This Week in Biotech

With the SPDR S&P Biotech Index up 35% over the trailing-12-month period, it's evident that investment dollars are willingly flowing into the biotech sector. Keeping that in mind, let's have a look at some of the rulings, studies, and companies that made waves in the sector last week.

Perhaps no story headlined this past week more than the announcement (finally!) that Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN  ) would be purchasing Onyx Pharmaceuticals (UNKNOWN: ONXX.DL  ) for $10.4 billion, or $125 a share. After multiple potential bidders dropped out of the running, only Amgen was left standing -- and for just $5 more per share than its previous offer. To add icing on the cake to the deal, the EU approved Bayer and Onyx's Stivarga on Friday for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. My initial assessment of Onyx valued the company as high as $145 a share, thanks to strong forecasted growth from Kyprolis in treating multiple myeloma, so I'd certainly say Amgen is getting a pretty good deal.

Shareholders in Astex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ASTX  ) aren't complaining much, either, with shares rising by double digits after the company reported positive top-line results in a mid-stage study of SGI-110 for acute myeloid leukemia. Based on Astex's press release, of the 67 patients treated in the trial, 25% demonstrated an overall complete remission rate -- nine refractory and relapsed AML patients, and eight treatment-naive patients. Astex plans to release the full details of the study in December, but in the meantime, shareholders have plenty to cheer about. 

Speaking of cheering and getting the pompons out, Pharmacyclics (NASDAQ: PCYC  ) announced on Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration had accepted its new drug application filing for ibrutinib, an oral B-cell malignancy drug designed to treat mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Not only did the FDA accept ibrutinib, but it'll also receive a priority review, meaning it could make it to market even faster. The acceptance of Pharmacyclics' NDA triggers a $75 million milestone payment from its licensing partner Johnson & Johnson.

But, just as we did last week, we'll end on a sour note with Rigel Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: RIGL  ) , which reported on Monday that R343, an inhaled SYK inhibitor that was in mid-stage trials to treat allergic asthma, failed to meet its primary and secondary endpoints in the study. Although Rigel noted that the drug was well tolerated, the primary endpoint of a pre-defined change in pre-bronchodilator FEV1 (a measure of how much air a patient can expel from their lungs within the first second) relative to the placebo was not met. As such, R343 will be shelved and Rigel shareholders will be forced to chalk up another disappointing study.

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