Athenex Jumps on Plan to Buy Cancer-Therapy Developer Kuur

Shares of Athenex jumped after the biopharma focused on cancer therapies agreed to buy Kuur, a developer of immunotherapies to treat cancer.
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Shares of Athenex jumped after the biopharma focused on cancer therapies agreed to buy Kuur, a developer of immunotherapies to treat cancer, for as much as $185 million.

At last check Athenex shares were trading 31% higher at $4.85. Yesterday, the shares touched a 52-week low $3.66.

Kuur Therapeutics is the Houston developer of cell immunotherapies to treat solid and hematological malignancies.

Under the terms, Athenex will pay $70 million -- mainly in stock -- up front and as much as $115 million as the Kuur technology meets development milestones. 

Athenex, Buffalo, N.Y., has the option to make the milestone payments in cash, stock or a combination.

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Kuur's technology combined with Athenex's T-cell receptors program "could propel us into a leadership position in cell therapy,” Athenex Chief Executive Johnson Lau said in a statement.

RBC called the deal an “an intriguing pivot” toward the cellular-therapeutics space, Bloomberg reports.

RBC analyst Kennen MacKay says in a note that the “timing is unexpected given potential prospects of climbing research and development expenses if Athenex pursues an additional [Food and Drug Administration]-requested Oraxol trial.”

Athenex shares dropped in March after the company received a complete response letter from the FDA regarding its Oraxol, a metastatic breast cancer drug, signaling that the application was not ready for approval, Bloomberg News said.

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The Kuur deal is seen to add a “rather broad” pipeline of three clinical-stage cellular therapeutic agents for multiple indications, MacKay added.

He rates the stock outperform with a $9 target.