SVB Leerink starts Hookipa Pharma at OP; PT $20

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SVB Leerink initiated coverage of Hookipa Pharma (NASDAQ:HOOK) with an “outperform” rating and $20 price target. The stock closed at $13.85 on May 10.

Hookipa is a development-stage biotech company focusing on novel immunotherapies to treat infectious diseases and cancers utilizing a proprietary arenavirus platform.

Analyst Dr. Andrew Berens writes that arenaviruses have been used extensively to stimulate CD8+ T-cells and Hookipa has leveraged this platform to created unprecedented levels of T-cells that can be fine-tuned to specific antigens.

The lead program, HB-101, is a bivalent vaccine that the company is testing to prophylactically prevent CMV (cytomegalovirus) infection in solid organ transplant patients. Cytomegalovirus infection is a common herpes virus infection with a wide range of symptoms.

In the initial clinical data in healthy volunteers, HB-101 has elicited immune responses against CMV that approach those seen in previously infected individuals by utilizing Hookipa’s VaxWave technology, Dr. Berens said.

Hookipa also has an immune-oncology program that utilizes a replication-attenuated approach called, TheraT, to induce an immune response to tumor antigens, and preclinical data to date have been encouraging, he added.

“We currently see the main value driver as the infectious disease platform, which will have initial clinical data in 2020,” Dr. Berens said.

The oncology platform, which could potentially be leveraged across a number of tumor types, is still preclinical, and thus is a “high-risk, high-reward opportunity,” he noted, “despite compelling immune responses and xenograph responses in animal models.”

Michelle Carr