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Merck & Co Inc. (MRK)

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  • 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!
  • Fri, Jul. 31, 8:47 AM
    • An interim analysis of data from a Phase 3 ring vaccination trial in Guinea shows Merck's (NYSE:MRK) Ebola vaccine candidate, rVSV-ZEBOV, was 100% effective in protecting people from Ebola virus infection within six to 10 days of vaccination (p=0.0036). The preliminary conclusions will be published online today in The Lancet.
    • Over 4,000 people have received the vaccine to date. Merck licensed rVSV-ZEBOV from NewLink Genetics (NASDAQ:NLNK) who licensed it from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
    • The make the vaccine, a virus similar to the rabies virus called vesicular stomatitis virus is weakened by removing one of its genes which is then replaced with a single Ebola virus gene that, by itself, cannot cause disease.
    • Two other trials assessing rVSV-ZEBOV are ongoing: a Phase 3 study, called STRIVE, in Sierra Leone and a Phase 2, called PREVAIL, in Liberia.
    • MRK is up a fraction premarket. NLNK is up 9% on light volume.
    | Fri, Jul. 31, 8:47 AM | 6 Comments
  • Fri, May 29, 5:24 PM
    • Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) stumbled 7% today on a 4.5x surge in volume in response to the presentation of an abstract (#109) at ASCO that underwhelmed many investors. The data were from Phase 3 study, called CheckMate-057, assessing the company's PD-1 inhibitor, Opdivo (nivolumab) compared to the standard-of-care chemotherapy agent docetaxel in treatment-experienced patients with advanced, non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of lung cancer. A drug used after another (treatment experienced) is called a second line setting.
    • The study met its primary endpoint of a statistically significant 27% reduction in the risk of cancer progression or death compared to docetaxel (p=0.0015). The trial also evaluated the efficacy of Opdivo compared to docetaxel by the level of PD-L1 expression, 1%, 5% and 10%. As expected, the median overall survival (OS) in the Opdivo group was significantly longer than the chemo cohort for all three levels where PD-L1 was highly expressed (greater than or equal to 1, 5, 10%).
    • What raised eyebrows was the absence of a treatment benefit compared to docetaxel in the three groups with low PD-L1 expression (<1%, <5%, <10%). Median OS was barely higher in the Opdivo group with <1% expression and lower than docetaxel in the other two. This potentially opens the door for eventual competitors such as Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) and Merck (NYSE:MRK) whose offerings show strong efficacy in tumors that highly express PD-L1. Had Opdivo shown a significant OS advantage in low PD-L1 expression tumors, its dominance in the second line setting would have been virtually assured.
    • CheckMate-057 was stopped early based on the successful achievement of its primary endpoint, per the recommendation of the independent Data Monitoring Committee.
    • Previously: Phase 3 study stopped early after Bristol-Myers' Opdivo hits efficacy endpoint (April 17)
    | Fri, May 29, 5:24 PM | 11 Comments
  • Tue, Apr. 28, 9:12 AM
    | Tue, Apr. 28, 9:12 AM | 2 Comments
  • Mon, Apr. 27, 5:40 PM
    • Top gainers, as of 5:15 p.m.: FOLD +8.6%. RTEC +7.9%. RCII +7.5%. MRK +4.1%. WNC +4.1%.
    • Top losers, as of 5:15 p.m.: TCS -23.0%. AMKR -8.1%. ALSN -5.3%. OSTK -4.2%. EJ -3.6%.
    | Mon, Apr. 27, 5:40 PM | Comment!
  • Wed, Apr. 22, 8:50 AM
    • Organovo (NYSEMKT:ONVO) enters into a multi-year collaboration agreement with Merck (NYSE:MRK) to develop multiple custom tissue models. The deal includes access to ONVO's exVive3D Human Liver Tissue service. Financial terms are not disclosed.
