Healthcare Review: Amgen, Herbalife, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, BioMarin, Vertex Pharmaceuticals Print E-mail
By Staff and Wire Reports   
Wednesday, 20 November 2013 14:47
U.S. stocks swung between gains and losses after Federal Reserve officials said they may reduce economic stimulus “in coming months” as the economy improves. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell less than 0.1 percent to 1,786.81 at 2:08 p.m. in New York. Earlier, it rose 0.4 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1 percent to 15,946.99 and has topped 16,000 for three straight days before returning below the threshold. Policy makers “generally expected that the data would prove consistent with the Committee’s outlook for ongoing improvement in labor market conditions and would thus warrant trimming the pace of purchases in coming months,” according to the record of the Federal Open Market Committee’s Oct. 29-30 gathering, released today in Washington.

Amgen ($AMGN) announces results from an open-label extension study of evolocumab in patients with high cholesterol. The company's executive VP of R&D calls the results "encouraging" and says the data "suggest evolocumab may be a promising option to treat hyperlipidemia in a range of at-risk patients." The company says the PCSK9 inhibitor "was not associated with a major increase in AEs versus SOC and produced mean LDL-C reductions of 52% in combination with SOC in patients with high cholesterol."

Ahead of Bill Ackman's latest salvo (coming Friday) against Herbalife ($HLF), the stock has its tail in the air after Bill Stiritz discloses upping his stake to 6.4% from 5% and changing his filing status to 13D from 13G, indicating an "activist" role. Stiritz "plans to interact with (Herbalife) management to offer them, for their consideration, his views, advice and counsel for ways of promoting and furthering the company’s shareholder interests," says the filing.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals ($INO) says preclinical testing of a MERS vaccine "induced robust and durable immune responses." More specifically, "vaccine constructs were observed to induce strong neutralizing antibodies and broad CD8+ T cells in mice." Although less contagious, the fatality rate for MERS is around five times that for SARS.

BioMarin ($BMRN) trades 6% higher on the heels of a 20-1 Ad Com vote in favor of Vimizim approval.The news will likely "rekindle long-standing M&A speculation," FierceBiotech notes, especially in light of Shire's recent deal for ViroPharma.Analysts polled by Reuters see Vimizim sales topping $500M by 2018.Consensus for 2016 sales sits at around $278M.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX) sells its Incivo royalty rights to co-developer Janssen (JNJ) .Janssen will pay $152M in cash to VRTX in Q4 and, starting next year, will stop making royalty payments on the protease inhibitor. Janssen now has "sole authority to execute Incivo marketing and promotion activities" in Europe and other regions. (PR)Q3 sales of Incivek missed consensus by a wide margin and triggered workforce reductions at VRTX, although some analysts noted that the news wasn't really all that surprising.

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