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The annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, which often gives a boost to healthcare companies that use the occasion to make significant announcements, kicked off today with news that Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) is buying Loxo Oncology (NASDAQ:LOXO) and that Sage Therapeutics (NASDAQ:SAGE) had success with an important clinical trial.
Lilly acquires Loxo Oncology
Eli Lilly announced it is buying precision-medicine specialist Loxo Oncology for $8 billion, causing Loxo shares to soar 66.3% to $232.65 and Lilly's to inch up 0.5%. Lilly is acquiring the maker of cancer drugs that target genomically defined cancers in an all-cash deal for $235 per share.
Loxo focuses on developing highly selective drugs that target cancers with single gene abnormalities that can be detected with genomic testing. In November, the FDA approved Loxo's Vitrakvi, only the second medicine ever approved to treat tumors based on their genetic properties independent of where they originated. Lilly will also enhance its oncology pipeline with three other drugs the Loxo has in development, including LOXO-292, which is being investigated for three indications and could launch as early as 2020.
Lilly was one of the best-performing big pharma stocks of last year, and it wants to use its strong balance sheet to bolster its robust lineup of new drugs. The second big oncology deal of 2019 helped lift other biotech stocks in that arena today as well.
Sage Therapeutics reports successful drug trial
Shares of Sage Therapeutics soared 42.7% after the company announced successful results for a late-stage study of a drug for postpartum depression (PPD). The drug, designated SAGE-217, met primary and secondary endpoints in the stage 3 trial and was generally well-tolerated.
In the study of 151 adult women diagnosed with severe PPD, 72% of patients achieved a response after two weeks, compared with 48% of the placebo group, and 45% achieved remission, compared with 23% in the placebo group. The FDA has informed Sage that the trial can be considered "pivotal," meaning results could be used as a basis for submitting the drug for approval.
Sage also hopes to win approval for SAGE-217 to treat major depressive disorder, insomnia, and bipolar depression. The company is also awaiting FDA approval of a second drug for PPD, brexanolone. It could launch in June and be the first drug approved specifically for treatment of the disorder, which affects approximately 1 in 9 women who have given birth in the U.S.