HCW starts Prima BioMed at buy

H.C. Wainwright has initiated coverage of Prima BioMed (NASDAQ:PBMD) with a “buy” rating and $3 price target. The stock closed at $1.22 on Tuesday.

Australia-based Prima is developing novel checkpoint modulators (CPMs), targeting Lymphocyte-Activation Gene 3 (LAG-3), a key modulator of the immune system. Immunotherapies, such as CPMs that regulate T cell function, are revolutionizing cancer treatment, writes analyst Swayampakula Ramakanth.

While several companies have LAG-3 programs under development, Prima is currently one of only two companies with LAG-3-targeting therapies in clinical studies, he added.

Prima’s three product candidates in the clinic include IMP-321, an adjuvant therapy for metastatic breast cancer (mBC) and metastatic melanoma; IMP-701 for the treatment of solid tumors; and IMP-731 for the treatment of psoriasis.

IMP-321 has successfully completed a Phase 2a study in HER2-negative mBC and the company plans to initiate a placebo-controlled Phase 2b study in mBC before the end of 2015, Mr. Ramakanth said.

Development partners, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline, are conducting Phase 1 studies on IMP-701 and IMP-731, respectively.

Prima’s drug development program is directed by CMO Dr. Frederic Triebel, who first discovered LAG-3 in 1990, and who has been developing LAG-3 therapies since the early 2000s.

“We believe that if the current clinical studies are successful, Prima could be the first company to bring this novel class of CPMs to the market,” with a potential approval in the EU in 2019, Mr. Ramakanth added.