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Kite Pharma (KITE) Upgraded to Hold on Strong Fundamentals

On May 12, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Kite Pharma, Inc. KITE to a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) from a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell)

Why the Upgrade?

Kite reported results for the first quarter 2016 on May 9. Kite’s track record has been satisfactory so far, with the company reporting a narrower-than-expected loss in two of the four trailing quarters, with an average positive surprise of 4.80%. Last quarter, the company reported a positive surprise of 26.23%. Moreover, revenues surged 78% to $5.1 million.

Kite’s lead pipeline candidate, KTE-C19, is an anti-CD19 CAR-based therapy currently in the pivotal phase of a phase I-II study (ZUMA-1) in patients with refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) including primary mediastinal B cell lymphoma (PMBCL) and transformed follicular lymphoma (TFL). All these are types of aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

In addition, KTE-C19 is being evaluated in a phase II study (ZUMA-2) in patients with relapsed/refractory mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), in a phase I-II study (ZUMA-3) in adults with relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and in a phase I-II study (ZUMA-4) in pediatric patients with relapsed/refractory ALL.

Earlier this month, the FDA granted Orphan Drug designation to KTE-C19 for five indications – PMBCL, MCL, follicular lymphoma (FL), ALL and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

Note that Kite has been pursuing strategic collaborations to build its immuno-oncology portfolio. In Mar 2016, the company inked a collaboration agreement with Roche Holding AG’s RHHBY Genentech to evaluate the safety and efficacy of KTE-C19, in combination with atezolizumab, in patients with refractory, aggressive NHL. A phase Ib/II study in patients with chemorefractory DLBCL is expected to begin in the second half of 2016.

However, the company’s dependence on the successful development and commercialization of KTE-C19 is a cause of concern. Any kind of development or regulatory hiccup would be a major setback for the company.

Stocks to Consider

Investors interested in the biotech space can consider ANI Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ANIP and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. BMY, both sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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ROCHE HLDG LTD (RHHBY): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
BRISTOL-MYERS (BMY): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
KITE PHARMA INC (KITE): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
ANI PHARMACEUT (ANIP): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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