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Merck & Co Inc. (MRK)

  • Wed, Sep. 23, 9:54 AM
    • Provectus Biopharmaceuticals (PVCT -3.2%) initiates a Phase 1b/2 clinical trial evaluating the combination of PV-10 and Merck's (MRK -0.5%) Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in patients with Stage IV melanoma. The study is expected to commence later this year. The primary endpoint in the Phase 1b portion is tolerability. Secondary endpoints include progression-free survival and objective response rate. The estimated final data collection date for the primary endpoint in the Phase 2 portion is November 2018. The estimated study completion date is November 2023.
    • Orphan Drug-tagged PV-10, an injectable formulation of rose bengal disodium, is currently in Phase 3 development for Stage III melanoma.
    | Wed, Sep. 23, 9:54 AM | Comment!
  • Wed, Sep. 23, 7:27 AM
    • An open-label 551-subject Phase 3b/4 clinical trial, called STRIIVING, assessing the safely, efficacy and tolerability of switching from an antiretroviral therapy (ART) to ViiV Healthcare's (NYSE:PFE) (NYSE:GSK) once-daily fixed dose Triumeq (abacavir/dolutegravir/lamivudine) in virologically suppressed adults with HIV-1 infection showed that viral suppression was non-inferior (no worse than) in patients who switched to Triumeq.
    • The study recruited HIV-1-positive patients from a broad range of protease inhibitor (n=234), integrase strand transfer inhibitor (n=146) and non-nuclease reverse transcriptase inhibitor (n=171)-based regimens who had similar clinical profiles. The treatment satisfaction score improved significantly for those patients who switched to Triumeq (p<0.001) although there was an increase in adverse events (AEs) (4% versus 0%). The most common AEs were nausea (10%), diarrhea (7%), fatigue (7%), upper respiratory infection (7%), cough (5%) and headache (5%).
    • ViiV Healthcare Chief Scientific and Medical Officer John Pottage, M.D., says, "For clinicians, choosing among antiretroviral therapies now involves balancing efficacy with factors such as tolerability, dosing, ability to use with other medications and resistance profile. These data support the use of once-daily abacavir/dolutegravir/lamivudine as a treatment option in the switch setting for appropriate patients."
    | Wed, Sep. 23, 7:27 AM | 10 Comments
  • Mon, Sep. 21, 10:33 AM
    • ANI Pharmaceuticals (ANIP +5.2%) acquires the NDAs for purified corticotropin gel and corticotropin-zinc hydroxide from Merck (MRK -0.4%) for $75M in cash plus a percentage of future net sales. The products are approved for a range of disease states including multiple sclerosis, rheumatic disorders, dermatologic diseases, collagen, ophthalmic and respiratory diseases and allergic and edematous conditions.
    • ANI estimates the current U.S. market for the two products to be ~$1B, based on H.P. Acthar gel sales.
    • The company intends to form a subsidiary that will effect the acquisition as well as the manufacture of the products. The move, which should result in a lower tax bill, is part of its broader acquisition strategy.
    | Mon, Sep. 21, 10:33 AM | Comment!
  • Thu, Sep. 17, 1:44 PM
    • Eli Lilly (LLY +6.7%) jumps on 30% higher volume in response to its announcement of results from a Phase 3 clinical trial, called EMPA-REG, that showed patients with type 2 diabetes at high risk of cardiovascular (CV) events treated with Jardiance (empaglifozin), in addition to standard-of-care treatment, experienced a significant reduction in both CV risk and death.
    • Specifically, patients taking Jardiance showed a 14% reduction in the risk of the combined endpoint of CV death, non-fatal heart attack or non-fatal stroke and a 38% reduction in the risk of CV death. Treatment with Jardiance also resulted in a 32% reduction in all-cause mortality and a 35% reduction in heart failure-related hospitalization, all versus placebo.  The data were presented today at the 51st European Association for the Study of Diabetes Annual Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
    • EMPA-REG was a long-term, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving more than 7,000 people across 42 countries with type 2 diabetes at high risk of CV events. The median observation period was 3.1 years.
    • Almost 400M people worldwide have diabetes. As many as 95% of the cases are type 2.
    • Jardiance was co-developed with privately held Boehringer Ingelheim under the companies' January 2011 diabetes alliance.
