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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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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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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Cambrex sold for $2.4 billion

Cambrex to be acquired by Permira Funds for $60.00 per share in cash, or $2.4B

Cambrex sold for $2.4 billion, Stockwinners

Cambrex (CBM) announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of the Permira funds in a transaction valued at approximately $2.4B, including Cambrex’s net debt.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Cambrex shareholders will receive $60.00 in cash for each share of Cambrex common stock, which represents a 47.1% premium to the August 6 closing stock price and a 37.3% premium to the 60-day volume weighted average closing price leading up to this announcement.

Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of approval by Cambrex’s shareholders and customary regulatory approvals. Closing is expected to occur during the fourth quarter.

Permira goes shopping, Stockwinners

The transaction will be financed through a combination of debt and equity financing.

Cambrex Corporation provides various products and services for the development and commercialization of new and generic therapeutics worldwide. Its products comprise active pharmaceutical ingredients and pharmaceutical intermediates that are used in the production of prescription and over-the-counter drug products, as well as finished dosage forms.

The company serves generic drug companies; and companies that discover and commercialize small molecule human therapeutics. The company sells its products directly, as well as through independent agents. 

Cambrex announced that it will not hold a second quarter 2019 earnings conference call and will not update previously provided financial guidance given the pending acquisition.

The Permira investment team advises the Permira Funds. The investment team identifies long-term macro trends to back, across five key sectors including healthcare. Healthcare is one of the World’s largest industries, spanning hundreds of sub-sectors (e.g., from Biotechnology to Heavy Medical Equipment, from Hospitals to Veterinary medicine). It has the potential to create significant value for its customers through improving the human experience but its costs are also potentially limitless. The sector’s fundamental trends and complexity along with its scale generate attractive investment opportunities.

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Allergan sold for $63 billion

AbbVie to acquire Allergan in cash, stock deal valued around $63B

Watch Allergan into better botox data. See Stockwinners.com
Allergan sold for $63 billion, Stockwinners

AbbVie (ABBV) and Allergan (AGN) announced that the companies have entered into a definitive transaction agreement under which AbbVie will acquire Allergan in a cash and stock transaction for a transaction equity value of approximately $63B, based on the closing price of AbbVie’s common stock of $78.45 on June 24.

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Abbvie to pay $63B to buy Allergan, Stockwinners

Upon completion of the transaction, AbbVie will continue to be incorporated in Delaware as AbbVie Inc. and have its principal executive offices in North Chicago, IL.

AbbVie will continue to be led by Richard Gonzalez as chairman and CEO.

Two members of Allergan’s board, including chairman and CEO, Brent Saunders, will join AbbVie’s board upon completion of the transaction.

Under the terms of the Transaction Agreement, Allergan Shareholders will receive 0.8660 AbbVie Shares and $120.30 in cash for each Allergan Share that they hold, for a total consideration of $188.24 per Allergan Share.

The transaction represents a 45% premium to the closing price of Allergan’s Shares on June 24.

AbbVie anticipates that the Acquisition will provide annual pre-tax synergies and other cost reductions of at least $2B in year three while leaving investments in key growth franchises untouched.

Botox is one of Allergan’s leading products, Stockwinners

The synergies and other cost reductions will be a result of optimizing the research and early stage portfolio, and reducing overlapping R&D resources, driving efficiencies in SG&A, including sales and marketing and central support function costs, and eliminating redundancies in manufacturing and supply chain, and leveraging procurement spend.

The synergies estimate excludes any potential revenue synergies.

AbbVie is expected to generate significant annual operating cash flow, which will support a debt reduction target of $15B to $18B before the end of 2021, while also enabling a continued commitment to Baa2/BBB or better credit rating and continued dividend growth.

It is expected that, immediately after the closing of the Acquisition, AbbVie Shareholders will own approximately 83% of AbbVie on a fully diluted basis and the Allergan Shareholders will own approximately 17% of AbbVie on a fully diluted basis.

