April 19th, 2023 | 07:30 CEST
Morphosys, Defence Therapeutics, Moderna - The takeover wave keeps rolling
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"[...] Accum™ helps us target active ingredients precisely to the origin of infections or diseases. [...]" Sébastien Plouffe, CEO and Director, Defence Therapeutics
Defence Therapeutics - Takes landmark step
The goal of the Canadian biotech company is to further improve mRNA vaccines through its patented ACCUM™ technology. As a result, comparative studies have been launched, testing a "naked" mRNA vaccine against a combined mRNA vaccine with ACCUM™. The study has a duration of 6 weeks, and the team led by Defence Therapeutics CEO, Sébastian Plouffe, expects results soon. "These in-vivo tests are very important for our strategic growth as they will show how the ACCUM™ technology can be adapted to synergize with mRNA vaccines."
If the trial is successful, ACCUM™ technology will likely become a component of mRNA research in the future. In addition to developing the Company's own vaccine, Accum could thus be applied to third-party projects.
Moreover, Defence Therapeutics, with a stock market value of CAD 158.19 million, could become an attractive takeover candidate. The wave of acquisitions in the biotechnology sector has been happening for months. Most recently, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer acquired Seagen, a company that can be classified in Defence Therapeutics' peer group. The purchase price amounted to USD 43 billion. The focus of the US company Seagen is to fight cancer through the use of antibody-drug conjugates.
Moderna - Hard hit
The shares of the pharmaceutical company slumped by more than 8% at the start of the week. As a result, the share price is moving into dangerous territory at USD 143.97. Because if the support area at USD 116 falls, there is a threat of a rapid sell-off in the direction of the 2020 high at USD 94.85.
The sharp correction was due to the publication of data from a midstage combination trial involving Moderna's mRNA cancer vaccine mRNA-4157 (V940) and Merck's Keytruda, specifically for melanoma or stage 3 and 4 skin cancer. The companies tested a combination of Merck's Keytruda and their personalized cancer vaccine in melanoma patients after surgery. After one year, more than 83% of patients had neither relapsed nor died. After 18 months, when almost 79% of the patients were still alive and cancer-free, the responses intensified. The results surpassed those of the non-combined drug Keytruda.
Still, the path forward for Moderna and Merck probably does not include accelerated approval, analysts said. The trial was only conducted with 157 patients. Moderna and Merck plan to start a Phase III trial with the personalized cancer vaccine this summer. The vaccine prepares the immune system to recognize the patient's own tumour cells. If it returns, this could give the immune system a chance to fight the cancer.
Morphosys - Looking for the bottom
The biotech company from Planegg near Munich had already experienced a sharp sell-off in the past two years. Since its peak on January 13, 2020, when it reached a high of EUR 146.30, the stock has lost over 90% of its value. Since the low of EUR 11.80 at the end of December last year, however, the share has initiated a significant countermovement and is currently trading at EUR 19.13. Once the high for the year at EUR 19.77 is overcome, a further rise, initially to the EUR 24.63 range, would be possible.
The biotech company received a tailwind from positive study results, which were published together with the distribution partner Incyte. According to the Company, the data from the five-year follow-up period of the Phase II L-MIND trial show "a prolonged and durable response to Monjuvi" in adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. There were no new abnormalities in side effects, he said.
"Five-year data demonstrating durability of response are of great importance to oncologists when weighing the most appropriate treatment option for a patient. The prolonged and durable response rates observed in the L-MIND study in relapsed or refractory DLBCL patients after five years show that treatment with Monjuvi may potentially cure the disease," says Johannes Düll from the Medical Clinic and Polyclinic of the University Hospital of Würzburg.
The takeover wave in the biotech sector is rolling. Seagen, represented in the peer group with Defence Therapeutics, was acquired by Pfizer for USD 43 billion. Moderna's study results did not convince analysts. In contrast, Morphosys was able to report positive news with its partner Incyte.
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