Danish biotech Genmab hit by ending of trial using key cancer drug

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Shares in Danish biotech Genmab fell by as much as 25 percent on Monday after its partner Johnson & Johnson decided to ditch a study using its blockbuster cancer drug.

Genmab said Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson business, had decided that the study of Darzalex plus atezolizumab, marketed by Roche as Tecentriq, in patients with previously treated non-small cell lung cancer would be ended.

The potential to use Darzalex, a key treatment in multiple myeloma, in solid tumors was eagerly awaited and some analysts had seen the outcome of the study as this year’s biggest price trigger for the stock.

“Investors should not hope for a further adventure for Darzalex in solid tumors,” Sydbank analyst Soren Lontoft said.

Genmab shares fell 19.3 percent by 0738 GMT, making the stock the biggest loser in the Stoxx 600 index, its lowest level since May 2016, and putting it on track for the biggest daily fall since 2010.

Darzalex, approved in November 2015, is sold by Janssen which pays Genmab a royalty of 12 to 20 percent.

Janssen’s decision was based on a review from a data monitoring committee which determined that there was no observed benefit. In addition, the committee noted a “numerical increase in mortality-related events”, Genmab said in a statement.

“While we are disappointed that the studies will be discontinued, Genmab fully supports Janssen’s decision as patient safety is paramount in drug development,” Genmab’s chief executive Jan van de Winkel said.

BofA Merrill Lynch and Nordea downgraded Genmab shares to hold-equivalent ratings following the news.

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Alexander Smith