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Top Picks 2018: Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR)

01/03/2018 5:00 am EST

Focus: HEALTHCARE

John McCamant

Editor, Medical Technology Stock Letter

Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR) had an incredible 2017 as their wholly-owned pipeline emerged on multiple fronts; the company is poised for a big 2018, asserts biotech expert John McCamant, editor The Medical Technology Stock Letter.

NKTR-181 delivered positive Phase III data and the Company in agreement with the FDA will file for approval in April of 2018.  ‘181 is a less addictive opioid that can deliver pain relief without the buzz and is wholly-owned by Nektar.

The company is working on a corporate partner for further development and global commercialization of NKTR-181, so next year is likely to witness another significant deal.

Management recently stressed that partnership discussions are underway and that NKTR itself has morphed into an oncology company; hence the strategic decision to partner ‘181.

The company’s track record of forming high value-added collaborations makes us believe a sizable deal for ‘181 is due in the near-term, especially now that the regulatory path/timeline has been defined. The accelerated approval timeframe for ‘181 appears to be a best-case and likely scenario for this compound.

After the very strong data at SITC, the NKTR-214/nivo novel combo has emerged as one of the leading I/O combos with differentiated, complementary and non-overlapping mechanisms of immune activations. 

Importantly, the efficacy results demonstrate clinical activity in both PD-L1 negative and positive patients opening up the potential to treat the 70% of cancer patients that are PD-L1 negative. 

While we are very impressed with the CRs and PRs, the ability to have over a 90% disease control rate (DCR) is amazing. In our view, ‘214 is emerging as an excellent immune oncology candidate and has the potential to be the backbone drug in combo therapy through its ability to work in both PDL-1 + and negative tumor types.

With this very impressive ‘214 cancer data, Nektar now has two potential wholly-owned blockbuster drugs with ‘181 and ‘214. Nektar is a buy under $60 with a target price of $75.

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