PIPER COMMENTS

Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Raymond said his first reaction to the deal could be summed up with the phrase “two turkeys don’t make an eagle,” but he is “willing to listen” despite his skepticism about the transaction.

Though he cannot say he is “excited at the prospect of AbbVie entering the field of medical aesthetics,” EPS accretion of 10% in year one and over 20% at peak, and the potential for meaningful deleveraging and cost cutting, has his attention, Raymond said. He keeps a Neutral rating on AbbVie based on his initial reaction to the deal announcement.

Humira is AbbVie’s blockbuster drug, Stockwinners

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo analyst David #Maris said he views the deal as a good alternative for Allergan versus the current share price, but he is not convinced its a better long term alternative given the eventual biosimilar threat to Abbvie’s blockbuster drug Humira.

With that said, Maris tells investors that “deals at such premiums are rarely killed because of a bad strategic fit or longer -term value outlook in the absence of other bidders.” Though he would not completely rule out an activist investor disrupting the deal, he thinks it is unlikely given there has been a strategic review of the company for some time. Maris, who said he thinks the deal could go through, keeps an Outperform rating on Allergan shares.

Leerink 

SVB Leerink analyst Marc Goodman is not surprise that one of the large pharma companies has made a bid on Allergan (AGN) given the multi-year stock weakness.

Juvederm is another one of Allergan’s top selling products. Stockwinners

However, he believes a $188 price is “too low,” as he “can’t believe that Allergan is not being taken out at least at $200,” which “begs the question” whether this was a process or is AbbVie (ABBV) “opportunistically pursuing a wounded stock.” If it is the latter, Goodman believes this bid could initiate others to pursue Allergan as well. He has an Outperform rating on Allegan’s shares.

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Mustang Bio soars on its gene therapy data

NEJM reports ‘medical breakthrough’ in Mustang Bio cell and gene therapy

Mustang Bio (MBIO) announced that the New England Journal of Medicine has published data from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the nation’s “leading hospital” for understanding, treating and curing childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Mustang Bio soars on its gene therapy data, Stockwinners

The data comes from a Phase 1/2 clinical trial of a lentiviral gene therapy for the treatment of newly diagnosed infants under two years old with XSCID, also referred to as SCID-X1 and commonly known as “bubble boy disease.”

Under a licensing agreement with St. Jude, Mustang will develop the lentiviral gene therapy for commercial use as MB-107.

The multi-center Phase 1/2 clinical trial is evaluating the safety and efficacy of a lentiviral vector to transfer a normal copy of the IL2RG gene to bone marrow stem cells in newly diagnosed infants under the age of two with XSCID, preceded by low exposure-targeted busulfan conditioning.

A total of 10 infants have received the therapy to date in this clinical trial. Among the data highlights, bone marrow harvest, busulfan conditioning and cell infusion were well tolerated.

In seven of the eight cases, normalization of naive T-cell and natural killer cell numbers occurred within three to four months after treatment, accompanied by vector marking in T, B, NK and myeloid cells and marrow progenitors.

All patients cleared previous infections and are growing normally. Seven of the eight infants treated have developed normal IgM levels to date.

Most patients were discharged from the hospital within one month.

Data Highlights:

  • Bone marrow harvest, busulfan conditioning and cell infusion were well tolerated.
  • In seven of the eight cases, normalization of CD3+, CD4+ and CD4+ naïve T-cell and natural killer (“NK”) cell numbers occurred within three to four months after treatment, accompanied by vector marking in T, B, NK and myeloid cells and marrow progenitors.
    • The eighth infant had insufficient T cells initially, but normalization of T cells occurred following an unconditioned boost of gene-corrected cells, and the patient is progressing favorably.
  • All patients cleared previous infections and are growing normally.
  • Seven of the eight infants treated have developed normal IgM levels to date.
    • Four of these seven infants have discontinued monthly infusions of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy to date.
    • Three of those four infants that discontinued monthly IVIG infusions have responded to vaccines to date.

MBIO closed at $2.66, it last traded at $8.91.

