Biotechnology Movers: Kura Oncology, Inc., (NASDAQ:KURA) and Ophthotech Corp (NASDAQ:OPHT)

Here is a look at two of the biggest end of the week movers last week and where we expect each to go as we kickoff a fresh week in the biotechnology space. The two companies in focus are Kura Oncology, Inc., (NASDAQ:KURA) and Ophthotech Corp (NASDAQ:OPHT).

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One of the biggest movers in the biotechnology space at the end of last week was Kura Oncology, Inc., (NASDAQ:KURA). We took a look at the company as part of our biotechnology movers coverage late last week, outlining the driver behind the move (the release of positive topline data from its lead investigative trial) and suggesting that – as the week drew to a close – we would likely see a continuation of the strength. Turns out that’s exactly what happened. The company gained more than 70% during the session on Friday to close out the week at $11.80 a share.

For those not familiar with this company, Kura is trying to bring a number of novel oncology is to market and the one that is the focus of the most recent news is called tipifarnib. It’s indicated as a potential therapy for patients with HRAS mutant relapsed or refractory squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck (HNSCC), which is a really tough to treat cancer and doesn’t have many treatment options available right now, and the data that Kura just put out relates to a phase 2 study and – specifically – responses in the first six evaluable patients from the study in question. As per the news, four confirmed, partial responses and two patients with disease stabilization have been observed among the first six evaluable patients.

Moving forward this week, there is good chance that we might some degree of correction early on as the shorter term operators pull profits off the table. This is a positive long-term development for Kura but a portion of the company’s shareholders will have been exposed to the news release and the news release only, so when these operators exit it will put some near-term pressure on Kura’s capitalization.

As the week matures, however, chances are we will soon a continuation of the strength moving into trial completion.

Another big mover was Ophthotech Corp (NASDAQ:OPHT). Unfortunately for this company shareholders, however, this one did not come in line with positive news – quite the opposite. During the session, biotech giant Roche put out data from a phase 3 trial of a drug called lampalizumab on Friday and, according to the numbers, the trial failed to hit on its primary endpoint in the study.

The drug in question what’s called a complement inhibitor and it’s targeting the treatment of geographic atrophy (GA) due to age-related macular degeneration.

So why is this resulting in some volatility for Ophthotech?

Well, Ophthotech is also developing its own complement inhibitor, a drug called Zimura, and it is doing so in the same target indication of GA. That the Roche asset has failed to demonstrate efficacy in its pivotal trial is reflecting badly on the equivalent at Ophthotech, purely because markets are seeing the failure as indicative of a subsequent failure for the Zimura program.

At the close of play on Friday, Ophthotech was trading for a more than 15% discount to its pre-announcement market capitalization. Back in August, Ophthotech put out a release detailing its intentions to “continue to reassess the Zimura GA development program in light of the results of a competitor’s Phase 3 clinical trials of a complement inhibitor being studied for the treatment of GA, which are expected to be available during the second half of 2017.”

The competitor that the company is talking about in this statement is Roche and the drug in question is the lampalizumab assets that just failed its clinical trial. As such, markets are seemingly of the opinion that the Roche failure will push management to make a negative reassessment of the program and, in turn, perhaps drop it from the development roster.

It would be a pretty hard line move if the company was to do this, but in line with the above statement, it’s far from out of the question.

Going forward, then, we are looking for any sort of clarity as to how this situation is going to play out at Ophthotech as dictating its near-term share price.

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