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Roche's cancer 'velcro'; Elliott pushes for change at Alexion

Top news

* Roche Holding AG researchers discovered the resistance mechanism to checkpoint inhibitors, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Yervoy, in treating cancer. Specifically, researchers found that some tumors, which have high levels of the protein TGF-beta, develop a wall that T-cells stick to like velcro, blocking the medicine's entrance to the cancer. Researchers also offered methods to reverse the resistance.

* The U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, or NICE, recommended Eisai Co. Ltd.'s Kisplyx, in combination with Novartis AG's Afinitor, as an option for treating a type of kidney cancer in adults under certain conditions.

* U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management Corp., a stakeholder in Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc., urged the biopharmaceutical company to take measures to raise its stock price, including selling the company, The New York Times reported, citing two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

On the policy front

* Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., plans to introduce a bill creating a biomedical innovation fund in which Congress would appropriate $5 billion in mandatory funds each year through 2026 for National Institutes of Health and U.S. Food and Drug Administration initiatives. The legislation aims to fix the funding problem encountered by the 21st Century Cures Act.

M&A and capital markets

* Gilead Sciences Inc. agreed to acquire Cell Design Labs Inc., a cell engineering company, for up to $567 million. The company expects the acquisition to enhance its research and development efforts in cellular therapy.

* Sucampo Pharmaceuticals Inc. is considering options, including a potential sale, after receiving takeover interest, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

* Pfizer Inc. started a private offer to exchange its outstanding 6.50% notes due 2038, with newly issued debt securities. The total principal amount outstanding for the notes is £1.5 billion.

Drug and product pipeline

* Reata Pharmaceuticals Inc. said its novel compound omaveloxolone, in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Opdivo or Yervoy, may restore immune response in patients with melanoma, according to data from a phase 1b trial.

* Sangamo Therapeutics Inc. said the European Medicines Agency issued a positive opinion recommending orphan medicinal product designation for the company's genome editing product candidates for treating rare inherited metabolic disorders.

* According to a report by the U.S. FDA, 85% of post-approval studies are progressing toward completion according to their original schedule. The FDA requires post-approval studies from drugmakers to confirm clinical benefit when a drug is approved under certain provisions.

Operational activity

* XOMA Corp. sold the global development and commercialization rights of XOMA 358 to Rezolute Inc., formerly known as AntriaBio Inc., for $240 million. XOMA 358 is being investigated for treating hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia, a condition that results in low blood glucose as a result of excessive insulin in the body.

Our features

Roche moves up a gear in lung cancer after 'encouraging' Tecentriq data: Roche moved up a gear in the competitive field of immuno-oncology after reporting strong data in previously untreated lung cancer patients, potentially catapulting the company to the fore in one of the most competitive fields of research.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 1.19% to 28,639.85, and the Nikkei 225 increased 1.39% to 22,811.08.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.31% to 7,343.59, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.45% to 1,046.90.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 6:30 a.m. ET. Some external links may require a subscription.