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Dare Bioscience posts positive data, shares jump

Dare Bioscience announces publication of clinical findings for DARE-VVA1

Dare Bioscience publishes positive data on tamoxifen, Stockwinners

Dare Bioscience (DARE) announced the publication of clinical findings for vaginally-administered tamoxifen in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics and Gynecology, an international journal for publication of research focused on the development of new therapeutic interventions for obstetrics and gynecology.

Dare’s product candidate, DARE-VVA1, incorporates tamoxifen in a proprietary formulation designed for vaginal delivery.

Dare holds the exclusive worldwide rights to patents issued in the U.S. and Japan covering the use and delivery of DARE-VVA1 for vulvar and vaginal atrophy, or VVA, and a U.S. patent covering composition, use and delivery of DARE-VVA1 for VVA.

The publication reported that a self-administered vaginal suppository containing tamoxifen, dosed daily for one week followed by twice weekly for three months, administered to four healthy postmenopausal women with VVA showed significant improvements in reducing vaginal pH and vaginal dryness without significant systemic absorption of tamoxifen.

This exploratory study demonstrated that tamoxifen was effective when delivered intravaginally for three months in postmenopausal women suffering with VVA.

The median vaginal pH at the time of enrollment was 7.1. At the end of month 3, the median vaginal pH was 5.0. The median paired difference between baseline and month 3 was -2.0, with a range of -2.5 to -1.5.

The self-assessment of vaginal dryness improved between baseline and month 3. Vaginal dryness was rated using a visual analogue scale, or VAS, that ranged from 0 to 10.


Tamoxifen commonly is used as a breast cancer treatment

At baseline, the median vaginal dryness rating was 8.0, with a range of 7.5 to 9.0. At the end of month 3, the median vaginal dryness rating was 3.0, with a range of 2.0 to 3.0. The median change between baseline and month 3 was -5.5.

In addition, systemic exposure was at least an order of magnitude lower following vaginal administration compared with oral tamoxifen. After eight weeks of study treatment, median plasma concentration of tamoxifen was 5.8 ng/ml, with a range of 1.0 to 10.0 ng/ml.

In comparison, after three months of oral administration of 20-mg tamoxifen once daily, the average steady state plasma concentration of tamoxifen is 122 ng/ml, with a range of 71 to 183 ng/ml. VVA is an inflammation of the vaginal epithelium due to the reduction in levels of circulating estrogen. Historically, estrogen-based therapies delivered through creams, rings and tablet supplements have been prescribed for the treatment of VVA symptoms.

However, estrogen-based products can be worrisome for women undergoing treatment for hormone-receptor positive breast cancer and are often contraindicated in such breast cancer patients and in patients with a genetic predisposition or history of familial disease, because of the concern that estrogen use will promote recurrence of disease.

Many breast cancer survivors undergo menopausal symptoms as a direct consequence of cancer treatment.

Breast cancer patients treated with aromatase inhibitors refer to VVA as one of the most unpleasant side effects of treatment. Tamoxifen has been a commonly used treatment for breast cancer and is systemically metabolized to active metabolite 4-hydroxy-N-desmethyl-tamoxifen, otherwise known as endoxifen. In breast tissue, tamoxifen acts as an estrogen antagonist.

In other tissue, including vaginal tissue, tamoxifen has been reported to exert an estrogen-like response on vaginal cytology by a mechanism yet to be understood and not expected based upon its an anti-estrogen activity.

This exploratory study demonstrated that vaginal administration of tamoxifen for three months in postmenopausal women with VVA is a possible new, non-estrogen-based treatment approach.

Dare is currently conducting activities in preparation for future clinical work with DARE-VVA1, its proprietary vaginal formulation of tamoxifen.

If successful, DARE-VVA1 could be the first and only vaginally administered tamoxifen product approved by the FDA for the treatment of VVA in hormone-receptor positive breast cancer patients.

DARE closed at $0.90, last traded at $2.70.

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Bristol-Myers comments on Celgene’s purchase

Bristol-Myers sees ‘meaningful financial benefits’ from Celgene transaction.

