Mon, Feb. 23, 7:42 AM
- Merck (NYSE:MRK) enters into a multi-year collaboration agreement with South San Francisco, CA-based NGM Biopharmaceuticals to discover, develop and commercialize novel biologic therapies across a wide range of therapeutic areas. The deal includes multiple NGM drug candidates currently in preclinical development such as NP201 for the potential treatment of diabetes, obesity and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
- NGM's lead product candidate is NGM282, an Orphan Drug- and Fast Track-designated optimized form of fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19). In preclinical animal models, it significantly reduced blood glucose and body weight and improved insulin sensitivity.
- NGM will lead the research and development of the existing preclinical candidates and will have the autonomy to pursue other discovery-stage programs at its discretion. Merck will have the option to license all resulting NGM programs following human proof-of-concept trials. If it exercises its option, Merck will lead global product development and commercialization for product(s), if approved.
- Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will pay NGM an upfront payment of $94M and purchase a 15% equity stake in NGM for $106M. It also commits up to $250M to fund all of NGM's efforts under the initial five-year term of the partnership. Prior to Merck initiating a Phase 3 trial for a licensed candidate, NGM may elect to either receive milestone and royalty payments or, in certain cases, to co-fund the development and share in global cost and revenues up to 50%.
- NGM will host a conference call this morning at 9:30 am ET to discuss the deal.
Fri, Feb. 20, 7:15 AM
- The World Health Organization (WHO) approves the use of a 15-minute point-of-care test developed by Corgenix Medical (OTCQB:CONX) to detect the presence of the Ebola virus. The company developed the assay with funding assistance of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
- Procurement and roll-out in Africa will begin in a few weeks pending the completion of administrative procedures with the U.S. FDA.
- Ebola-related tickers: (NYSE:MRK) (NASDAQ:NLNK) (NYSEMKT:IBIO) (NASDAQ:NVAX) (NYSE:GSK) (NYSE:JNJ) (NASDAQ:TKMR) (NYSEMKT:HEB) (NASDAQ:BCRX) (NASDAQ:SRPT) (NASDAQ:CMRX) (NASDAQ:ABIO) (OTCQB:AEMD) (OTCPK:BVNRY) (NASDAQ:INO) (OTCQX:RHHBY)
Thu, Feb. 19, 10:10 AM
- Facing ever-increasing pushback from payers over the high price of new treatments, some biotech firms are working on a new payment model that rewards them for the long-term performance of their drugs. Gene therapy developers, including BioMarin Pharmaceuticals (BMRN +0.4%) and Sangamo BioSciences (SGMO -0.1%), are leading the effort.
- The industry says that a one-time cure, even if priced greater than $1M, saves money over the long term but acknowledges that payers will balk at paying the cost upfront. The general consensus is that an upfront payment over $1M will be unacceptable.
- Under a pay-for-performance scheme, the annuity-like payments would cease if medical testing showed that the therapy was not working. Much work remains to be done, though, before this approach could be implemented. For example, legislation may be required to force insurers to pick up the tab for patients that switch coverage.
- Some proponents of the new scheme say that the payment streams could be securitized and sold to investors, like consumer debt.
- Gene therapies represent the highest priced treatments. Only one has cleared the regulatory hurdle to date, UniQure's (QURE +1.5%) Glybera, which costs 850K euros ($1M) in Germany. It will be sold for a one-time payment because it is too difficult to measure how well it works (this reasoning will undoubtedly pop up again).
- Previously: UniQure sets price record with Glybera (Nov. 26, 2014)
- Related tickers: (CELG +1.3%)(AMGN -0.2%)(BIIB +0.5%)(GILD +0.1%)(MRK -0.3%)(GSK -0.2%)(AZN +0.9%)(LLY +0.3%)(NVS +0.1%)(PFE -0.5%)(JNJ -0.3%)(OTCQX:RHHBY +1.4%)(BMY -0.4%)(ABT)(BAX -1.1%)
Thu, Feb. 19, 9:25 AM
- The initiation of a clinical trial evaluating the rVSV-EBOV (Ebola) vaccine triggers a $20M milestone payment from Merck (NYSE:MRK) to NewLink Genetics (NASDAQ:NLNK).
