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Aetna Inc. ($AET) announced that its proposed merger with Humana Inc. is no longer on. The deal was worth nearly $34 billion and was announced in July 2015. Aetna will received a $1 billion break-up fee from Humana. Mark Bertolini, Aetna chairman and CEO, said, “We are disappointed to take this course of action after 19 months of planning, but both companies need to move forward with their respective strategies in order to continue to meet member expectations." The termination fee will amount to $630 million to Humana, after tax.
U.S. District Judge John Bates blocked the merger last month, saying the combination of the two insurers would reduce competition in the private Medicare Advantage market for seniors. Both the companies had agreed to divest their partial Medicare Advantage business in overlapping markets to Molina Healthcare. However, the court had found the proposed sales inadequate.

Novavax Inc. ($NVAX) recently reported that it has started a new clinical trial for its leading drug candidate for respiratory synctial virus in older adults. The company initiated a new phase 2 clinical trial of the product. The company plans to enroll up to 300 older adults in the southern hemisphere. The trial will test the safety and capability of the vaccine candidate to incite an immune response to both one- and two-dose regimens. The trial will also test the effectiveness of the vaccine candidate with and without the use of a substance called an adjuvant.
The company stock is up 12 percent this year so far while it lost 69 percent of its value in the past 12 months.


• Gilead Sciences ($GILD) reported strong results from a 98-subject Phase 2 clinical trial assessing integrase strand transfer inhibitor bictegravir (BIC) and emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide (FTC/TAF) compared to dolutegravir (DTG) and FTC/TAF. The study showed showed both regimens produced high virologic response rates at Week 24 and Week 48. The company said that based on the data observed in this study, the combination of bictegravir and FTC/TAF have been advanced to four Phase 3 clinical trials. The studies are fully enrolled. The data is expected to be available later this year.
• Aviragen Therapeutics ($AVIR) flunked its Phase 2b clinical trial, SPIRITUS, assessing vapendavir in patients with moderate-to-severe asthma with rhinovirus infection. The drug candidate failed to outpace placebo. The company said that there was evidence of an antiviral effect in patients that received vapendavir within the first day following the onset of their symptoms. Aviragen plans to analyze the data before making a decision on whether to initiate a study in hematopoietic stem cell transplant patients.

• Catalyst ($CBIO) plans to initiate a subcutaneous efficacy trial of marzeptacog alfa (activated) in individuals with hemophilia B with inhibitors this year. The company also plans to initiate a SQ Phase 1/2 proof-of-concept clinical trial of CB 2679d/ISU304, a next-generation coagulation Factor IX, in individuals with hemophilia B in the second quarter. Catalyst is partnering with ISU Abxis for this project.
• Merck ($MRK) announced results of a pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of doravirine (MK-1439), an investigational non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor. announced results of a pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of doravirine (MK-1439), an investigational non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor. A secondary endpoint showed that the DOR-treated group had statistically significant lower levels of fasting low density lipoprotein cholesterol.


• Ionis Pharmaceuticals ($IONS) announced that it has earned a $75 million payment from licensee Bayer ($BAYRY). The payment was triggered by the advancement of two antisense drug candidates, IONIS-FXIrx and IONIS-FXI-Lrx, designed to reduce the risk of thrombosis (blot clotting) by reducing the production of Factor XI. Their main value proposition is the ability to separate antithrombotic activity from bleeding risk. If Bayer chooses to advance the programs, it will be responsible for all subsequent clinical development, regulatory and commercial activities.

• Ohr Pharmaceuticals ($OHRP) reported its first quarter results. The company incurred a net loss of approximately $7.0 million, or ($0.21) per share, compared to a net loss of approximately $6.1 million, or ($0.20) per share in the same period of 2015. Total operating expenses were approximately $7.0 million, consisting of $1.7 million in general and administrative expenses, $4.9 million of research and development expenses, and $0.3 million in depreciation and amortization.
• SunLink Health Systems Inc. reported the results for its second quarter of the year. The company announced its earnings at $2.9 million or $0.31 per fully diluted share for its second fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2016. It had incurred a net loss of $8.5 million or a loss of $0.91 per fully diluted share for the corresponding quarter of the previous year. Consolidated net revenues from continuing operations for the quarters ended December 31, 2016 and 2015 were $14.25 million and $16.58 million respectively.

Brokerage Action Company Rating Price Target
Morgan Stanley Initiates Blueprint Medicines Corporation (BPMC)
BTIG Research Reiterates Bruker Corporation (BRKR)
Credit Suisse Group Initiates Foamix Pharmaceuticals (FOMX)
Cantor Fitzgerald Raises Target Humana (HUM)
BMO Capital Markets Reiterates Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC (JAZZ)
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