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Oncology Biotech with Precision Medicine Focus Added to Analyst's 2018 Top-Pick List

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A small-cap biotech focused on developing customized treatments for cancer patients has earned inclusion on the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index, as well as caught the eye of analyst Michael King of JMP Securities.

Kura Oncology Inc. (KURA:NASDAQ), self-described as "committed to realizing the promise of precision medicines for the treatment of cancer," has several pipeline drugs in clinical trials, including lead candidate tipifarnib in HRAS-mutant head-and-neck cancer, peripheral T-cell lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndromes and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML).

In December 2017, the company presented positive Phase 2 clinical trial results for CMML at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), reporting that the "primary objective [was] met with three objective responses in nine patients with RAS wild-type tumor status (33%)," and that "all nine evaluable patients with RAS wild-type achieved stable disease or better." Kura plans to release more data from this study in 2018.

Also at the December ASH meeting, the company reported it has identified "CXCR4/CXCR2 expression ratio and bone marrow homing of myeloid cells as potential biomarkers of tipifarnib activity across the bone marrow cancers, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML), further showing that the CXCL12/CXCR4 pathway is a potential therapeutic target of farnesyl transferase inhibitors."

Dr. Troy Wilson, Kura's president and CEO, noted, "These new findings are exciting because they may define potential biomarkers for tipifarnib in bone marrow tumors and characterize a subgroup of patients that are most likely to derive clinical benefit from a targeted therapy such as tipifarnib."

Later in the month, Kura announced that it had been selected for inclusion on the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (NASDAQ:NBI).

Selecting Kura for inclusion on The Life Sciences Report’s 2018 Small-Cap Biotech Watchlist, JMP analyst Michael King called it "a very interesting, small-cap oncology company." He praised Kura's "strong management team. . .led by Troy Wilson, who's been a highly successful serial entrepreneur in the biotech space with a number of molecules to his credit."

King also asserted that, despite an earlier miss by tipifarnib in clinical trials, the company has zeroed in on a subset of "head-and-neck cancer patients who have a defect in the gene called HRAS—and has shown some very encouraging single-agent response rates that could allow tipifarnib to go forward with a single-arm, registration-directed study."

In addition, while "Kura owes Johnson & Johnson very modest milestones and royalties," for in-licensing tipifarnib, King noted that, "for the most part [Kura} has 100% of the rights. It has also done a very nice job of backfilling the pipeline with other recently in-licensed molecules, so we like what it's doing."

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1) Tracy Salcedo compiled this article for Streetwise Reports LLC and provides services to Streetwise reports as an independent contractor. She or members of her household own securities of the following companies mentioned in the article: None. She or members of her household are paid by the following companies mentioned in this article: None.
2) The following company mentioned in this article is a billboard sponsor of Streetwise Reports: None. Streetwise Reports does not accept stock in exchange for its services. Click here for important disclosures about sponsor fees.
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Additional disclosures from Jan. 10, 2018 Streetwise Reports interview with Michael King:

Michael King: I, or members of my immediate household or family, own shares of the following companies mentioned in this article: None. I personally am, or members of my immediate household or family are, paid by the following companies mentioned in this article: None.
JMP Securities Disclosures:
JMP Securities currently makes a market in the security of Kura Oncology, Inc.
JMP Securities was manager or co-manager of a public offering of securities for Kura Oncology, Inc. (KURA) in the past 12 months, and received compensation for doing so.
JMP Securities expects to receive OR intends to seek compensation for investment banking services from Kura Oncology, Inc. in the next 3 months.

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