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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Zafgen, Celgene, Amgen, AbbVie and Biogen

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – July 21, 2016 – 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 Zafgen (ZFGN), Celgene (CELG), Amgen (AMGN), AbbVie (ABBV) and Biogen ( BIIB).

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Here are highlights from Wednesday’s Analyst Blog:

Biotech Stock Roundup: Q2 Earnings on the Way

This week, there were the usual regulatory and pipeline updates in the biotech sector. Biosimilars are taking center-stage with quite a few companies in the news this week related to their progress in this area.

Meanwhile, Zafgen (ZFGN) , a company focused on obesity and complex metabolic disorders, has decided to suspend the development of its lead pipeline candidate. In other news, immuno-oncology continues to attract deals with Celgene ( CELG) agreeing to shell out up to $2.561 billion under a collaboration agreement.

Recap of the Week’s Most Important Stories

1. The obesity market continues to pose challenges with yet another company deciding to change its priorities. Zafgen said that it has decided to suspend the development of its lead pipeline candidate, beloranib, and to refocus its resources on the development of a second-generation MetAP2 inhibitor, ZGN-1061, in severe and complicated obesity.

Beloranib was placed on full clinical hold in Dec 2015 by the FDA. Following discussions with the agency, Zafgen decided that the obstacles, costs and development timelines for beloranib did not justify additional investment in the program. Zafgen also announced a workforce reduction.

A few weeks back, Arena, which has a marketed obesity drug in its portfolio, had announced a cut in its workforce and said that it would be shifting its priorities to its proprietary clinical stage pipeline. Though Arena did get some good news this week -- the FDA granted approval for a new once-daily formulation of the company’s obesity drug, Belviq.

2. Amgen (AMGN) , which is facing the prospect of biosimilar competition for many of its core drugs, got a bit of a breather recently with the FDA issuing a complete response letter (CRL) for Sandoz’s biosimilar version of Amgen’s Neulasta (pegfilgrastim). Amgen is already facing biosimilar competition from Zarxio – Sandoz’s biosimilar version of Neupogen while an FDA advisory panel recently voted in favor of approving Sandoz’s biosimilar version of Enbrel.

Amgen itself is working on bringing biosimilars to market and recently got a favorable vote from an FDA advisory panel for its biosimilar version of AbbVie’s (ABBV) top-selling drug, Humira. Last week, Amgen signed up with Japanese company, Daiichi Sankyo, to commercialize nine biosimilars in Japan including the biosimilar version of Humira (Read more: Amgen and Daiichi Sankyo Team Up for Biosimilars in Japan ).

3. Biogen (BIIB) is also progressing with the development of biosimilars. Samsung Bioepis, the joint venture between Samsung BioLogics and Biogen, said that its regulatory application for SB5, a biosimilar version of Humira, has been accepted for review.

4. Celgene has entered into a strategic worldwide collaboration with immuno-oncology focused company Jounce. Celgene could end up paying up to $2.561 billion for the deal which provides Celgene with the option to jointly develop and commercialize Jounce’s lead candidate, JTX-2011, and additional innovative immunotherapies targeting B cells, T regulatory cells and tumor-associated macrophages. This deal once again outlines the growing importance of immuno-oncology.

Meanwhile, Celgene gained EU approval for the use of its blockbuster cancer drug, Revlimid in adult patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma, a rare sub-type of aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (Read more: Celgene's Revlimid Gains EU Nod for Mantle Cell Lymphoma ).

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