ASX stock of the day: Immutep (ASX:IMM) shares blast up 60% on trial news

The Immutep Ltd (ASX: IMM) share price is up almsot 60% today after some pleasing results from the biopharma company’s clinical trials

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The Immutep Ltd (ASX: IMM) share price is on fire today, rising close to 60%. Immutep shares closed at 28 cents a share yesterday afternoon but opened at 45 cents this morning before rising to a high of 54 cents. The Immutep share price has since cooled somewhat but is still trading 60.7% higher at 45 cents a share at the time of writing.

Today’s share price moves also mark a new 52-week high for the company, which reached its previous high back in February, before the coronavirus-induced market crash in March saw the shares plummet more than 75%. Even so, today’s moves mean that Immutep shares are up more than 320% from the lows we saw back in late March.

So what is this company? And why is the Immutep share price exploding higher today in such dramatic fashion?

What is this company?

Immutep is a biopharmaceutical company that was founded back in 2001. It’s a dual-listed company, appearing on the ASX under the IMM ticker code, as well as the United States’ Nasdaq exchange, where it is listed as Immutep ADS (NASDAQ: IMMP).

Companies often dual-list in order to attract more investor capital, especially in the US, where stock markets are the most capitalised in the world by far. It’s not the only Australia-US dual-listed stock in the medical/biopharmaceutical space either. Well-known ASX examples include Resmed Inc (ASX: RMD) and Avita Therapeutics Inc (ASX: AVH).

Immutep describes itself as “leading the development of immunotherapy for cancer and autoimmune diseases”. It states that its goal is “to harness and strengthen the power of the body’s own immune systems through therapeutic intervention for the benefit of patients’ health”.

Its field of specialisation is the understanding and development of therapeutics that modulate Lymphocyte Activation Gene-3 or ‘LAG-3’ as the company calls it. LAG-3 is apparently a “cell surface molecule which plays a vital role in regulating T-cells”. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that is an essential part of the body’s immune system. They help the body to identify and eliminate foreign pathogens, diseases and other threats.

Immutep reportedly has 1 pre-clinical and 3 clinical LAG-3 product candidates under development, including two antibodies for modulating immune responses in autoimmunity and cancer. It apparently is in partnership with global pharma giants Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline in this endeavour.

Why is the Immutep share price raising the roof today?

The Immutep share price appears to be responding to a couple of ASX releases the company announced this morning before market open.

Firstly, Immutep reported that it has achieved a “statistically significant” survival benefit for patients in an ongoing trial. The company notes these benefits are the first time an antigen-presenting cell activator has shown an overall survival benefit in a randomised setting in metastatic breast cancer patients known to be insensitive to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

However, the company says data collection is ongoing and it won’t have a final report on the matter until mid-2021. Even so, this data apparently shows that the treatment under trial has resulted in 7.1-month and 9.4-month survival benefits across 2 groups of patients.

Immutep’s second announcement tells us that its partner company in China – EOC Pharma – is starting a new Phase II clinical trial for up to 152 metastatic breast cancer patients in China. This trial is aiming to evaluate the “efficacy and safety of eftilagimod alpha” in conjunction with chemotherapy treatments for these cancer patients. Eftilagimod alpha (efti), also called LAG-3Ig or IMP321, is, according to the company, a “first-in-class antigen-presenting cell (APC) activator”.

EOC Pharma has an agreement with Immutep to “make further milestone payments to the company if efti achieves specific development milestones as well as undisclosed royalties on sales and is also required to fund the Chinese development of efti”.

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Sebastian Bowen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns shares of Avita Medical Limited. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Avita Medical Limited and ResMed Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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