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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Endocyte, Acorda, Pharmacyclics, OncoGenex and Merrimack

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release
Chicago, IL – May 08, 2014 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Endocyte (ECYT-Free Report), Acorda (ACOR-Free Report), Pharmacyclics (PCYC-Free Report), OncoGenex (OGXI-Free Report) and Merrimack (MACK-Free Report).
Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Wednesday’s Analyst Blog:

Biotech Stock Roundup

Last week, there was a slight recovery in the biotech sector with NASDAQ Biotechnology improving 2.19% and the NYSE ARCA Biotech Index gaining 3.27%. Most of the major biotech companies saw an improvement in their share prices. Meanwhile, several companies reported earnings and provided regulatory and pipeline updates.

Endocyte (ECYT-Free Report) Tumbles on Study Halt: Endocyte plunged 61.9% on news that a phase III study (:PROCEED) being conducted with its experimental cancer treatment, vintafolide, will be halted on the recommendation of a data safety monitoring board (:DSMB).

An interim futility analysis of the ovarian cancer study showed that vintafolide did not demonstrate efficacy on the pre-specified outcome of progression-free survival. The positive takeaway is that no safety issues were identified. A lung cancer study will continue.     

Acorda (ACOR-Free Report) Down on CRL: Acorda’s shares were down 9.8% on a complete response letter (CRL) from the FDA for Plumiaz nasal spray. Acorda was looking to get Plumiaz approved for treatment of people with epilepsy who experience cluster seizures. However, the FDA said that the regulatory application cannot be approved in the present form.

Acorda had used the 505(b)(2) pathway using Diastat as the reference drug to seek approval. Given the current situation, Acorda said that it does not expect FDA approval this year. Additional clinical work will most likely be required though at present there’s low visibility on how much time and cost this will involve. If the delay is significant, Pfizer’s experimental product which also has orphan drug status could reach the market first.

Pharmacyclics (PCYC-Free Report) Slips on Guidance: Despite delivering first quarter results far above expectations, Pharmacyclics saw its shares slipping 7.4% on disappointing guidance. Imbruvica, which has blockbuster potential, delivered sales of $56.2 million in its first full quarter on the market.

The main concern regarding Pharmacyclics’ results was guidance -- the company guided towards product sales of $295 million, plus or minus 5%. Though this guidance does not include milestone payments, nevertheless it was short of expectations. With Imbruvica approved for the more lucrative chronic lymphocytic leukemia indication as well, expectations were high that Imbruvica sales would soar significantly through the rest of the year and this would be reflected in the guidance.

OncoGenex (OGXI-Free Report) Slumps on Late-Stage Data: OncoGenex saw its shares losing more than half their value (down 60.3%) on news that the company’s experimental prostate cancer drug, custirsen, failed to meet the primary endpoint in a late-stage study.

Merrimack (MACK-Free Report) Soars on Pancreatic Cancer Data: Merrimack reported positive results from a phase III study on its pancreatic cancer experimental treatment -- MM-398. MM-398, when used in combination with chemotherapy increased overall survival by 1.9 months compared to chemotherapy alone. This is encouraging data considering pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to treat and there have been very few successful phase III trials in pancreatic cancer in the past 25 years. The mortality rate for pancreatic cancer, which is the fourth most common cause of cancer death, is very high.

The study was conducted in patients who had been previously been treated with Gemzar. Although MM-398 did not achieve much success as a monotherapy, investors focused on the combination treatment data and sent the shares soaring 59.2%. The company will file for FDA approval this year.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

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