Healthcare Review: Sarepta Therapeutics, Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Geron, Ziopharm Oncology, Intuitive Surgical Print E-mail
By Staff and Wire Reports   
Friday, 06 December 2013 17:27
U.S. stocks advanced, halting a five-day slide for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as investors weighed better-than-forecast jobs growth to gauge the strength of the economy and timing of Federal Reserve stimulus cuts. The S&P 500 rose 1.2 percent to 1,805.75 at 2:08 p.m. in New York. The advance erased the index’s drop this week after it had retreated each of the past four sessions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 193.24 points, or 1.2 percent, to 16,014.75. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 4.7 percent below the 30-day average at this time of day. The 203,000 increase in payrolls followed a revised 200,000 advance in October, Labor Department figures showed today. The median forecast of 89 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an 185,000 advance. A report Dec. 4 from the ADP Research Institute indicated companies boosted payrolls in November by the most in a year.

Sarepta Therapeutics ($SRPT) falls as Canaccord downgrades the shares to Neutral from Buy. "We still predict eventual clinical/commercial success, but feel there is major near-term uncertainty in eteplirsen's regulatory timelines," analyst Ritu Baral notes. Long story short: Canaccord likes the DMD treatment's efficacy and safety profile but doesn't necessarily like the confirmatory trial ambiguity. Price target is still $20.

Although this comes with the "correlation does not necessarily equal causation" caveat, shares of Questcor Pharmaceuticals ($QCOR) began to move notably lower a little over a half hour ago. The timing of the move equates almost exactly with new tweets from Citron Research.

Shares of Geron ($GERN) are up 9%.Behind the move looks to be an article outlining a Mayo Clinic study which says imetelstat "has been found to induce morphologic, molecular, and clinical remissions in some patients with myelofibrosis." The study's lead author calls the results "early but promising." Amusingly, the article appears to have been posted ahead of its scheduled release from embargo.

Ziopharm Oncology ($ZIOP) gets approval from the RAC to run a Phase 1 study of Ad-RTS-IL-12 in brain cancer. The company expects to launch the study in H1 of next year.Ad-RTS-IL-12 is in Phase 2 testing for melanoma and breast cancer. (PR)Reminder: Ad-RTS-IL-12 is developed with a controlled expression platform from Intrexon (XON).

Jefferies starts Intuitive Surgical ($ISRG) at Buy. In what is seemingly becoming a less and less popular thesis these days, analyst Imron Zafar still thinks the company's "growth profile remains compelling." More specifically, Zafar models "revenue growth rebounding to the low-teens range over the back half of 2014 and remaining double-digits in 2015 and beyond." Important qualification: "To what extent market development in new areas can not only offset but also overcome peaking penetration and slower growth in gynecology and urology represents the y question underlying the company’s growth outlook." Price target is $480, representing upside of nearly 31% from Thursday's close. See also: ISRG, FDA warn on friction in robot arms


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