tazemetostat is, an oral, first-in-class EZH2 inhibitor, for the treatment of patients with metastatic or locally advanced epithelioid sarcoma (ES) who are not eligible for curative surgery.

Epithelioid Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer, Stockwinners

The advisory committee vote will be non-binding, but FDA takes its recommendations into consideration when reviewing related applications for marketing approval.

ES is a rare and aggressive soft tissue sarcoma characterized by a loss of the INI1 protein. Patients are most commonly diagnosed as young adults, between 20 and 40 years of age, typically with no patients living past five years from diagnosis. ES becomes more aggressive after recurrence or once it has metastasized, with a typical survival of less than one year for patients with metastatic disease.

Epizyme, Inc. discovers, develops, and commercializes novel epigenetic medicines for patients with cancer and other diseases primarily in the United States.

EPZM halted at $18.19.

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Tallgrass Energy sold for $3 billion

Blackstone affiliates to buy Tallgrass Class A shares for $22.45 per share

Tallgrass Energy (TGE) announced earlier that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement pursuant to which affiliates of Blackstone Infrastructure (BX) together with affiliates of Enagas, GIC, NPS and USS. will acquire all of the publicly-held outstanding Class A Shares of TGE for $22.45 in cash per Class A share.

The transaction is expected to close in Q2 of 2020, subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions, including approval of the merger by holders of a majority of the outstanding Class A and Class B Shares of TGE, voting together as a single class, inclusive of the approximately 44% of the total Class A and Class B shares held by the sponsors.

Tallgrass Energy sold for $3B, Stockwinners

Upon closing of the transaction, the Class A Shares will cease to be publicly traded. Pursuant to the merger agreement, TGE has agreed not to pay distributions during the pendency of the transactions contemplated by the merger agreement.

Tallgrass Energy, LP provides crude oil transportation services to customers in Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and the surrounding regions of the United States. The company operates through three segments: Natural Gas Transportation; Crude Oil Transportation; and Gathering, Processing & Terminalling. 

The conflicts committee of the board of directors of Tallgrass Energy GP, TGE’s general partner, after consultation with its independent legal and financial advisors, unanimously approved the transaction and determined it to be in the best interests of TGE and its public shareholders.

Stocks to Watch, Stocks to Trade, Stockwinners
Blackstone buys Tallgrass Energy for $3B, Stockwinners

The sponsors expect to fund the purchase of the Class A Shares with approximately $3B of equity, with the remainder of the funding necessary to consummate the transaction provided by debt.

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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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Shares of Aravive soar on its ovarian cancer drug

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

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

Ovarian cancer data sends shares sharply higher, Stockwinners

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

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

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

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

How AVB-500 works, Stockwinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CRISPR Therapeutics sharply higher on gene editing data

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

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

Gene Editing shows promises in treating patients, Stockwinners

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

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Vertex and CRISPR report positive data, Stockwinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Blair

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

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

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

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

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Goldman Sachs

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

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

Roth Capital

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

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

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

Cantor Fitzgerald

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

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

Piper Jaffray

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

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

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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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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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