It is all about coronavirus treatments for the biotech sector for now, as the situation is worsening with each passing day. A slew of biotechs is evaluating their pipeline drugs and vaccines for the treatment of COVID-19 and updates from these will drive their share prices. Meanwhile, smaller biotechs with promising technologies have collaborated with pharma giants for the development of coronavirus treatments. A few other updates were also out this week.
Recap of the Week’s Most Important Stories:
Amgen Partners Adaptive Biotechnologies for COVID-19 Treatment: Amgen (AMGN - Free Report) announced a strategic partnership with Adaptive Biotechnologies to co-develop fully-human neutralizing antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Amgen obtained viral gene sequences from hundreds of patients. Using Adaptive’s viral-neutralizing antibody platform, Amgen will leverage its drug development and manufacturing capabilities to quickly advance promising antibodies that can bind and neutralize SARS-CoV-2 into clinical studies. Both companies will commence work immediately.
Gilead Collaborates With Second Genome & Ramps Up Coronavirus Drug Production: Gilead (GILD - Free Report) struck a four-year strategic collaboration deal with Second Genome, a leader in microbiome science. The collaboration aims to identify biomarkers associated with clinical response in up to five of Gilead’s pipeline compounds in inflammation, fibrosis and other diseases. It also intends to identify potential new targets and drug candidates for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Per the terms, Second Genome will receive an upfront payment of $38 million and approximately $300 million in milestone-based payments.
Additionally, Kite, owned by Gilead, announced that it has entered into a license and collaboration agreement with Teneobio, Inc. Per the deal, Kite will receive exclusive rights to certain antibodies directed to the B-cell maturation antigen. Both companies will collaborate on next-generation dual-targeting CAR T Therapies in multiple myeloma, utilizing UniAbAntibodies.
Vir Soars on Glaxo Stake: Shares of Vir Biotechnology, Inc. (VIR - Free Report) surged after it announced a collaboration agreement with GlaxoSmithKline to research and develop solutions for coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Initially, both companies will focus on accelerating the development of specific antibody candidates — VIR-7831 and VIR-7832 — identified by the Vir platform. These candidates have demonstrated a high affinity for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and are highly potent in neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 in live virus-cellular assays. The companies plan to proceed directly to a phase II study within the next three to five months, subject to regulatory review. Both companies have also agreed to conduct research on SARS-CoV-2 and other coronavirus vaccines by coupling Glaxo’s vaccine technologies and expertise with Vir’s ability to identify neutralizing epitopes.
Glaxo will make an equity investment of $250 million in Vir in lieu of the latter’s technology.
Immunomedics Soars on Pipeline Update: Immunomedics (IMMU - Free Report) surged after it announced that the late-stage study on lead candidate, sacituzumab govitecan, will be halted due to compelling evidence of efficacy.
The decision was based on the unanimous recommendation by the independent Data Safety Monitoring Committee (DSMC) following its recent routine review of the ASCENT study. The phase III confirmatory ASCENT study is designed to validate the promising safety and efficacy data of sacituzumab govitecan observed in a phase II study of heavily pretreated patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (mTNBC). Per the chairperson of the independent DSMC, remarkable results were observed across multiple endpoints in the ASCENT study. These results warranted early discontinuation of the study and are indicative of a potential major advancement in the treatment of this devastating disease.
Incyte to Repurpose Jakafi for COVID-19: Incyte (INCY - Free Report) announced that it is working with the FDA to initiate a phase III study, RUXCOVID, to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Jakafi plus standard-of-care (SoC) compared to SoC therapy alone in patients with COVID-19-associated cytokine storm. The Jakafi study will be sponsored by Incyte in the United States and Novartis outside of the country. Moreover, Incyte plans to initiate a separate open-label emergency Expanded Access Program (EAP) in the United States. Under this protocol, eligible patients with severe COVID-19 associated cytokine storm will be allowed to receive Jakafi while it is being evaluated for this indication. The RUXCOVID and EAP studies are awaiting potential FDA approvals.
Fate Soars on Collaboration With Johnson & Johnson: Fate Therapeutics (FATE - Free Report) surged following a global collaboration and option agreement with Janssen Biotech, a subsidiary of pharma giant Johnson & Johnson. Per the terms, both companies will develop novel chimeric antigen receptor (“CAR”) natural killer (“NK”) and CAR T-cell product candidates targeting four tumor-associated antigens for hematologic malignancies and solid tumors. Fate Therapeutics will use its iPSC product platform and Janssen’s proprietary tumor-targeting antigen binders to develop the candidates. J&J will pay Fate Therapeutics $50 million in cash as an upfront payment. In addition, J&J will make an additional $50-million equity investment in Fate Therapeutics’ stock at $31 per share. Fate Therapeutics is also eligible to receive up to $1.8 billion in development and regulatory milestones and up to $1.2 billion in commercial milestone payments from J&J. In exchange, J&J will receive royalties on sales from any approved product developed under the deal.
Fate currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Alnylam Collaborates With Dicerna for RNAi Therapeutics: Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ALNY - Free Report) has collaborated with Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for investigational RNAi therapeutics for the treatment of alpha-1 antitrypsin (A1AT) deficiency-associated liver disease (alpha-1 liver disease). Per the development and commercialization agreement, Alnylam’s ALN-AAT02 and Dicerna’s DCR-A1AT investigational RNAi therapeutics, each in phase I/II development, will be explored for the treatment of alpha-1 liver disease. Under the terms, Dicerna assumes responsibility for both ALN-AAT02 and DCR-A1AT at its cost and may progress with the development of one or both. Dicerna will also be responsible for selecting which product candidate(s) will be advanced in development for the treatment of patients with alpha-1 liver disease.
The Nasdaq Biotechnology index gained 1.60% in the last five trading sessions. Among the biotech giants, Incyte gained 18.34% during this period. Over the past six months, shares of Regeneron have gained 76.71%. (See the last biotech stock roundup here : Biotech Stock Roundup: HOTH & IMV to Develop Coronavirus Vaccines, & More)
What's Next in Biotech?
Stay tuned for more pipeline updates, with a focus on treatments for the novel COVID-19.
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