    • ONVO is up 17% premarket on robust volume.
    | Wed, Apr. 22, 8:50 AM | 14 Comments
  • Dec. 19, 2014, 6:35 PM
    • The FDA has approved the use of Cubist's (NASDAQ:CBST) Zerbaxa (ceftolozane/tazobactam) for "the treatment of adults with complicated urinary tract infections (cUTI) and complicated intra-abdominal infections (cIAI) caused by designated susceptible Gram-negative bacteria."
    • Cubist adds the FDA's decision was "supported by positive data from two pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials - one in patients with cUTI and the other in patients with cIAI."
    • Cubist, still set to be acquired by Merck (NYSE:MRK) for $9.5B, is up 2% AH.
    • Previous: PDUFA date approaches for Zerbaxa
    | Dec. 19, 2014, 6:35 PM | Comment!
  • Dec. 8, 2014, 6:11 PM
    • The judge handling Cubist's (NASDAQ:CBST) infringement suit against Hospira (NYSE:HSP) over a generic version of Cubist's Cubicin has ruled several of Cubist's patent claims are invalid.
    • Commenting on the ruling, Evercore ISI thinks Hospira will be able to launch a generic version of the drug by June 2016 in a "worst-case scenario." Cubist received a favorable ruling regarding its patent claims last year.
    • Merck (NYSE:MRK), which announced this morning it's buying Cubist for $9.5B, is down 1.4% AH. Cubist is down 2.1%, and Hospira is up 2.3%.
    | Dec. 8, 2014, 6:11 PM | 6 Comments
  • Dec. 8, 2014, 1:23 PM
    • Micro cap Cellceutix (OTCPK:CTIX +22.1%) jumps on a 5x surge in volume after the FDA grants Qualified Infectious Disease Product (QIDP) status to Brilacidin for the treatment of Acute Bacterial Skin and Skin Structure Infections (ABSSSI). The company is scheduled to meet with the FDA later this month on a planned Phase 3 trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of Brilacidin for ABSSSI.
    • Brilacidin is a member of a new class of antibiotics called defensin-mimetics, which are modeled after host defense proteins. These are the "front line" of defense in the human immune system.
    • In a Phase 2b clinical trial, a single dose of Brilacidin demonstrated equivalent effectiveness as a seven-day regimen of daptomycin (CBST +35.4%) for the treatment of ABSSSI.
    • Among the benefits of QIDP is Fast Track and Priority Review status and a five-year period of market exclusivity if approved.
    | Dec. 8, 2014, 1:23 PM | 21 Comments
  • Dec. 8, 2014, 12:45 PM
    | Dec. 8, 2014, 12:45 PM | 4 Comments
  • Dec. 8, 2014, 12:37 PM
    • Biotech investors are giving Seattle Genetics (SGEN -8.4%) the cold shoulder today on increased volume. It appears that all the love is being directed to the potential of competitors' PD-1 inhibitors in fighting cancer despite the company's presentations at the American Society of Hematology meeting of positive results for Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin), an antibody-drug conjugate directed to CD30 in Hodgkin lymphoma (HL).
    • Long-term data from a Phase 1 trial of Adcetris combined with AVD (adriamycin, vinblastine, dacarbazine) demonstrated a 100% overall survival rate at year three and 92% failure-free survival rate at year 3 in frontline HL.
    • Adcetris in combination with bendamustine as a second-line therapy demonstrated an objective response rate of 96% and a complete remission rate of 83% in patients with relapsed or refractory HL.
    • In a Phase 2 trial in previously untreated HL patients aged 60 and older, Adcetris showed a 93% objective response rate.
    • The company is collaborating with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. (OTCPK:TKPHF) (OTCPK:TKPYY) on the development of the product.
    • Previously: Positive results in Adcetris Phase 3 label expansion trial (Sept. 29, 2014)
    • PD-1 inhibitor-related tickers: (BMY +0.2%)(FPRX +4.8%)(MRK -0.2%)(CELG +4.2%)(OTCQX:RHHBY -0.5%)(AZN -0.6%)
    | Dec. 8, 2014, 12:37 PM | 1 Comment
  • Sep. 29, 2014, 6:07 PM
    • Following a successful Phase 3 trial, the FDA has approved Relistor for "the treatment of opioid-induced constipation in patients taking opioids for chronic non-cancer pain."
