Shares of Juno Therapeutics, Inc. JUNO have soared 151.5% this year so far, massively outperforming the industry’s gain of 3.5%. Here we analyze the factors that led to the rally.

The CAR-T therapy space has remained in investor focus in 2017, courtesy of immense potential. Juno’s cell-based cancer immunotherapies are based on chimeric antigen receptor and high-affinity T cell receptor technologies. The company has several cell-based candidates in its pipeline targeting a variety of B-cell malignancies as well as multiple solid tumors and multiple myeloma.

Juno’s most advanced pipeline candidates-JCAR017 and JCAR014, use CAR T-cell technology to target CD19 . The company’s shares have seen an upward trend in 2017 for this reason.  

JCAR017 is presently undergoing a phase I pivotal TRANSCEND study for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) including those with diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), follicular lymphoma grade 3B or mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Juno reported promising additional data from the pivotal study including patients with DLBCL. The company plans to bring JCAR017 to the market for NHL by the end of 2018 with biologics license application (BLA) expected to be filed in the second half of the same year.  

Recently, Juno and Celgene Corporation CELG also initiated a phase Ib PLATFORM study, evaluating the combination of JCAR017 with AstraZeneca’s AZN Imfinzi (durvalumab), for treatment of patients with relapsed/refractory (r/r) NHL.

Additionally, both Juno and Celgene announced that the FDA has granted Breakthrough Therapy designation to JCAR017, for the treatment of r/r aggressive large B-cell NHL including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and Primary Mediastinal B-cell Lymphoma (PMBCL). Further, the candidate was granted Priority Medicines (PRIME) eligibility for r/r DLBCL by the European Medicines Agency.

We are positive on Juno’s 10-year deal with Celgene for the global development and commercialization of immunotherapies. The collaboration will see the companies leveraging T cell therapeutic strategies to develop treatments for patients with cancer and autoimmune diseases. Its initial focus will be on CAR-T and T cell receptor technologies. In fact, this deal is a major positive for Juno, given a strong partner in the form of Celgene.

Juno is also looking to develop treatments targeting cancer-associated proteins other than CD19. Over the next five years, the company and its collaborators intend to advance several additional candidates into clinical testing with a significant focus on solid tumors, which are a major cause of cancer-related deaths in the developed world. Solid tumor pipeline candidates against four different targets include — JCAR024, which is in phase I in patients with ROR-1 expressing cancers, JCAR020 in phase I for ovarian cancer, JCAR023 in phase I for patients with refractory or recurrent pediatric neuroblastoma, JTCR016 in phase I/II for patients with high risk or relapsed AML, mesothelioma, and chronic myeloid leukemia in patients who have received an allogeneic HSCT, and it is also in phase I for advanced NSCLC patients and JCAR018 in phase I for CD22-positive r/r ALL or r/r NHL.

Juno Therapeutics, Inc. Price

Zacks Rank & Stock to Consider

Juno has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked health care stock is Sucampo Pharmaceuticals SCMP carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Sucampo’s earnings per share estimates have moved up from 31 cents to $1.12 for 2017 and from $1.15 to $1.19 for 2018 in the last 30 days. The company delivered a positive earnings surprise in three of the trailing four quarters with an average beat of 15.63%. Share price of the company has surged 32.6% year to date.

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