Bristol-Myers treatment for colorectal cancer approved, Stockwinners

Bristol Meyers Comments on Celgene purchase, Stockwinners

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) said an updated its investor presentation about the Celgene (CELG) transaction.

The company said, “The Celgene transaction is the natural next step in Bristol-Myers Squibb’s proven strategy that has consistently delivered results for over a decade.

Through a disciplined approach to driving innovation, focusing on high-value opportunities and sourcing innovation externally to complement its internal portfolio and pipeline, Bristol-Myers Squibb has generated consistently strong growth and increased its dividend for 10 consecutive years.

The combination with Celgene will create a leading biopharma with increased scale, while maintaining the same agility and a focus on delivering for patients in core disease areas of high-unmet medical need.

The pipeline of the combined company provides significant near-, medium- and long-term opportunities for value creation. Bristol-Myers Squibb is acquiring Celgene’s robust and complementary pipeline at an attractive price.

In addition to six expected near-term product launches representing more than $15B in revenue potential, the combination will greatly increase Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Phase I and II assets, which will provide the next set of registrational opportunities in core therapeutic areas.

With an expanded set of scientific platforms and research capabilities, Bristol-Myers Squibb will be well positioned to discover and develop highly innovative medicines and accelerate these new options to patients through one of the highest-performing commercial organizations in the industry.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is well positioned for 2025 and beyond with continued leadership across Oncology and a diversified portfolio of assets.

The combined company will have a broad, balanced and earlier life-cycle marketed portfolio with a significantly higher number of opportunities across multiple diseases to drive the growth of Bristol-Myers Squibb in the second half of the decade. These opportunities will support financial strength for continued investment and innovation.

The Celgene transaction is expected to generate meaningful financial benefits for all stockholders.

With more than $45B of expected free cash flow generation over the first three full years post-closing, the combination will enable rapid debt reduction to de-lever the balance sheet and strengthen Bristol-Myers Squibb’s credit profile.

Bristol-Myers Squibb expects to realize run-rate cost synergies of approximately $2.5B by 2022 from the combination, and the combined company is expected to grow revenue and EPS every year through 2025.”

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Merck reports positive results of its renal cell carcinoma drug

Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study

Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study, Stockwinners
Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study, Stockwinners

Merck (MRK) announced presentation of the full results from the pivotal Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 trial investigating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in combination with Pfizer’s (PFE) Inlyta, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, for the first-line treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma at the 2019 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.

Merck's anti-PD-1 therapy works in combination with Pfizer's (PFE) Inlyta, Stockwinners

Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy works in combination with Pfizer’s (PFE) Inlyta

This is the first combination regimen to significantly improve overall survival, progression-free survival and objective response rate compared to sunitinib.

Results were consistent across all IMDC subgroups, including favorable, intermediate and poor risk groups, and regardless of PD-L1 expression.

As previously announced, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted priority review for a supplemental Biologics License Application for #KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced RCC based on the results of KEYNOTE-426, and has set a Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or target action, date of June 20, 2019.

Findings from the first interim analysis showed KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib reduced the risk of death by 47% – significantly improving OS compared to sunitinib.

For the dual primary endpoint of PFS, the KEYTRUDA combination showed a reduction in the risk of progression of disease or death of 31% compared to sunitinib.

In the study, the ORR was 59.3% for patients who received KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib and 35.7% for those who received sunitinib, with a complete response rate of 5.8% and 1.9% and a partial response rate of 53.5% and 33.8%, for patients receiving the KEYTRUDA combination or sunitinib, respectively.

Median duration of response was not reached in the KEYTRUDA combination arm and was 15.2 months in the sunitinib arm. The results for OS, PFS and ORR were consistent across all IMDC risk groups and seen regardless of PD-L1 expression.

The observed adverse event profile was as expected based on the known profiles of KEYTRUDA and axitinib.

There was a higher incidence of grade 3 or 4 liver enzyme elevation with KEYTRUDA plus axitinib than previously observed with each agent as monotherapy.

