What happened?

Shares of Morphic Holding (NASDAQ:MORF) are soaring through the roof on Monday, following the company's release of its fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 earnings report. More important than its financial results, the biopharmaceutical company announced results from a clinical trial and other developments regarding collaboration agreements with big-name drugmakers. As of 12:50 p.m. EST, Morphic Holding's stock was up by 130.8%.

So what

Morphic Holding reported interim data from a phase 1 clinical trial for MORF-057, a potential medicine for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The trial was to test the safety, pharmacokinetics (the way the body processes the treatment), and pharmacodynamic (the way the drug affects the body) of MORF-057 in healthy participants. During the study, the drug was generally well tolerated with no recorded serious adverse events.

It also showed a "proportional and predictable pharmacokinetic profile" during the trial, according to Morphic Holding. Meanwhile, the company's long-standing partnership with pharma giant AbbVie is moving forward. Under the collaboration agreement between these two entities, which started more than two years ago, AbbVie initially paid $100 million up front to Morphic to acquire exclusive license options for some of Morphic's candidates. 

Hand drawing upward-bound graph

Image source: Getty Images.

Morphic Holding would be responsible for conducting research and development for these products up to the completion of investigational new drug enabling studies. AbbVie would then be able to exercise its license option for a fee to take up the development of these programs. Today, Morphic Holding announced that AbbVie paid a $20 million fee to assume the responsibility to develop and commercialize a couple of Morphic's pipeline candidates.

Lastly, Morphic has a partnership with Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), which focuses on developing integrin therapeutics for conditions for which there are few adequate therapy options. Morphic announced that it has expanded this partnership with the pharma company.

Now what

For a drugmaker with no products on the market, lucrative deals with well-established pharmaceutical companies are important. Morphic Holding will be able to use the funds it received from AbbVie to fund the clinical development of some of its other candidates, while its partnership with Janssen could bear fruit in the form of promising clinical compounds. These factors explain why investors are bidding up shares of Morphic Holding today. 

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