Biotech Stocks to Watch Today: Agenus, Allergan and Auxilium Pharmaceuticals

Let's take a look at today's top stories in biotech and health care. Keep an eye out for Agenus (NASDAQ: AGEN  ) , Allergan (NYSE: AGN  ) and Auxilium Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AUXL  ) . 

Agenus shares soaring on positive clinical news for its Herpes vaccine
Shares of clinical stage biopharma Agenus are up over 16% in premarket this morning after the company announced that its experimental vaccine for genital herpes simplex virus-2 produced a correlation between a reduction in viral load and an increase in CD8 T cell activation. In November 2013, Agenus previously reported that its vaccine significantly decreased viral shedding with minimal adverse effects. 

Given that herpes simplex virus-2 is one of the fastest growing STD's in the U.S. and is presently incurable, this vaccine could be a major step forward for both the medical community and Agenus alike. Now, this was a phase 2 trial, so the usual caveats about small sample size apply. But you may want to keep tabs on this small-cap biopharma as it pushes this intriguing vaccine into further development.

Allergan may get pushed into a deal with Valeant
Allergan shares are up over 1% this morning following news that Hedge Fund Paulson & Co. purchased 6 million shares of the company and stated that they would like to see the proposed merger take place with Valeant Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: VRX  ) . As a refresher, Bill Ackman's Pershing Square is also a major stakeholder in Allergan and has been aggressively been pushing this deal from the get-go, although management has repeatedly rejected Valeant's overtures.

Yesterday's news shows that hedge funds are starting to put the squeeze on Allergan's brass, so it wouldn't be surprising if an election was called soon to replace the company's directors, in light of their refusal to entertain a bid offer.

On the flip side, I would expect Allergan to now actively pursue a deal of its own with a Shire or another similar company in an attempt to stave off a takeover. Management has made it clear that they believe Allergan should remain an independent entity, so perhaps the only way to make that happen now is to play the M&A game themselves.

Auxilium enters into an agreement to merge with Canadian biotech QLT
Shares of Auxilium Pharmaceuticals are up nearly 18% in premarket following news of a merger with Canandian biotech QLT. In an all-stock deal, Auxilium is buying QLT for its orphan drug candidates indicated for genetic-based diseases of the retina. The deal comes at a 25% premium for QLT shareholders and the new merged entity will be known as "New Auxilium." According to the press release, this deal will expand Auxilium's platform of specialty drugs and create synergies that could lead to cost-savings.   

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