Pfizer and BioNTech report promising data on Covid-19 vaccine

Pfizer, BioNTech announce early data from Phase 1/2 study of vaccine candidate

Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and BioNTech SE (BNTX) announced preliminary U.S. data from the most advanced of four investigational vaccine candidates from their BNT162 mRNA-based vaccine program, Project Lightspeed, against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the current global pandemic.

The BNT162 program is evaluating at least four experimental vaccines, each of which represents a unique combination of mRNA format and target antigen.

Pfizer reports preliminary positive data

The manuscript describing the preliminary clinical data for the nucleoside-modified messenger RNA candidate, BNT162b1, which encodes an optimized SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain antigen, is available and is concurrently undergoing scientific peer-review for potential publication.

Overall, the preliminary data demonstrated that BNT162b1 could be administered in a dose that was well tolerated and generated dose dependent immunogenicity, as measured by RBD-binding IgG concentrations and SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody titers.

The ongoing U.S. Phase 1/2 randomized, placebo-controlled, observer-blinded study is evaluating the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of escalating dose levels of BNT162b1. The initial part of the study included 45 healthy adults 18 to 55 years of age.

Preliminary data for BNT162b1 was evaluated for 24 subjects who received two injections of 10 microgram and 30 microgram, 12 subjects who received a single injection of 100 microgram, and 9 subjects who received 2 doses of placebo control.

The participants received two doses, 21 days apart, of placebo, 10 microgram or 30 microgram of BNT162b1, or received a single dose of 100 microgram of the vaccine candidate.

Because of a strong vaccine booster effect, the highest neutralizing titers were observed seven days after the second dose of 10 microgram or 30 microgram on day 28 after vaccination.

The neutralizing GMTs were 168 and 267 for the 10 microgram and 30 microgram dose levels, respectively, corresponding to 1.8- and 2.8-times the neutralizing GMT of 94 observed in a panel of 38 sera from subjects who had contracted SARS-CoV-2.

In all 24 subjects who received 2 vaccinations at 10 microgram and 30 microgram dose levels of BNT162b1, elevation of RBD-binding IgG concentrations was observed after the second injection with respective GMCs of 4,813 units/ml and 27,872 units/ml at day 28, seven days after immunization.

These concentrations are 8- and 46.3-times the GMC of 602 units/ml in a panel of 38 sera from subjects who had contracted SARS-CoV-2.

At day 21 after a single injection, the 12 subjects who received 100 microgram of BNT162b1 had an RBD-binding IgG GMC of 1,778 units/ml and a SARS-CoV neutralizing GMT of 33, which are 3-times and 0.35-times, respectively, the GMC and GMT of the convalescent serum panel.

At the 10 microgram or 30 microgram dose levels, adverse reactions, including low grade fever, were more common after the second dose than the first dose.

Following dose 2, 8.3% of participants who received 10 microgram and 75.0% of participants who received 30 microgram BNT162b1 reported fever greater than or equal to 38.0 degrees C.

Local reactions and systemic events after injection with 10 microgram and 30 microgram of BNT162b1 were dose-dependent, generally mild to moderate, and transient.

The most commonly reported local reaction was injection site pain, which was mild to moderate, except in one of 12 subjects who received a 100 microgram dose, which was severe. No serious adverse events were reported.

Given higher numbers of subjects experiencing local reactions and systemic events after a single 100 microgram dose with no significant increases in immunogenicity compared to the 30 microgram dose level, the 12 participants in the 100 microgram group were not administered a second dose.

These preliminary data, together with additional preclinical and clinical data being generated, will be used by the two companies to determine a dose level and select among multiple vaccine candidates to seek to progress to a large, global Phase 2b/3 safety and efficacy trial.

That trial may involve up to 30,000 healthy participants and is anticipated to begin in late July 2020, if regulatory approval to proceed is received.

The preliminary clinical data from this ongoing study has been submitted for potential publication in a peer-reviewed journal and is available on an online preprint manuscript server.

The BNT162b1 candidate remains under clinical study and is not currently approved for distribution anywhere in the world. If the ongoing studies are successful and the vaccine candidate receives regulatory approval, the companies expect to manufacture up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020 and potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021.

In that event, BioNTech and Pfizer would work jointly to distribute the potential COVID-19 vaccine worldwide.

The Canadian company provides lipid nanoparticles or the formulation of various mRNA vaccines.

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Monopar files for patent for Covid-19 treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MNPR closed at $6.91.

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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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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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Axsome Therapeutics reports positive migraine data

Axsome Therapeutics announces AXS-07 met primary, secondary endpoints

Axsome Therapeutics (AXSM) announced that AXS-07, Axsome’s novel, oral, multi-mechanistic investigational medicine for the acute treatment of migraine, met the two regulatory co-primary endpoints and significantly improved migraine pain and most bothersome symptoms as compared to placebo in the MOMENTUM Phase 3 trial.