Merck has filed these data with regulatory authorities worldwide.

Merck has an extensive clinical development program in RCC and is advancing multiple potential registration-enabling studies with KEYTRUDA, as monotherapy and in combination with other treatments, including KEYNOTE-564 and KEYNOTE-581.

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Tesaro sold for $75 per share

Tesaro to be acquired by GSK for approx. $5.1B

 

Tesaro could be sold soon, Stockwinners
Tesaro sold for $75 per share, Stockwinners

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and TESARO (TSRO) announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which GSK will acquire TESARO, an oncology-focused company based in Waltham, Massachusetts, for an aggregate cash consideration of approximately $5.1B.

The proposed transaction significantly strengthens GSK’s pharmaceutical business, accelerating the build of GSK’s pipeline and commercial capability in oncology. The acquisition price of $75 per share in cash represents a 110% premium to TESARO’s 30 day Volume Weighted Average Price of $35.67 and an aggregate consideration of approximately $5.1B including the assumption of TESARO’s net debt.

Zejula’s revenues in its current approved indication as second-line maintenance treatment for ovarian cancer were $166 million for the 9 months ended 30 September 2018.

GSK expects the acquisition of TESARO and associated R&D and commercial investments will impact Adjusted EPS for the first two years by mid to high single digit percentages, reducing thereafter with the acquisition expected to start to be accretive to Adjusted EPS by 2022. GSK’s guidance for full-year 2018 Adjusted EPS growth remains unchanged at 8 to 10% at CER.

GSK continues to expect to deliver on its previously published Group Outlooks to 2020, but following the acquisition of TESARO now expects Adjusted EPS growth at CER for the period 2016-2020 to be at the bottom end of the mid to high single digit percentage CAGR range.

GSK confirms no change to its current dividend policy and continues to expect to pay 80p in dividends for 2018. GSK expects to fund the acquisition from cash resources and drawing under a new acquisition facility.

Please click here and read our blog when we predicted this transaction.


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Sarepta gene therapy showed functional improvements

Sarepta gene therapy showed functional improvements across all measures 

Sarepta drops after U.K. trial halt,
Sarepta gene therapy showed functional improvements

Sarepta Therapeutics (SRPT) announced  at the 23rd International Congress of the World Muscle Society in Mendoza, Argentina, Jerry Mendell, M.D., of Nationwide Children’s Hospital presented updated results from its gene therapy clinical trial assessing AAVrh74.MHCK7.micro-Dystrophin in individuals with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Dr. Mendell presented the following updated data on the four patients enrolled in the study: All patients showed robust expression of transduced micro-dystrophin, which is properly localized to the muscle sarcolemma, as measured by immunohistochemistry.

Mean gene expression for the study, as measured by percentage of micro-dystrophin positive fibers was 81.2% and the mean intensity of the fibers was 96.0% compared to normal control.

All post-treatment biopsies showed robust levels of micro-dystrophin as measured by Western blot, with a mean of 74.3% compared to normal utilizing Sarepta’s method, or 95.8% compared to normal pursuant to Nationwide Children’s quantification of Sarepta’s method that adjusts for fat and fibrotic tissue.

Gene expression for the fourth patient was robust, as follows: As measured by immunohistochemistry, micro-dystrophin positive fibers was 96.2% and the mean intensity of the fibers was 160.0% compared to normal control. As measured by Western blot, patient 4 showed robust levels of micro-dystrophin, with a mean of 182.7% compared to normal utilizing Sarepta’s method, or 222% compared to normal pursuant to Nationwide Children’s quantification of Sarepta’s method that adjusts for fat and fibrotic tissue.

In all patients, expression of micro-dystrophin was associated with significant expression and up-regulation of the dystrophin-associated protein complex, an additional indication of functionality of dystrophin.

All patients showed significant decreases of serum creatine kinase levels at last measure, with a mean reduction of CK of over 78% from baseline.