- The rVSV-EBOV vaccine candidate, originally developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, was licensed by NewLInk subsidiary BioProtection Systems. It was exclusively licensed to Merck on November 24, 2014.
Thu, Feb. 12, 1:18 PM
- Novavax (NVAX +1.7%) commences patient enrollment in a Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of its Ebola virus glycoprotein (GP) recombinant nanoparticle vaccine candidate adjuvanted with Matrix-M. The study, being conducted in Australia, involves 230 healthy subjects between the ages of 18 and 50. Each person will receive two intramuscular injections, one on Day 0 and one on Day 21.
- The trial will also evaluate immunogenicity as measured by serum concentrations of IgG antibodies to the Ebola Makona strain glycoprotein.
- According to CEO Stanley C. Erck, the company now has the capability to rapidly scale up manufacturing to produce millions of doses of Ebola vaccine.
- Related tickers: (GSK -1%)(JNJ -1.8%)(OTCPK:BVNRY)(MRK +0.1%)(NLNK +5.3%)
- Previously: Johnson & Johnson announces Ebola vaccine development consortia (Jan. 16)
- Previously: First Glaxo Ebola vaccine to arrive in Liberia (Jan. 23)
Thu, Feb. 12, 11:25 AM
- AbbVie (ABBV -0.5%) submits a New Drug Application (NDA) to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare seeking approval for its all-oral, ribavirin-free, interferon-free, 12-week antiviral treatment of ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir, dosed once daily, for the treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 infection.
- The Phase 3 trial data supporting the application demonstrated an SVR12 of 95% (106 of 112 subjects) in a subgroup of treatment-naive, non-cirrhotic adult genotype 1b-infected Japanese patients with a high viral load (at least 100K IU/mL).
- 1.5M - 2M Japanese are infected with HCV, with HCV-1 being the most common genotype affecting 60 - 70% of infected people. Of this group, ~95% are infected with the sub-type 1b.
- Previously: AbbVie 2-DAA HCV treatment successful in Japan Phase 3 (Feb. 2)
- Related tickers: (GILD -0.3%)(MRK -0.2%)(ENTA -3.7%)
Fri, Feb. 6, 7:04 AM
- Merck (NYSE:MRK) prices a $8B debt offering that it will use to repay the commercial paper that financed its acquisition of Cubist Pharmaceuticals. The tranches are as follows:
- $300M floating rate notes due February 2017; $700M floating rate notes due February 2020; $1,250M of 1.85% notes due February 2020; $1,250M of 2.35% notes due February 2022; $2,500M of 2.75% notes due 2025 and $2,000M of 3.70% notes due February 2045.
- Closing date is February 10.
Wed, Feb. 4, 9:52 AM
- In an unprecedented move, the FDA rescinds its Breakthrough Therapy designation for Merck's (MRK -2.4%) investigational HCV combo treatment, grazoprevir/elbasvir. The agency declined to comment on its action, but it means that the review period for the company's New Drug Application (NDA), expected to be filed by mid-year, will now be the standard ten months instead of six.
- The FDA grants Breakthrough Therapy status to a drug candidate that treats a serious medical condition and preliminary clinical evidence shows that it may demonstrate a significant improvement on a clinically significant endpoint compared to available therapies. Considering the high level of efficacy of Gilead's (GILD -9.4%) Sovaldi and Harvoni, the potential advantages of Merck's offering are apparently no longer evident.
- Related ticker: (ABBV -6.1%)
Wed, Feb. 4, 7:46 AM
- Merck (NYSE:MRK) Q4 results ($M): Total Revenues: 10,482 (-7.4%); Pharmaceutical: 9,370 (-4.0%); Animal Health: 885 (+1.6%); Consumer Care: 16 (-95.9%); Other: 211 (-29.2%).