Axsome reports positive migraine data, Stockwinners

AXS-07 also met the key secondary endpoint, demonstrating statistically significant superiority to the active comparator rizatriptan on sustained freedom from migraine pain.

MOMENTUM was a randomized, double-blind, placebo- and active-controlled trial which enrolled only patients with a history of inadequate response to prior acute migraine treatments, assessed using the Migraine Treatment Optimization Questionnaire, or mTOQ-4.

A total of 1,594 patients were randomized in a 2:2:2:1 ratio to AXS-07, rizatriptan, MoSEIC, meloxicam, or placebo, to treat a single migraine attack of moderate or severe intensity.

In addition to a history of inadequate response, enrolled patients exhibited a high rate of characteristics that are strongly associated with poor treatment outcomes including cutaneous allodynia, severe migraine pain intensity, obesity and morning migraine.

The study was conducted pursuant to a FDA special protocol assessment, or SPA.

AXS-07 met the two regulatory co-primary endpoints by demonstrating, with high statistical significance, a greater percentage of patients as compared to placebo achieving pain freedom and absence of most bothersome symptom two hours after dosing.

Superiority of AXS-07 to rizatriptan and MoSEIC meloxicam was established as specified in the SPA, by demonstration of a greater percentage of AXS-07 patients achieving sustained pain freedom from two to 24 hours after dosing, compared to rizatriptan and MoSEIC meloxicam, as well as to placebo.

The positive results on both co-primary endpoints along with the demonstration of component contribution support the filing of an NDA for AXS-07 in the acute treatment of migraine.

AXS-07 provided greater and more sustained migraine pain relief compared to placebo and rizatriptan, which translated to a significant reduction in rescue medication use for AXS-07 compared to placebo and rizatriptan.

The percentage of patients experiencing sustained pain relief from two to 24 hours after dosing was 53.3% for AXS-07, compared to 33.5% for placebo and 43.9% for rizatriptan.

Sustained pain relief from two to 48 hours was also experienced by a statistically significantly greater proportion of AXS-07 patients, compared to placebo and rizatriptan patients.

Rescue medication was used by 23.0% of AXS-07 patients, compared to 43.5% of placebo and 34.7% of rizatriptan patients. AXS-07 provided rapid relief of migraine pain with the percentage of patients achieving pain relief with AXS-07 being numerically greater than with rizatriptan at every time point measured starting at 15 minutes, and statistically significantly greater than with rizatriptan by 60 minutes.

The proportions of patients experiencing pain relief 1.5 hours after dosing were 60.5% for AXS-07 compared to 52.5% for rizatriptan and 48.3% for placebo.

AXS-07 was statistically significantly superior to rizatriptan on several other secondary endpoints including Patient Global Impression of Change and return to normal functioning at 24 hours.

AXS-07 was safe and well tolerated in the trial.

The most commonly reported adverse events with AXS-07 were nausea, dizziness and somnolence, none of which occurred at a rate greater than placebo or greater than 3%.

There was one serious adverse event in the AXS-07 arm which was deemed by the investigator not to be related to study drug.

The MOMENTUM study was conducted pursuant to an SPA with the FDA.

The SPA provides agreement that the overall MOMENTUM trial design and planned analysis adequately address objectives that, if met, will support the regulatory submission for approval of AXS-07 for the indication of acute treatment of migraine in adults with or without aura.

Based on FDA feedback, Axsome believes that MOMENTUM will be the only efficacy trial required to support an NDA filing for AXS-07 for the acute treatment of migraine.

Axsome plans to file the NDA in the second half of 2020. AXS-07 is a novel, oral, rapidly absorbed, multi-mechanistic investigational medicine for the acute treatment of migraine, consisting of MoSEIC meloxicam and rizatriptan.

AXS-07 is thought to act by inhibiting CGRP release, reversing CGRP-mediated vasodilation, and inhibiting neuro-inflammation, pain signal transmission, and central sensitization.

Axsome’s MoSEIC technology significantly increases the speed of absorption of the meloxicam component after oral administration while maintaining a long plasma half-life.

AXS-07 is covered by 21 issued U.S. and international patents providing protection out to 2036, and Axsome maintains worldwide rights.

Detailed study results, including additional secondary endpoints, will be submitted for presentation at upcoming medical meetings and for publication.

AXS-07 is also being evaluated in the INTERCEPT Phase 3 trial which is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the early treatment of migraine with AXS-07.

In contrast to the ongoing MOMENTUM trial in which patients with a history of inadequate response treated migraine attacks once they have become of moderate or severe intensity, in the INTERCEPT trial, patients are to administer AXS-07 at the earliest sign of migraine pain.

AXSM closed at $101.98.