Doug Ingram, Sarepta’s president and CEO, said, “The encouraging results that we previously saw and reinforced in the fourth patient strengthen our resolve to rapidly move to a confirming trial and, assuming successful, to bring this therapy to the Duchenne community around the world with a sense of urgency.”

SRPT closed at $147.38; it last traded at $152.50.


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Amarin sharply higher on data

Amarin soars after REDUCE-IT study meets primary endpoint

Amarin sharply higher on data, Stockwinners
Amarin sharply higher on data, Stockwinners

Amarin (AMRN) announced topline results from the Vascepa cardiovascular outcomes trial, REDUCE-IT, a global study of 8,179 statin-treated adults with elevated CV risk.

REDUCE-IT met its primary endpoint demonstrating an approximately 25% relative risk reduction, to a high degree of statistical significance, in major adverse CV events in the intent-to-treat patient population with use of Vascepa 4 grams/day as compared to placebo, Amarin said in a statement.

Patients enrolled in REDUCE-IT had LDL-C between 41-100 mg/dL controlled by statin therapy and various cardiovascular risk factors including persistent elevated triglycerides between 150-499 mg/dL and either established cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus and at least one other CV risk factor. Key topline results include approximately 25% relative risk reduction, demonstrated to a high degree of statistical significance, in the primary endpoint composite of the first occurrence of MACE, including cardiovascular death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, nonfatal stroke, coronary revascularization, or unstable angina requiring hospitalization.

This result was supported by robust demonstrations of efficacy across multiple secondary endpoints, the company said.

It added that Vascepa was well tolerated with a safety profile consistent with clinical experience associated with omega-3 fatty acids and current FDA-approved labeling.

The proportions of patients experiencing adverse events and serious adverse events in REDUCE-IT were similar between the active and placebo treatment groups.

Median follow-up time in REDUCE-IT was 4.9 years. Amarin said it is “eager to share REDUCE-IT data in greater detail with both the medical community and regulatory authorities.”

REDUCE-IT results have been accepted for presentation at the 2018 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association on November 10, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.

“We are delighted with these topline study results,” said John Thero, president and CEO of Amarin.

“Given Vascepa is affordably priced, orally administered and has a favorable safety profile, REDUCE-IT results could lead to a new paradigm in treatment to further reduce the significant cardiovascular risk that remains in millions of patients with LDL-C controlled by statin therapy, as studied in REDUCE-IT.”

It notes, “As previously described, given the successful topline results of REDUCE-IT, Amarin is in the process of increasing the number of company sales representatives promoting Vascepa to over 400 people in the United States.”

Shares of Amarin (AMRN) closed at $2.99, it last traded at $12.30.


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ResTORbio higher on data

ResTORbio announces ‘positive’ topline results in Phase 2b trial of RTB101

ResTORbio higher on data, Stockwinners
ResTORbio higher on data, Stockwinners

ResTORbio (TORC) announced positive topline results from its dose-ranging Phase 2b clinical trial that enrolled 652 elderly patients at increased risk of morbidity and mortality associated with respiratory tract infections.

In this trial, RTB101, an oral, selective, and potent inhibitor of target of rapamycin complex 1, demonstrated a statistically significant and clinically meaningful reduction in the percentage of patients with one or more laboratory-confirmed RTIs during the 16-week treatment period compared to placebo, the primary endpoint of the study, with the 10 mg once daily dose.

Greater TORC1 inhibition with RTB101 10 mg in combination with everolimus 0.1 mg did not meet the primary endpoint, suggesting that that less TORC1 inhibition with RTB101 10 mg once daily may have greater benefit in high-risk elderly patients.

The Phase 2b trial was a two-part, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial conducted during the winter cold and flu season in the southern hemisphere and northern hemisphere.

Patients enrolled were those at increased risk of morbidity and mortality from RTIs including patients who were: 85 years of age or older, or 65 years of age or older with asthma, type 2 diabetes mellitus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or current smokers.

