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Nektar Up 25% as Bristol-Myers Expands Bempeg Collaboration

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Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR - Free Report) announced a revision to its strategic collaboration agreement related to development of bempegaldesleukin (bempeg) with pharma giant Bristol-Myers (BMY - Free Report) . The companies have agreed to a new joint development plan, per which they plan to initiate new registrational studies to evaluate bempeg in combination with Bristol-Meyrs’ PD-1 inhibitor, Opdivo, as a treatment for adjuvant melanoma and muscle-invasive bladder cancer.

Shares of Nektar surged nearly 25% on Jan 10 following the announcement as the new deal suggests Bristol-Myers’ confidence in the combination regimen. However, the company’s shares are down 35.2% in the past year against the industry’s increase of 0.7%.

Per the previous agreement, the companies are already conducting three registrational studies evaluating bempeg-Opdivo immunotherapy regimen as a first-line treatment for metastatic melanoma, cisplatin-ineligible metastatic urothelial cancer and metastatic renal cell carcinoma (“RCC”). The companies will evaluate the combination regimen in adjuvant melanoma and muscle-invasive bladder cancer, per the new deal. Data from the registrational studies can support regulatory submission seeking approval for the regimen.

Moreover, Bristol-Myers will separately fund and conduct a phase I/II study, evaluating the combination regimen, under the new deal terms. It will be a dose optimization study, followed by an expansion study in patients with non-small cell lung cancer in the first-line setting.

Bristol-Myers stated that it may continue to expand the ongoing registrational program to include new indications. The company is also committed to develop new bempeg combination regimens, which may include collaboration deals with other companies to develop bempeg-based regimens in indications not covered under the deal with Nektar.

Apart from new registrational studies, Bristol-Myers and Nektar also plan to conduct a new phase I/II study for evaluation of bempeg plus Opdivo in combination with Pfizer’s (PFE - Free Report) kidney cancer drug, Inlyta (axitinib), in treatment-naive RCC patients.

Successful development of bempeg plus Opdivo regimen in first-line setting for multiple cancer indications will certainly increase prospects for both Nektar and Bristol-Myers. However, the immunotherapy segment is attracting significant interest from new players along with pharma companies who have established drugs. Merck’s (MRK - Free Report) Keytruda, Roche’s Tecentriq, Pfizer’s Bavencio and Opdivo are leading drugs in this segment.

Zacks Rank

Nektar currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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