Although the product pipeline for vaccines and therapeutics targeting COVID-19 is top of mind right now, investors are also keeping a close eye on companies involved in the development of medicines targeting cancer and the central nervous system. According to financings tracked by BioWorld and deals and grants logged in Cortellis, the therapeutic areas of cancer, neurology and psychiatric attracted the highest amounts of investments last year with a collective $101.9 billion and $27.5 billion raised, respectively. Public biopharma companies in these areas have also seen their share prices increase despite the uncertain environment pervading the general markets.
The 21 representative public companies developing therapies targeting various cancers comprising the BioWorld Cancer index have enjoyed a successful start to the year posting a 5% increase and an impressive 16% gain so far this month. (See BioWorld Cancer index 2020, below.)
Among the leading gainers in the group is Clovis Oncology Inc. whose shares (NASDAQ:CLVS) have vaulted 48% this month, with investors warming to a debt exchange agreement that according to H.C. Wainwright analyst Edward White reduces its near-term financial overhang.
A privately negotiated exchange agreement with a holder of its 2.50% convertible senior notes due 2021 sees the company issue approximately $36.05 million of its currently outstanding series of 4.50% convertible senior notes due 2024 in exchange for approximately $32.77 million of the 2021 notes.
White said, “This exchange results in a more favorable time period and greater financial flexibility for the company in the future, which we view positively.”
South San Francisco-based Allogene Therapeutics Inc., which is developing allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (AlloCAR T) therapies for cancer, is also enjoying a good month with its shares (NASDAQ:ALLO) trading up 44%. It recently gained rights to use Maxcyte Inc.'s flow electroporation technology and Expert platform to develop and advance its AlloCAR T candidates through to commercialization. In return, Maxcyte will receive undisclosed development, approval and commercial milestones in addition to other licensing fees. The first two Allogene investigational therapies intended to use the technology are directed at CD19 and BCMA.
Also pushing 30% higher in April is New York-based TG Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:TGTX). The company expects to complete later this year a rolling submission of a new drug application to the FDA requesting accelerated approval of umbralisib, the company’s oral, once-daily, dual inhibitor of PI3K-delta and CK1-epsilon, as a treatment for patients with previously treated marginal zone lymphoma and follicular lymphoma.
Menlo Park, Calif.-based Forty Seven Inc. that has had a significant influence on the index valuation will be leaving the index following its $4.9 billion, or $95.50 per share in cash, acquisition by Gilead Sciences Inc. The company brings on board magrolimab, a monoclonal, anti-CD47 antibody being developed to treat several cancers, including myelodysplastic syndrome, acute myeloid leukemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
The BioWorld Neurological Diseases index, a price-weighted index of public biopharmaceutical companies that are focused on developing therapies to treat neurological diseases, is also up over 13% in April, although year-to-date it is down over 9%. (See BioWorld Neurological Diseases index, below.)
Axovant Gene Therapies Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, is one of the companies helping drive the increase in valuation of the index, with its shares (NASDAQ:AXGT) up 34% in April. It recently disclosed a collaboration with San Francisco-based Invitae Inc., a medical genetics company, in a program to catalyze faster diagnoses for children with lysosomal storage disorders, including GM1 gangliosidosis and GM2 gangliosidosis, also known as Tay-Sachs/Sandhoff disease.
New Haven, Conn.-based Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Co. Ltd., has seen its shares rise 33% this month. Early in April, the company reported that it is collaborating with Cove, a company providing specialized care and access to innovative treatments for migraine sufferers via telemedicine services in the U.S. The arrangement will allow telemedicine evaluation for migraine sufferers during those times of limited access to routine office visits. Using Cove, patients consult with independent health care providers and may be prescribed the company’s recently FDA approved Nurtec ODT (rimegepant), a calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor antagonist, along with other migraine treatments. The company has also put in place an agreement with Medison Pharma Ltd., of Petach Tikva, Israel, to distribute Nurtec ODT in Israel.
Biogen Inc.’s shares (NASDAQ:BIIB) are up 14% for the year and investors are anxiously awaiting the company’s first quarter financials. They will want to determine what, if any, impact the COVID-19 pandemic has made on its bottom line. Equally important, will be the regulatory progress it is making for beta-amyloid-targeting aducanumab in Alzheimer’s disease, which, according to Canaccord Genuity analyst Sumant Kulkarni in a preview of the Q1 earnings report from Biogen tomorrow, noted that it, “arguably remains biopharma's highest-profile pipeline product that does not take on SARS-COV-2. Given the current circumstances, we would not be surprised if we might have to wait for some more time for an adu filing from BIIB."