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Roche Teams Up With Afraxis

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Roche ( RHHBY) announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Genentech, has recently inked a global licensing agreement with Afraxis, Inc. for developing candidates for an undisclosed novel target. 


The licensing agreement provides Roche with exclusive, rights to develop and commercialize Afraxis' proprietary compounds on a worldwide basis.  


Afraxis is eligible for an upfront fee along with research, development and commercialization milestone payments totaling $187.5 million.  


We note that Genentech is a part of the Pharmaceuticals Division of the Roche group with primary focus on oncology along with immunology, neuroscience, metabolism and infectious disease. 


We note that the oncology portfolio at Roche was boosted recently when the US Food and Drug Administration (:FDA) approved Avastin (bevacizumab) for a new indication in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Avastin in combination with fluoropyrimidine-based irinotecan or oxaliplatin chemotherapy can be used for treating patients suffering from mCRC.  


The new indication now allows patients suffering from mCRC who were initially treated with Avastin along with an irinotecan or oxaliplatin containing chemotherapy can now continue receiving Avastin plus a different irinotecan or oxaliplatin containing chemotherapy, after the cancer worsens (second-line treatment). 


We note that the FDA’s approval was based on encouraging results from a phase III study (ML18147). Results from the study showed that patients continuing with an Avastin-based regimen, even after the worsening of their cancer, survived longer than those who underwent chemotherapy alone.  


The risk of death for patients, who received Avastin plus standard chemotherapy as both the first- and second-line treatment of mCRC, was 19% lower in comparison to patients receiving chemotherapy alone.  


Avastin is already approved by the FDA for treating patients suffering from mCRC in combination with intravenous 5FU-based chemotherapy. Roche has also gained approval for Avastin for treating patients, whose cancer worsened after chemotherapy alone. 


Avastin plus fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy is approved in the EU for the treatment of adults suffering from metastatic carcinoma of the colon or rectum. 


Roche carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). However, other large cap pharma stocks, such as Bayer ( BAYRY ), Novo Nordisk ( NVO ) and Eli Lilly and Company ( LLY ) currently look more attractive with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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