Last week, there was a slight recovery in the biotech sector
with NASDAQ Biotechnology improving 2.19% and the NYSE ARCA
Biotech Index gaining 3.27%. Most of the major biotech companies
saw an improvement in their share prices. Meanwhile, several
companies reported earnings and provided regulatory and pipeline
) Tumbles on Study Halt:
Endocyte plunged 61.9% on news that a phase III study (PROCEED)
being conducted with its experimental cancer treatment,
vintafolide, will be halted on the recommendation of a data
safety monitoring board (DSMB).
An interim futility analysis of the ovarian cancer study
showed that vintafolide did not demonstrate efficacy on the
pre-specified outcome of progression-free survival. The positive
takeaway is that no safety issues were identified. A lung cancer
study will continue.
Acorda Down on CRL:
Acorda's shares were down 9.8% on a complete response letter
(CRL) from the FDA for Plumiaz nasal spray. Acorda was looking to
get Plumiaz approved for treatment of people with epilepsy who
experience cluster seizures. However, the FDA said that the
regulatory application cannot be approved in the present
Acorda had used the 505(b)(2) pathway using Diastat as the
reference drug to seek approval. Given the current situation,
Acorda said that it does not expect FDA approval this year.
Additional clinical work will most likely be required though at
present there's low visibility on how much time and cost this
will involve. If the delay is significant, Pfizer's experimental
product which also has orphan drug status could reach the market
) Slips on Guidance:
Despite delivering first quarter results far above expectations,
Pharmacyclics saw its shares slipping 7.4% on disappointing
guidance. Imbruvica, which has blockbuster potential, delivered
sales of $56.2 million in its first full quarter on the
The main concern regarding Pharmacyclics' results was guidance
-- the company guided towards product sales of $295 million, plus
or minus 5%. Though this guidance does not include milestone
payments, nevertheless it was short of expectations. With
Imbruvica approved for the more lucrative chronic lymphocytic
leukemia indication as well, expectations were high that
Imbruvica sales would soar significantly through the rest of the
year and this would be reflected in the guidance.
OncoGenex Slumps on Late-Stage Data:
OncoGenex saw its shares losing more than half their value (down
60.3%) on news that the company's experimental prostate cancer
drug, custirsen, failed to meet the primary endpoint in a
) Soars on Pancreatic Cancer Data:
Merrimack reported positive results from a phase III study on its
pancreatic cancer experimental treatment -- MM-398. MM-398, when
used in combination with chemotherapy increased overall survival
by 1.9 months compared to chemotherapy alone. This is encouraging
data considering pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to
treat and there have been very few successful phase III trials in
pancreatic cancer in the past 25 years. The mortality rate for
pancreatic cancer, which is the fourth most common cause of
cancer death, is very high.
The study was conducted in patients who had been previously
been treated with Gemzar. Although MM-398 did not achieve much
success as a monotherapy, investors focused on the combination
treatment data and sent the shares soaring 59.2%. The company
will file for FDA approval this year.
Last 6 Months
) Drops Hepatitis C Portfolio:
Vertex, which was once known for changing the treatment paradigm
for hepatitis C virus (HCV) following the launch of Incivek, has
decided to exit this market. The company will now focus on its
cystic fibrosis portfolio.
The decision doesn't really come as a surprise. Incivek's
sales slumped almost 60% last year due to the warehousing effect
-- patients and physicians postponing treatment with existing
drugs so as to avail better new treatments once they are
launched. With Gilead's Sovaldi on the market, Incivek sales
would have slumped further this year. So, it makes sense for the
company to focus on its cystic fibrosis franchise which is doing
CRL for The Medicines Co.'s Cangrelor:
The FDA issued a CRL to The Medicines Co. for its investigational
antiplatelet agent, Cangrelor. This was in line with expectations
as earlier an FDA advisory panel had voted against approving the
Auxilium Cuts Guidance:
Less than a week before reporting first quarter results, Auxilium
announced a guidance cut mainly due to lower-than-expected Testim
revenues. The company cut its revenue guidance for 2014 by $70
million and now expects to break-even or report a loss of up to
$15 million this year instead of reporting net income of $45
million - $50 million.
Full year Testim sales are expected to be less than $85
million due to several factors like a shrinking testosterone
replacement therapy (TRT) gel market, lower Testim market share,
downward pressure on TRT gel scrips due to concerns regarding
safety, inventory destocking, and higher rebates. Although
Auxilium has been working on diversifying its revenue base,
Testim sales came in at $211.2 million in 2013, accounting for
52.7% of the company's revenues in 2013.
EU Approves BioMarin's Vimizim:
Vimizim gained EU approval for Morquio A syndrome that is
estimated to affect 3,000 people in the developed world.
Approval was largely expected as the CHMP had issued a
positive opinion in February. EU approval, nevertheless, is a
major boost for the company -- with the U.S. accounting for only
15% of the 1,500 patients identified by BioMarin, EU approval was
a key milestone for the company. Vimizim will enjoy 10 years
market exclusivity in the EU due to its orphan drug status.
Amicus Up on Fabry Disease Data:
Amicus' experimental Fabry disease drug was found to be effective
in a late-stage study. Shares were up 20.7% on the news.
Athersys Plunges on Disappointing Data:
Athersys' shares plunged 51.3% on disappointing interim data from
mid-stage study on the administration of its MultiStem cell
therapy for the treatment of refractory ulcerative colitis.
The Week So Far:
Priority Review for
Medivation and Astellas' prostate cancer drug, Xtandi, has been
accepted for priority review by the FDA for the treatment of
chemo-naïve patients. This means a response will be out by Sep
Momenta Facing Possible Delay in Generic Copaxone
Momenta Pharmaceuticals' shares were down 7.6% shortly after the
company reported first quarter results. Shares were down on
concerns regarding the timing of the company's launch of its
generic version of Teva's Copaxone.
Theravance on Track to Split:
Theravance will be splitting into two companies -- Theravance,
Inc. (the royalty management company) and Theravance Biopharma,
Inc. (the R&D company) - around Jun 2.
Vivus Up on First Quarter Results:
Vivus' shares were up 7.2% on the company's better-than-expected
first quarter results. However, a closer look at results show
that the revenue beat was mainly driven by license and milestone
) Ties Up with Avalanche:
Regeneron, which has blockbuster eye drug Eylea in its portfolio,
is looking to bring additional eye disease treatments to market.
The company is tying up with privately held Avalanche
Biotechnologies, which specializes in developing gene therapies
for eye diseases.
Regular Approval for
Alexion has gained regular FDA approval for Soliris for the
treatment of adult and pediatric patients with atypical hemolytic
uremic syndrome (aHUS).
Several companies including Regeneron will be reporting
earnings later this week.
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