Seeking Alpha's Biotech Weekly: A Merck Purchase, Spectacular Auspex, And More

by: SA Editor Mike Taylor, CFA


Every Friday, SA highlights some of the week's insightful pieces of opinion and analysis as well as noteworthy Breaking News stories.

This week, contributors took a look at Auspex, Cubist, Juno, Gilead, Cyclacel, and others in the biotech/healthcare sector.

Did we miss any other big stories? What should Seeking Alpha be tracking in the biotech world? Leave a comment. Or better yet, submit an article of your own.

Every Friday, Seeking Alpha's Biotech Weekly highlights the editors' picks of the week's Seeking Alpha analysis, as well as a review of the top Breaking News stories. What should the Seeking Alpha community be reading and writing about? Please leave a comment to let us know.

See something here that deserves further analysis? We are always looking for new contributors and submissions in the biotech/healthcare space. You can submit an article here to become a contributor. Joining Seeking Alpha's community of writers has substantial benefits:

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And now, on to the week's news and analysis.

Seeking Alpha Analysis You Should Check Out

Here are some of the top breaking news items of the week.

Merck buys Swiss biotech firm

  • Merck (NYSE:MRK) acquires privately-held Lausanne, Switzerland-based Oncoethix for an upfront payment of $110M and up to an additional $265M in clinical and regulatory milestones.
  • Oncoethix's lead product is OTX015, a BET bromodomain inhibitor (2,3,4) currently in Phase 1b development for the treatment of hematological malignancies and advanced solid tumors.

Glaxo shingles vaccine candidate successful in Phase 3 study

  • A Phase 3 clinical trial assessing the safety and efficacy of GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE:GSK) HZ/su investigational vaccine for the prevention of shingles met its primary endpoint of overall vaccine efficacy across all age cohorts compared to placebo. In patients aged 50 years and older, HZ/su reduced the risk of shingles by 97.2% compared to control. The trial, started in August 2010, in ongoing in 18 countries and involves more than 16,000 patients.

Cyclacel's sapacitabine unlikely to achieve efficacy endpoint in Phase 3 AML trial

  • An interim analysis for futility performed by the independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) finds that Cyclacel's (NASDAQ:CYCC) lead product candidate, sapacitabine, will be unlikely to demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in survival in a Phase 3 trial in acute myeloid leukemia. The DSMB recommended that patients remain on treatment, though, since it saw no safety issues.

Pfizer adds to pipeline with Opko deal

  • Opko Health (NYSEMKT:OPK) is up 14% premarket on robust volume in response to its deal with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE). The latter will be pay Opko an upfront fee of $295M and up to $275M in regulatory milestones for the global rights to hGH-CTP, a long-acting growth hormone. Its value proposition is a once-weekly injection, a significant improvement over the once-daily standard of care.

Amgen prices Blincyto at a premium

  • According to Bloomberg, Amgen (AMGN +1%) intends to charge $178,000 per standard course of treatment for its blood cancer therapy, Blincyto (blinatumomab). The price assumes two cycles of treatment at $89,000 per cycle, the median duration of treatment for patients who responded to therapy in clinical trials.
  • For comparison purposes, Merck's (MRK +0.7%) Keytruda (pembrolizumab) costs $150,000 per year and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMY +2.2%) Yervoy (ipilimumab) costs $120,000 per course.

German healthcare cost advisor doesn't see benefit of Eylea over Lucentis in DME

  • Germany's healthcare cost watchdog, the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, determines that Bayer's (OTCPK:OTCPK:BAYRY +0.9%) (OTCPK:BAYZF) eye drugEylea (aflibercept) offers no additional benefit over Novartis' (NVS -0.6%) Lucentis(ranibizumab) for the treatment of diabetic macular edema. The agency's decision could affect the amount of reimbursement for Eylea.
  • In January, the Institute came to the same conclusion for the indication of macular edema. Last year, it determined that it could not assess the potential advantages of Eylea in wet age-related macular degeneration because Bayer has not provided the relevant data.
  • Eylea was developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN -1.5%) and licensed to Bayer in ex-U.S. territories.

Roche submits NDA for skin cancer med

  • Roche's (OTCQX:) Genentech submits a New Drug Application (NDA) to the FDA for cobimetinib in combination with Zelboraf (vemurafenib) for the treatment of patients with BRAF V600 mutation-positive advance melanoma.
  • Cobimetinib selectively blocks the activity of MEK, one of a series of proteins that make up a signaling pathway that helps regulate cell division and survival. Vemurafenib binds to mutant BRAF, another protein in the pathway, to interrupt abnormal signaling that can cause tumors to grow.

Other stories of note:

Disclosure: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it. The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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