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Audentes Therapeutics sold for $3 billion

Astellas to acquire Audentes for $60 per share in cash

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

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

Gene Therapy pays off nicely for Audentes Therapeutics, Stockwinners

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

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

Astellas pays $3 billion for Audentes Therapeutics, Stockwinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Medicines Co. sold for $9.7B

Novartis to pay $85 per share in cash for each MDCO share

The Medicines Company (MDCO) announced that it has entered into definitive agreement in which Novartis (NVS) will acquire the company for $85 per share in an all-cash transaction, implying a fully diluted equity value of $9.7B.

Novartis to pay $85 per share in cash for each MDCO share, Stockwinners

The stock closed Friday down $1.21 to $68.55. See our previous blog post.

The purchase price represents a premium of approximately 45% to The Medicines Company’s closing share price of $58.65 on November 18, the last trading day prior to news reports of a potential transaction between The Medicines Company and Novartis.

Novartis receives positive CHMP opinion for Kymriah, Stockwinners
Novartis to pay $85 per share in cash for each MDCO share, Stockwinners , Stockwinners

The transaction was unanimously approved by the boards of both companies. Under the terms of the merger agreement, Novartis will commence a tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of The Medicines Company for $85 per share in cash.

Following the completion of the tender offer, a wholly owned subsidiary of Novartis will merge with The Medicines Company and shares of The Medicines Company that have not been tendered and purchased in the tender offer will be converted into the right to receive the same price per share.

Completion of the transaction is expected in Q1 of 2020, pending the successful completion of the tender offer and other customary closing conditions.

Until that time, The Medicines Company will continue to operate as a separate and independent company. The company expects to file regulatory submissions for inclisiran in the U.S. in Q4 of 2019 and in Europe in the first quarter of 2020.

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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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Medicines Co. is in play

Novartis holds talks about potential acquisition of Medicines Co

Medicines Co. (MDCO) has attracted takeover interest from companies including Novartis (NVS), which has been holding talks about a potential acquisition of the New Jersey-based company, Bloomberg’s Ed Hammond, Nabila Ahmed and Dinesh Nair report, citing people familiar with the matter.

Novartis is eyeing Medicines Co., Stockwinners

According to the people, Novartis is conducting due diligence on Medicines Co. Other potential acquirers have also expressed interest in buying Medicines Co., they add.

Novartis is looking for products to replace its out of patent products, Stockwinners

The Medicines Company focuses on developing therapeutics for the treatment of therosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The company is developing Inclisiran, an investigational RNA interference therapeutic that inhibits production of proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9, which controls LDL-cholesterol levels.

Novartis has historically had a strong cardiovascular drug franchise, but lost ground when Diovan, once a $6 billion-per-year seller, lost patent protection in 2012 and left the company without an immediate, innovative follow-up product.

Novartis Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan has relied on deals to sharpen the company’s focus on innovative drugs for cancer and rare diseases. The Basel, Switzerland-based company has announced close to $16 billion of acquisitions since he took over as CEO in February 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He has also spun off the Alcon Inc. eye-care division and ditched a stake in a consumer-health venture.

Baird’s Comments

Baird analyst Madhu Kumar said he has utter conviction that The Medicine’s Co. inclisiran can disrupt cholesterol therapy. The analyst cited its results from the ORION-9/10/11 trial which was released and supported his thesis. He said the remaining question is whether the company can find an acquirer or partner to help launch inclisiran.

Kumar reiterated his Outperform rating and $100 price target on The Medicine’s Co. shares.

JPMorgan’s Take

JPMorgan analyst Jessica Fye noted that Bloomberg is reporting that Novartis (NVS) and other potential acquirers have expressed interest in buying The Medicines Company (MDCO), adding that her talks with investors indicate that Novartis is viewed as the most likely buyer.

She further notes that Medicines Co. shares were trading above her standalone valuation at yesterday’s close, which she attributes to some anticipation of a deal, and that today’s move puts the stock in a price range greater than 40% above her standalone target.

Outside of Novartis, Fye also believes an acquirer could be a less expected company, but if only one company is interested they could try to “wait it out” to the point where investors might begin to worry that Medicines could have to take on the substantial inclisiran launch investment independently. However, if multiple players are interested, as Bloomberg suggests, she thinks “competitive tension” could lead to a near-term acquisition.

MDCO is up $12.35 to $71.00.

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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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BeiGene drug wins FDA approval for rare form of lymphoma

The FDA granted accelerated approval to the capsules for treatment of adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma, who have received at least one prior therapy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved BeiGene Ltd’s lymphoma drug, accepting the Chinese drugmaker’s strategy of largely using data from trials held outside the United States to file for approval.