    • Related tickers: (SNY +0.1%)(NVO -0.7%)(MRK -0.8%)
    | Thu, Sep. 17, 1:44 PM | 2 Comments
  • Thu, Sep. 17, 7:59 AM
    • Interim results from a Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating Achillion Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ:ACHN) NS5A inhibitor odalasvir (ACH-3102), in combination with Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ:GILD) Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), without ribavirin, in HCV-1 patients showed a 100% cure rate (SVR12) in HCV-1 patients (n=6/6) after six or eight weeks of treatment.
    • The Phase 2 trial was an open-label, randomized, partial-crossover study to assess the safety, tolerability and efficacy of six or eight weeks of odalasvir and sofosbuvir, without ribavirin, in patients with HCV-1 infection. Eighteen patients were initially enrolled, including six as observational (group 1). Twelve patients completed eight weeks of treatment (50 mg odalasvir/400 mg sofosbuvir) while the observational group received nothing. All twelve subjects achieved SVR24. Following this phase, the six observational patients plus six additional patients (group 2) received six weeks of treatment with the same combo regimen. All achieved SVR24. Six additional rollover patients (group 3) were treated for six weeks with the combo regimen and all achieved SVR12.
    • In a summary that is a bit confusing,  the company states that 18 subjects (groups two and three) achieved SVR12 after six weeks of therapy, although it states that only group 3 (n=6) achieved this. Also, the total number of patients in groups 2 and 3 is 12 (6 + 6). Group 1 (n=6) is apparently included as well?
    • In May, the company inked a global license and commercialization deal with Janssen Pharmaceuticals (NYSE:JNJ) for HCV products containing one or more of Achillion's HCV assets, including odalasvir, ACH-3422 and sovaprevir.
    • Previously: Achillion inks collaboration deal with J&J's Janssen Pharmaceuticals in hep C (May 19)
    • ACHN is up 5% premarket on light volume.
    • Related tickers: (NYSE:MRK) (NYSE:BMY) (NYSE:ABBV)
    | Thu, Sep. 17, 7:59 AM | 34 Comments
  • Wed, Sep. 16, 12:52 PM
    • Merck's (MRK +0.4%) omarigliptin, an investigational DPP-4 inhibitor administered once weekly for lowering blood sugar in type 2 diabetics, successfully achieved its primary endpoint in a Phase 3 study of showing non-inferiority to once-daily Januvia (sitagliptin) in lowering A1C levels at week 24. The data were presented at the 51st European Association for the Study of Diabetes Annual Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.
    • The average A1C reduction for patients receiving omarigliptin was -0.47% versus -0.43% for those taking Januvia. In a subset of patients with higher baseline A1C (at least 8.0%), treatment with omarigliptin reduced A1C -0.79% versus -0.71% for Januvia. The percentage of patients achieving their A1C goals was similar in both arms as were the incidences adverse events.
    • The company intends to submit its marketing application in the U.S. by the end of the year. It filed its application in Japan in November 2014.
    | Wed, Sep. 16, 12:52 PM | Comment!
  • Mon, Sep. 14, 6:56 AM
    • Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) enters into a multi-target peptide discovery and optimization collaboration with Tokyo-based PeptiDream.
    • Under the terms of the agreement, PeptiDream will use its proprietary Peptide Discovery Platform System technology to generate certain peptides against multiple targets of interest selected by Sanofi. PeptiDream will receive an undisclosed upfront payment, research funding, preclinical and clinical milestones and royalties of commercial sales.
    • PeptiDream also has collaborations with Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN), Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY), Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), Novartis (NYSE:NVS), Mitsubishi Tanabe (OTCPK:MTZPY), Daiichi Sankyo (OTCPK:DSNKY), Merck (NYSE:MRK) and Ipsen (OTCPK:IPSEY).
    | Mon, Sep. 14, 6:56 AM | Comment!
  • Fri, Sep. 11, 10:22 AM
    • Baltimore, MD-based Cerecor (Pending:CERC) is set for its IPO of 4,230,769 shares of common stock at $6 - 7.
    • The clinical stage biopharmaceutical firm develops drugs for neurological and psychiatric disorders. One of its lead product candidates, licensed from Merck (MRK -1.4%), is CERC-301, currently in Phase 2 development for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). The product candidate belongs to a class of compounds known as NMDA receptor antagonists (e.g., ketamine). The value proposition of CERC-301 is oral administration with a rapid onset of antidepressant effect without the side effects seen with other NMDA therapies.