    • Salix (NASDAQ:SLXP) will sell Relistor under a license from developer Progenics (NASDAQ:PGNX). Many expected FDA approval to arrive following a favorable July ruling.
    • PGNX +3.4% AH.
    • Related tickers: (AZN)(CBST +0.9%)(SGYP -3.4%)(NKTR -0.9%)
    | Sep. 29, 2014, 6:07 PM | 1 Comment
  • Jun. 20, 2014, 6:14 PM
    • The FDA has approved Cubist's (CBST) Sivextro for "the treatment of adult acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections."
    • The company states Sivextro is "one of at least four antibiotics Cubist hopes to deliver" by 2020. A European Commission ruling on the drug is expected in 1H15.
    • Shares rose 5.4% in regular trading following news the FDA had granted priority review to an NDA for Cubist's investigational antibiotic ceftolozane/tazobactam"
    | Jun. 20, 2014, 6:14 PM | Comment!
  • Jun. 17, 2014, 4:34 PM
    • Shares of Endocyte (ECYT) crater after the close in response to its announcement that a Merck (MRK) subsidiary has decided to stop development of the cancer compound vintafolide and return the worldwide rights to Endocyte.
    • The company will evaluate its options with the product candidate after it analyzes the results from the Phase 2b clinical trial in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. In March, the firms reported that ventifolide met its primary endpoint of progression-free survival based on interim data. Overall response rates and overall survival trends were positive.
    • Vintafolide is an investigational small molecule drug conjugate (SMDC) consisting of folate linked to the vinca alkaloid chemotherapy agent desacetylvinblastine hydrazide. Vintafolide targets the chemo agent to rapidly growing cancer cells that actively take up folate via the folate receptor.
    • In May, the companies withdrew their marketing authorization applications from the EMA for vintafolide for the treatment of ovarian cancer due to lack of efficacy.
    • Shares are down 25% AH on heavy volume.
    | Jun. 17, 2014, 4:34 PM | 3 Comments
  • May 12, 2014, 9:26 AM
    • Certain traders are apparently swinging from trees this morning as they pop shares of Alnylam (ALNY8% on modest volume in premarket action in response to its announcement of a significant reduction in HBV surface antigen in preclinical testing on four monkeys with its RNAi therapeutic ALN-HBV product candidate. The product reduced HBsAg as much as 2.3 log10 compared to 0.5 log10 which is the generally accepted minimum reduction indicating immunologic cure. While encouraging, a colossal amount of work  and time remains before any such product will reach the market.
    • Alnylam purchased the assets from Merck (MRK) in January for $175M ($25M cash + stock). Merck acquired the assets via its acquisition of Sirna Therapeutics in 2006 for $1.1B. Merck's exit at a significant loss is a clear signal that the road to commercialization will be long and arduous.
    • Alnylam hopes to file an IND by the end of 2015.
    | May 12, 2014, 9:26 AM | 1 Comment
  • May 2, 2014, 8:23 AM
    • The Data Safety Monitoring Board completes its interim futility analysis of the PROCEED Phase 3 clinical trial of the Merck (MRK)/Endocyte (ECYT) cancer drug vintafolide. Since it did not demonstrate efficacy regarding its primary endpoint of Progression-Free Survival (PFS) in patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, the Board recommends stopping the trial.
    • The trial was evaluating vintafolide in combination with pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD) compared to PLD plus placebo for the treatment of folate receptor-positive platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. The primary endpoint was PFS as measured by RECIST v1.1 (Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumor) criteria in patients with all target tumor lesions positive as assessed by the imaging agent etarfolatide.
    • The companies are in the process of notifying investigators that the trial will be suspended.
    • Trading in ECYT was halted at ~7:56 am EDT this morning pending the news.
    • Shares of MRK are down 0.2% premarket on light volume.
    | May 2, 2014, 8:23 AM | 2 Comments
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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.