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Merrimack/Baxalta Start Study on Colorectal Cancer Drug

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Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (MACK - Free Report) and Baxalta Inc. announced that the companies have initiated a phase I clinical study on pipeline candidate MM-151.

The trial will evaluate the safety and tolerability of MM-151, an oligoclonal EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) inhibitor, in combination with Onivyde plus fluorouracil (5-FU) and leucovorin, in patients with RAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer.

The trial will also determine the side effects of MM-151, when used in combination with Onivyde plus 5-FU and leucovorin, and a recommended dose for subsequent trials on this combination.

The phase I study will be solely funded by Merrimack and the company will be single handedly responsible for the execution of the trial.

Onivyde is approved for use in combination with fluorouracil (5-FU) and leucovorin for the treatment of patients with metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas, after disease progression following Gemzar (gemcitabine)-based therapy. Initial uptake of Onivyde has been strong and should boost the top line, going forward.

We remind investors that Merrimack and Baxalta entered into an exclusive licensing agreement to develop and commercialize Onivyde outside the U.S., except for Taiwan where PharmaEngine holds the rights to commercialize the drug. Onivyde was approved in Taiwan in Oct 2015.

We note that MM-151 was previously being evaluated in a clinical trial on patients with advanced solid tumors. At present, Merrimack depends heavily on Onivyde for growth. As a result, development of other candidates is essential for the company.

Merrimack Pharma carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A couple of better-ranked stocks in the health care sector include Pfizer Inc. (PFE - Free Report) and Abbott Laboratories (ABT - Free Report) . Both stocks carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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