    • Another lead candidate is CERC-501, licensed from Eli Lilly (LLY -0.2%), currently in Phase 2 development for the treatment of substance abuse disorders and as adjunctive therapy for MDD. CERC-501 is a selective kappa opioid receptor antagonist.
    • 2014 Financials ($M): Operating Expenses: 17.1 (+32.6%); Net Loss: (3.5) (+73.2%); Cash Burn: (15.5) (-34.8%).
    • 2015 Financials ($M) (6 mo.): Operating Expenses: 5.4 (-26.0%); Net Loss: (6.2) (+19.5%); Cash Burn: (4.8) (-7.9%).
    | Fri, Sep. 11, 10:22 AM | 1 Comment
  • Tue, Sep. 8, 12:08 PM
    • Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approves BRENZYS, a biosimilar to Amgen's Enbel (etanercept) co-developed by Merck (MRK +1.6%) and Samsung Bioepsis. BRENZYS is indicated for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis and psoriasis in adult patients at least 18 years old. Merck plans to initiate the commercial launch by the end of the year or early 2016.
    • The companies established their collaboration in February 2013 to develop and commercialize biosimilars in certain territories. Their pipeline includes five late-stage candidates: SB4 [Enbrel biosimilar]: worldwide except U.S./EU/Japan; SB2 [Remicade (infliximab) biosimilar]: worldwide except EU/Russia/Turkey; SB5 [Humira (adalimumab) biosimilar]: worldwide except EU/Russia/Turkey; SB3 [Herceptin (trastuzumab) biosimilar]: worldwide and MK-1293 [Lantus (insulin glargine) biosimilar]: worldwide.
    | Tue, Sep. 8, 12:08 PM | 1 Comment
  • Wed, Sep. 2, 11:16 AM
    • The FDA approves Merck's (MRK +0.1%) supplemental New Drug Application (NDA) for the use of EMEND (aprepitant), in combination with other antiemetic agents, in pediatric patients at least 12 years old and weighing at least 30 kg (~66 pounds).
    • EMEND is a substance P/neurokinin 1 (NK-1) receptor antagonist for the prevention of chemo-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). It is the only drug of this type cleared for use in patients aged 12 - 17.
    • Related ticker: (TSRO +6.3%)
    | Wed, Sep. 2, 11:16 AM | 1 Comment
  • Wed, Sep. 2, 10:33 AM
    • The FDA approves Tesaro's (TSRO +4.4%) VARUBI (rolapitant), in combination with other antiemetic agents, for the prevention of delayed nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy (CINV) in adult patients. Up to 50% of chemo patients experience delayed CINV (25 - 125 hours after treatment) even when taking a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist (Novartis' Zofran, formerly Glaxo's) and a corticosteroid.
    • VARUBI, the company's first approved product, is an antagonist of human substance P/neurokinin 1 (NK-1) receptors with a plasma half-life of ~seven days. Phase 3 results showed a significant reduction in CINV or use of rescue medication when patients were administered a 180 mg dose one - two hours prior to chemo in combination with a 5-HT3 antagonist and dexamethasone.
    • Related tickers: (NVS -0.1%)(HRTX +0.2%)(OPK +1%)(INSY +2.7%)(RDHL +1%) (OTC:ESALF) (OTCPK:ESALY) (GALE +0.6%)(GWPH +1.1%)(MRK -0.1%)
    | Wed, Sep. 2, 10:33 AM | 4 Comments
  • Tue, Aug. 18, 9:49 AM
    • The FDA accepts for review the supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) from Merck (MRK -0.1%) seeking approval for the use of Keytruda (pembrolizumab) as first-line treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma. The PDUFA date is December 19.
    • In addition, the FDA extended its action date for a separate sBLA seeking approval for the use of Keytruda for the treatment of ipilimumab-refractory advanced melanoma to December 24.
    • Keytruda is currently cleared for the treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma with disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor.
    • Ipilimumab is marketed under the brand name Yervoy by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY +0.7%).
    | Tue, Aug. 18, 9:49 AM | Comment!
  • Fri, Aug. 14, 8:50 AM
    • Akebia Therapeutics (NASDAQ:AKBA) initiated with Equal Weight rating and $10 (33% upside) price target by Morgan Stanley.
    • Rockwell Medical (NASDAQ:RMTI) initiated with Underweight rating and $7 (39% downside risk) price target by Morgan Stanley.
    • Incyte (NASDAQ:INCY) initiated with Overweight rating and $125 (16% upside) price target by Barclays.