The doses investigated in Part 1 were RTB101 5 mg and RTB101 10 mg once daily. The doses investigated in Part 2 were RTB101 10 mg once daily, RTB101 10 mg twice daily and RTB101 10 mg in combination with everolimus 0.1 mg once daily.

The following was observed in an analysis of the primary endpoint: A 30.6% decrease relative to placebo in the percentage of all patients treated with RTB101 10 mg once daily who developed one or more laboratory-confirmed RTs. A 20.6% decrease relative to placebo in the percentage of all patients treated with RTB101 5 mg once daily who developed one or more laboratory-confirmed RTIs.

No decrease relative to placebo in the percentage of patients treated with either RTB101 10 mg twice daily or the combination of RTB101 10 mg + everolimus 0.1 mg once daily who developed one or more laboratory-confirmed RTIs, suggesting that less TORC1 inhibition with RTB101 10 mg once daily may have greater benefit in high-risk elderly patients.

To better understand the activity observed in the RTB101 10 mg once daily cohort, a pre-specified analysis of each patient subgroup enrolled in the study was conducted.

The following decreases in the percentage of patients with laboratory-confirmed RTIs were observed in the RTB101 10 mg once daily cohort as compared to the placebo cohort: A 68.4% decrease in all asthma patients.

A 66.7% decrease in all patients 85 years of age and older. A 26.9% decrease in all T2DM patients.

No decrease was observed in either COPD patients or current smokers; a 42.0% decrease in all patients was observed when excluding patients with COPD and a 43.9% decrease in all patients was observed when excluding current smokers.

All doses were observed to be well-tolerated. Data from the RTB101 10 mg once daily cohort are as follows: Adverse events were balanced between the RTB101 10 mg once daily and placebo treatment groups. 4.5% of subjects in the RTB101 10 mg once daily cohort and 7.2% of subjects in the placebo cohort had a serious adverse event, none of which were considered related to study drug. 4.5% of subjects in the RTB101 10 mg once daily cohort and 6.1% of subjects in the placebo cohort discontinued study drug due to an AE.

All AEs were mild or moderate except for 11 severe AEs in the RTB101 10 mg once daily cohort and 22 severe AEs in the placebo cohort.

TORC closed at $9.01, it last traded at $24.49.


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Zogenix sharply higher on data

Zogenix says primary endpoint achieved in second Phase 3 clinical trial of ZX008

Zogenix sharply higher on data, Stockwinners
Zogenix sharply higher on data, Stockwinners

Zogenix (ZGNX) reported positive top-line results from its second confirmatory Phase 3 study for its investigational drug, ZX008, for the treatment of children and young adults with Dravet syndrome.

Dravet syndrome is a rare, catastrophic, lifelong form of epilepsy that begins in the first year of life with frequent and/or prolonged seizures. Previously known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), it affects one out of 15,700 individuals, 80% of whom have a mutation in their SCN1A gene.

The study results, which are consistent with those reported in Study 1, Zogenix’s first pivotal Phase 3 study, successfully met the primary endpoint and all key secondary endpoints, demonstrating that ZX008, at a dose of 0.5 mg/kg/day, is superior to placebo when added to a stiripentol regimen. Key Findings: Patients taking ZX008 achieved a 54.7% greater reduction in mean monthly convulsive seizures compared to placebo.

The median reduction in monthly convulsive seizure frequency was 62.7% in the ZX008 group compared to 1.2% in placebo patients. ZX008 also demonstrated statistically significant improvement versus placebo in both key secondary measures, including patients with clinically meaningful reductions in seizure frequency and longest seizure-free interval.

ZX008 was generally well-tolerated in this study with the adverse events consistent with those observed in Study 1 and the known safety profile of fenfluramine.

No patient exhibited cardiac valvulopathy or pulmonary hypertension at any time in the study.

Secondary endpoints assessed ZX008 compared to placebo in terms of the proportions of patients who achieved greater than or equal to 50% reductions and greater than or equal to 75% reductions in monthly convulsive seizures, as well as the median of the longest convulsive seizure-free interval.

