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Today's Biggest Stories in Biotech: Galectin Therapeutics Inc, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals and Nektar Therapeutics

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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Let's take a look at the top stories in biotech and health care this morning -- keep an eye out for Galectin Therapeutics (NASDAQ: GALT  ) , Merrimack Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MACK  ) , and Nektar Therapuetics (NASDAQ: NKTR  ) . 

Galectin presents at NASH workshop
Shares of Galectin Therapeutics are creeping up in premarket this morning ahead of the company's presentation at the Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, or NASH, workshop hosted by JMP Securities. Galectin's CEO Peter Traber is scheduled to serve on the panel's workshop from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EST, followed by individual meetings with various management teams working in the field. 

Could this workshop be a big catalyst today? I don't believe so. While investors are certainly looking for a credible reason to believe Galectin will follow in Intercept Pharmaceutical's footsteps, this workshop probably won't yield much insight into the company's ongoing clinical trial. 

Will Merrimack spill the beans today?
Merrimack Pharmaceuticals is also up in premarket morning, with investors hoping to hear more details about the company's ongoing late-stage trial for its experimental pancreatic cancer drug MM-398 after the bell. Specifically, Merrimack is scheduled to release earnings today with a conference call to be held after market close.

Previously, Merrimack delayed the drug's readout because patients were surviving longer than expected, giving investors hope that MM-398 is on track to report positive top line results. Since this announcement, however, management hasn't said much on the matter, instead choosing to focus investors' attention on their other early stage clinical candidates. With a readout expected this April or May, today's conference could provide some key insight into MM-398's development. As such, you might want to keep a close watch on Merrimack today.

Nektar misses on earnings, downgrades follow
Nektar Therapeutics is down over 8% in premarket this morning after missing on both estimated earnings per share and revenues yesterday. Specifically, Nektar missed consensus on earnings per share by $0.24, and on revenues by $18.16 million, fairly substantial misses. This morning MKM Partners downgraded Nektar to Neutral, although the firm's reason(s) weren't immediately disclosed. 

Is this a big deal? In my view, it's not. Nektar is still squarely in the realm of 'developmental biotech', with value being created primarily by the company's clinical pipeline. And this year could be a transformative one for the company in terms of its pipeline. Nektar and its partner AstraZeneca have already filed for regulatory approvals for naloxegol in the U.S., Europe and Canada. And naloxegol could be the first once-daily oral therapy to be approved for opioid-induced constipation.

Nektar also has an impressive array of ongoing late-stage clinical trials that may help to create value for shareholders over the long-term. In short, you may want to dig deeper into Nektar, especially if the stock pulls back substantially today. 

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George Budwell

George Budwell has been writing about healthcare and biotechnology companies at the Motley Fool since 2013. His primary interests are novel small molecule drugs, next generation vaccines, and cell therapies.

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Related Tickers

9/1/2015 3:59 PM
GALT $2.20 Down -0.01 +0.00%
Galectin Therapeut… CAPS Rating: *
MACK $9.53 Down -0.56 +0.00%
Merrimack Pharmace… CAPS Rating: ***
NKTR $10.75 Down -0.30 +0.00%
Nektar Therapeutic… CAPS Rating: ***