- Sales By Product: Januvia/Janumet: 1,652 (+1.7%); Zetia/Vytorin: 1,032 (-10.4%); Remicade: 557 (-10.2%); Isentress: 418 (-5.4%); Gardasil: 356: (-9.6%); Nasomex: 268 (-18.0%); Proquad, MMRII & Varivax: 366 (+34.1%); Singulair: 319 (+7.0%).
- COGS: 3,749 (-18.6%); R&D Expense: 2,283 (+24.3%); SG&A Expense: 2,924 (-1.9%); Net Income: 7,316 (+797.7%); EPS: 2.54 (+876.9%).
- Gross Profit: 6,733 (+0.3%); COGS: 35.8% (-12.1%); Gross Margin: 64.2% (+8.3%); Operating Earnings: 1,526 (-19.4%); Operating Earnings Yield: 14.6% (-13.0%); Net Earnings Yield: 69.8% (+869.3%).
- 2015 Guidance: Revenues: $38.3B - 39.8B; EPS: $1.62 - 1.91; Non-GAAP EPS: $3.32 - 3.47.
Wed, Feb. 4, 7:11 AM
Tue, Feb. 3, 5:30 PM
Tue, Feb. 3, 8:41 AM
- Merck (NYSE:MRK) announces that Belsomra (suvorexant), for the treatment of adult patients with insomnia or who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, is now available in pharmacies in the U.S. It is the only orexin receptor antagonist approved for this indication in the United States.
- Belsomra suppresses the wake drive in the brain by blocking orexin receptors. Orexin is a neurotransmitter involved in promoting wakefulness. ~30M Americans suffer from insomnia.
Mon, Jan. 26, 10:29 AM
- The European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) adopts a positive opinion recommending approval for Merck's (MRK +0.2%) Sivextro (tedizolid phosphate) for the treatment of acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSI). Merck acquired the rights to Sivextro via its acquisition of Cubist Pharmaceuticals.
- A final decision from the European Commission usually takes ~60 days.
- The FDA approved Sivextro in June.
- Previously: FDA give thumbs up to Cubist antibiotic (June 21, 2014)
Wed, Jan. 21, 11:41 AM
- Merck (MRK) plans to withdraw its hepatitis C medicine, Victrelis (boceprevir), from the U.S. market by the end of this year due to declining demand in the wake of the Gilead Sciences (GILD +1.1%) juggernaut. Victrelis will remain available internationally.
- Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX +0.4%) pulled its offering, Incivek (telaprevir) in August for the same reason and exited the hepatitis arena.
- Merck is not giving up yet. It plans to file an NDA by mid-year for an all-oral ribavirin-free hep C regimen, grazoprevir/elbasvir.
Wed, Jan. 21, 8:53 AM
Mon, Jan. 19, 5:11 PM
- As expected, the European Commission approves Novartis' (NYSE:NVS) Cosentyx (secukinumab) as a first-line systemic treatment for adult patients with moderate-to-severe psoriasis. It is the first interleukin-17A inhibitor cleared in Europe.
- Cosentyx is also cleared for sale in Australia and Japan. FDA approval is imminent considering the unanimous positive vote by the Dermatologic and Ophthalmic Drugs Advisory Committee in October.
- Previously: Europe Ad Comm gives thumbs up to Novartis psoriasis drug (Nov. 21, 2014)
- Previously: Ad Comm backs approval of secukinumab (Oct. 21, 2014)
- Psoriasis-related tickers: (NYSE:JNJ) (NASDAQ:DERM) (NYSE:MRK) (NASDAQ:CELG) (NASDAQ:IDRA) (NYSE:HSP) (NYSEMKT:CANF) (NASDAQ:AMGN) (NYSE:AZN) (NYSE:PFE)
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