ZX008 was generally well-tolerated in this study, with the adverse events consistent with those observed in Study 1 and the known safety profile of fenfluramine.

The incidence of treatment emergent adverse events was similar in both the treatment and placebo groups, with 97.7% of patients receiving ZX008 experiencing at least one treatment emergent adverse event compared to 95.5% of patients in the placebo group.

The most common adverse events in the ZX008 group were decreased appetite, diarrhea, pyrexia, fatigue, and nasopharyngitis.

The incidence of serious adverse events was similar in both the treatment and placebo groups, with 14% of patients in the ZX008 group experiencing at least one treatment emergent serious adverse event compared to 15.9% of patients in the placebo group. T

wo patients in the ZX008 group had an adverse event leading to study discontinuation compared to one in the placebo group.

ZGNX closed at $46.30, it last traded at $55.30.


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Pfizer shares lower after talk with President prompts rollback

Pfizer under pressure after talk with President prompts rollback

Pfizer shares lower after talk with President prompts rollback, Stockwinners
Pfizer shares lower after talk with President prompts rollback, Stockwinners

After speaking with President Donald Trump, Pfizer (PFE) stated that it will roll back its July 1 price increases “to give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the healthcare system and provide more access for patients.”

Additionally this morning, the company announced that it will reorganize into three units, separating its consumer health-care business, which the drugmaker has been trying to sell since last year, from its groups focused on “innovative” medicines” and “established” medicines.

PRICE ROLLBACK

In a statement provided to CNBC’s Meg Tirrell yesterday, Pfizer said it will roll back its July 1 price increases “to give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the healthcare system and provide more access for patients.”

The company released the statement following an “extensive discussion” with President Trump. Pfizer said it will return such prices to their pre-July 1 levels as soon as technically possible, and the prices will remain in effect until the earlier of when the president’s blueprint goes into effect or the end of the year. In addition, the drug giant said that the price declines the company took as of July 1 will remain in effect.

This comes after President Trump called out the company and other drugmakers for raising prices.

In a tweet, Trump previously said Pfizer and peers “should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason,” accusing the company and industry of “merely taking advantage of the poor and others unable to defend themselves, while at the same time giving bargain basement prices to other countries in Europe and elsewhere.”

BUSINESS REORGANIZATION

This morning, Pfizer also announced it will organize the company into three businesses, namely a science-based Innovative Medicines business that will now include biosimilars and a new hospital business unit for anti-infectives and sterile injectables; an off-patent branded and generic Established Medicines business operating with substantial autonomy within Pfizer; and a Consumer Healthcare business.

These changes will be effective at the beginning of the company’s 2019 fiscal year, and are not expected to impact current capital allocation priorities or full-year 2018 financial guidance.

READ-THROUGH TO OTHERS IN THE SECTOR

Commenting on the events, Wells Fargo analyst David Maris told investors that drug stocks will not react favorably to this news, given the chilling effect this will likely have on others looking to take price increases.

Nonetheless, the analyst pointed out that the price increases taken in July are only small compared to other increases taken over the past year or several years, so the impact of the rollback to the healthcare system is insignificant in the big picture.

Maris also added that he believes the administration’s and other key legislators’ focus is not only on drug pricing, but on the overall supply chain and delivery system, including drug rebating, co-pay coupons, etc.

WHAT’S NOTABLE

According to Bloomberg, Gilead (GILD), Roche (RHHBY), Novo Nordisk (NVO) and Novartis (NVS) have all sent notices to California health plans rescinding or reducing previously announced price hikes in the wake of a new drug pricing transparency law that was enacted in the state.

The California measure, which is among the most aggressive efforts by states to rein in drug costs, is being challenged in court by the drug industry’s lobbying group, the report noted.

Other large cap pharmaceutical companies include AstraZeneca (AZN), Bristol-Myers (BMY), Eli Lilly (LLY), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Merck (MRK), and Sanofi (SNY).

PRICE ACTION

In morning trading, shares of Pfizer have dropped about 0.5% to $37.28.


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