    • TG Therapeutics (NASDAQ:TGTX) coverage resumed by HC Wainwright with a Buy rating and $22 (39% upside) price target.
    • Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB) initiated with Buy rating and $380 (21% upside) price target by HC Wainwright.
    • ProNAi Therapeutics (NASDAQ:DNAI) initiated with Outperform rating and $36 (44% upside) price target by Wedbush.
    • Chiasma (NASDAQ:CHMA) initiated with Overweight rating and $40 (62% upside) price target by Barclays.
    • Natera (NASDAQ:NTRA) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight by Morgan Stanley. Price target maintained at $20 (29% upside).
    • Merck (NYSE:MRK) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital Markets. Price target raised to $70 (19% upside) from $65.
    • Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:KERX) downgraded to Neutral from Buy by Roth Capital. Price target lowered to $6 (1% downside risk) from $11.
    | Fri, Aug. 14, 8:50 AM | 5 Comments
  • Mon, Aug. 10, 8:39 AM
    • Immune Design (NASDAQ:IMDZ) and subsidiaries of Merck (NYSE:MRK) enter into a clinical collaboration to evaluate the safety and efficacy of two IMDZ investigational immuno-oncology agents combined with Keytruda (pembrolizumab). The first Phase 1 study will assess the combination of G100, a product candidate generated from IMDZ's GLAAS discovery platform, and Keytruda in patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The second Phase 1 will assess LV305, generated from IMDZ's ZVex platform, and Keytruda in patients with melanoma.
    • Both G100 and LV305 are designed to be "off-the-shelf" therapies. They activate the immune system via the induction and/or expansion of anti-tumor CD8 T cells.
    • Keytruda is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands PD-L1 and PD-L2.
    | Mon, Aug. 10, 8:39 AM | Comment!
  • Fri, Aug. 7, 8:14 AM
    • A new class of cancer therapeutics has been rekindled of late led by Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY). They are called immune system accelerators, antibodies that target a protein called 4-1BB, also known as CD137.
    • When the immune system's T-cells and natural killer (NK) cells identify cancer cells, the 4-1BB protein appears on their surfaces which accelerates their attack. The protein was discovered over 20 years ago, but its development was abandoned in 2008 after early-stage studies done by Bristol showed signs of liver damage. Scientists eventually realized that lower doses of 4-1BB, given at the right time, could elicit the desired anti-cancer effect without the unwanted toxicity. Early results have been impressive. A 38-subject study done by Pfizer, 40% of patients with follicular lymphoma and a third of those with mantle cell lymphoma experienced a reduction in cancer with no serious side effects.
    • Phase 1 studies are underway assessing combinations of immune checkpoint inhibitors, like Roche's (OTCQX:RHHBY) Rituxan (rituximab) and accelerators. Studies are planned for Pfizer's 4-1BB candidate in combination with Herceptin (trastuzumab) and the combination of Bristol's 4-1BB candidate, urelumab, with Eli Lilly's (NYSE:LLY) Erbitux (cetuximab). Bristol in currently enrolling patients in five Phase 1 studies in multiple myeloma, lymphomas and solid tumor cancers. Pfizer is planning trials with an immunotherapy from Kyowa Hakko Kirin and Merck's (NYSE:MRK) Keytruda (pembrolizumab).
    • Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) are a step behind doing preclinical work on their accelerator candidates.
    | Fri, Aug. 7, 8:14 AM | 6 Comments
  • Tue, Aug. 4, 10:00 AM
    • Thinly traded micro cap Codexis (CDXS +23.1%) is up on average volume in response to its announcement after the close yesterday that it licensed its CodeEvolver platform technology to Merck (MRK -0.1%), the second member of Big Pharma to sign on.
    • Under the terms of the agreement, Merck has a non-exclusive license to use the CodeEvolver protein engineering platform technology to develop novel enzymes for use in the manufacture of Merck's pharmaceutical products. Codexis is eligible to receive up to $18M over the next 15 - 24 months, $5M up front and $13M related to certain technology transfer milestones. It is also eligible to receive up to a maximum of $15M for each pharmaceutical ingredient using novel enzymes developed with CodeEvolver by Merck and used in commercial manufacturing.
    • Codexis will host a conference call this morning at 11:00 am ET to discuss the deal.
    | Tue, Aug. 4, 10:00 AM | Comment!
Company Description
Merck & Co Inc is a health care company that delivers health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, animal health, and consumer care products.