FDA granted accelerated approval to the capsules for treatment of adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma
FDA granted approval to the capsules for treatment of aduls with mantle cell lymphoma, Stockwinners

The company tested the treatment, Brukinsa, in 118 patients with mantle cell lymphoma enrolled in two studies. About three-quarters were Asian, 21% Caucasian, and between 10% to 15% were from the United States, BeiGene said.

The FDA granted accelerated approval to the capsules for treatment of adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma, who have received at least one prior therapy.

Mantle cell lymphoma is a rare, aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer that most often affects men aged over 60. The company estimates between 3,000 and 4,000 new patients were diagnosed in the United States in 2015.

Last month, BeiGene (BGNE) and Amgen (AMGN) announced a global strategic oncology collaboration for the commercialization and development in China of Amgen’s XGEVA, KYPROLIS, and BLINCYTO, and the joint global development of 20 oncology assets in Amgen’s pipeline, with BeiGene responsible for development and commercialization in China.

In connection with the collaboration, Amgen said it will purchase a 20.5% stake in BeiGene for approximately $2.7B in cash at $174.85 per American Depositary Share, or ADS.

BGNE closed at $196.40.

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Esperion Therapeutics higher on cholesterol data

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

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

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

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

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

Bempedoic acid in action, Stockwinners

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

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

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

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

ESPR +$2.42 to $41.14.

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Nektar Therapeutics is in focus

Nektar presents new clinical, preclinical data from immuno-oncology pipeline

Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR) announced the presentation of five clinical and preclinical data abstracts focused on its immuno-oncology portfolio at the 2019 Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting.

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Nektar Therapeutics is in focus, Stockwinners

New clinical results from the PIVOT-02 Phase 1/2 study were shared in an oral presentation titled, “Clinical activity of BEMPEG plus NIVO in previously untreated patients with metastatic melanoma: updated results from the Phase 1/2 PIVOT-02 Study” during the Combination Phase 1-2 Clinical Trials Session on Saturday, November 9th.

Additional preclinical data presented at the annual meeting highlighted NKTR-255, an IL-15 agonist discovered by Nektar.

The presentations demonstrated that NKTR-255 enhanced activity of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity against tumor cells in vitro, and that it also enhanced in vivo efficacy of ADCC-inducing antibodies in models of human solid tumors.

NKTR-255 is designed to engage the IL-15 pathway to stimulate and expand natural killer cells and promote the survival and expansion of memory CD8+ T cells without inducing suppressive regulatory T cells.

Nektar product pipeline, Stockwinners

NKTR-255 is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial in patients with either relapsed or refractory Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or multiple myeloma.

“The data presented at this year’s SITC meeting continue to showcase the potential of our I-O portfolio, most notably our key IL-2 pathway program, bempeg, and our new IL-15 pathway program, NKTR-255,” said Jonathan Zalevsky, Ph.D., Chief Research & Development Officer at Nektar.

“The 18-month follow-up data presentation for the Stage IV melanoma patients in our PIVOT-02 study reinforces the promise of BEMPEG and NIVO to work synergistically to achieve a deepening of response over time, while maintaining a favorable safety and tolerability profile. We’re pleased that at this 18 month timepoint, 85% of patients who achieved responses have ongoing responses and median PFS has not yet been reached.”

Separately, Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR) announced updated results from the first-in-human Phase 1a study of NKTR-358, a novel T regulatory cell stimulator in development for the treatment of autoimmune and other chronic inflammatory conditions.

Nektar reports new data, Stockwinners

The data, which were presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Atlanta, show that treatment with NKTR-358 led to a marked and selective dose-dependent expansion in the numbers and proliferative capacity of FoxP3+CD25bright Treg cells, and a measurable activation of Treg cells.

These data are a continuation of initial results reported at 2019 Annual European Congress of Rheumatology in June 2019.

NKTR-358 is designed to treat autoimmune and inflammatory conditions by correcting the immune system imbalance that results from reduced numbers and impaired function of immune-regulating Treg cells.

NKTR-358 works by targeting the interleukin-2 receptor complex to stimulate the proliferation and activation of Treg cells.

NKTR-358 was discovered by Nektar and is being co-developed and commercialized in partnership with Eli Lilly (LLY).

Eli Lilly announces Alimta label expanded by FDA, Stockwinners
Eli Lilly and Nektar report new data, Stockwinners

“We’re pleased to report that final results from our first-in-human Phase 1a study continue to support the positive safety and tolerability profile of NKTR-358, while reinforcing its selective and measurable impact on the numbers, expansion and activation of regulatory T cells or Tregs,” said Brian Kotzin, M.D., senior VP, Clinical Development and NKTR-358 Program Lead at Nektar.

“Autoimmune and inflammatory diseases are marked by an imbalance in the body’s self-tolerance and self-regulatory immune pathways, and the ability of NKTR-358 to expand functional Tregs could help restore normal balance.

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