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US measles cases highest since 1992; Jiangsu Hengrui's PD-1 drug gets China nod

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US measles cases highest since 1992; Jiangsu Hengrui's PD-1 drug gets China nod

Top news

* U.S. measles cases reached 971 for the first five months of 2019, the highest number of cases reported in the country since 1992, according to a report by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The proliferation of measles in the U.S. is highlighted by outbreaks in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., which have continued for about eight months.

The CDC noted that the U.S. risks losing its measles elimination status if the outbreaks continue through summer and fall.

* Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine Co. Ltd. received approval from China's National Medical Products Administration to market cancer drug camrelizumab for patients with hard-to-treat Hodgkin's lymphoma and who have undergone chemotherapy. Camrelizumab belongs to a class of cancer drugs known as PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors, which work by blocking interactions between tumor cells and T cells and enabling the immune system to detect and kill cancer cells more effectively.

Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates from white blood cells called lymphocytes.

* The U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended the use of Merck & Co. Inc.'s Prevymis to help prevent cytomegalovirus reactivation and disease after an allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplant in adults who are seropositive for the virus. Cytomegalovirus is a common virus that lies dormant in the body and spreads through bodily fluids.

The U.K. price watchdog's recommendation was based on clinical trial evidence showing Prevymis' effectiveness in lessening CMV infection as well as reducing the need for preemptive therapy. The drug's most reasonable cost-effectiveness estimates were also within the range that NICE usually considers acceptable, as Merck and NICE agreed on a confidential discount for the therapy.

* Overall cancer death rates continued to decline in the U.S. from 1999 to 2016, according to an annual collaborative report by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the American Cancer Society; and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

On the policy front

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a notice to Scottsdale, Ariz.-based R3 Stem Cell LLC and its CEO for selling unapproved stem cell products through its centers or clinics for treating conditions such as Lyme disease, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, stroke, kidney failure and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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* Child enrollment in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, dropped by 828,129 children in 2018, the highest year-over-year decline in enrollment since at least 2000, according to a new study from Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families. The decrease in enrollment likely led to an increase in the number of uninsured children in 2018, even if a "substantial share" of children moved to other forms of healthcare coverage, according to the May 30 study.

Medicaid is the dual state and federally run health insurance program for low-income Americans. CHIP is a program within Medicaid that provides health insurance to children whose families have income levels too high to qualify for Medicaid, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, a congressional adviser on Medicaid.

M&A and capital markets

* Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp., a Seattle-based life sciences company, is looking to raise up to $230 million in an IPO of its common shares on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. The company's ClonoSEQ test to detect the remaining disease cells in certain blood cancer patients secured the U.S. FDA's approval in September 2018.

Drug and product pipeline

* Windtree Therapeutics Inc.'s istaroxime improved cardiac function in patients with acute heart failure compared to placebo during a mid-stage study. The Warrington, Pa.-based biotechnology company added that common complications of existing acute heart failure treatments were not observed in the trial, including instances of irregular heartbeats.

Operational activity

* Aslan Pharmaceuticals Ltd. acquired from CSL Ltd. full global rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize ASLAN004 in all indications. Under the deal, CSL will get a payment worth $30 million on the initiation of a late-stage study for ASLAN004, as well as up to $95 million in regulatory milestone payments, along with $655 million of sales milestones and tiered royalties on net sales.

Aslan is evaluating the drug in an early-stage study for atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory disease which causes red inflamed skin with severe daytime and night-time itching.

* New York's Pfizer Inc. is shifting its focus to remote Chinese regions to soften the negative impact of the Asian country's government policies on revenues for its cholesterol drug Lipitor in large cities, the Financial Times reported. In 2018, the U.S. drugmaker lost out to local generic rivals when it failed to win a tender to sell Lipitor to state-run hospitals in 11 of the Asian giant's largest cities.

* Los Angeles County filed a lawsuit against Bayer AG's Monsanto Co. over the contamination of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in bodies of water, Reuters reported. The county accused Monsanto of hiding its knowledge about the harm of PCBs and creating a public nuisance as the contamination interferes with commerce, fishing, navigation, swimming and other water-based pursuits.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng was down 0.79% to 26,901.09, and the Nikkei 225 fell 1.63% to 20,601.19.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.92% to 7,151.63, and the Euronext 100 was down 1.58% to 1,014.46.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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