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Merck milestone payment helps Aduro Biotech to beat analyst estimates with 1Q results

Oppenheimer says company's cash position 'should continue to provide operational freedom'

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Ongoing Novartis trials of Aduro compound "could provide the next major catalyst' for its shares

Aduro Biotech Inc (NASDAQ:ADRO) pushed higher after reporting first-quarter results that came in ahead of analyst estimates.

Shares of Aduro were up around 7.5% in mid-morning trading, to US$7.80 a share.

Aduro said its net loss in the first quarter totaled US$21.5mln, or US$0.28 a share, about the same as its net loss of US$21.8mln, or US$0.32 a share, in the first quarter of 2017, when there were fewer shares outstanding. Yahoo Finance put the average estimate of five analysts at a loss of $US0.35 a share.

Revenue at the immunotherapy company climbed to US$6.63mln from US$3.77mln. Aduro said the increase in revenue mainly was due to a US$3.0mln milestone payment received from Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) for initiation of a Phase 1 trial for its anti-CD27 antibody. On average, Wall Street analysts had expected revenue of US$4.37mln.

Oppenheimer said Aduro's loss in the latest first quarter was less than its estimate of US$28.6mln, with the discrepancy arising from Merck's milestone payment plus lower-than-anticipated operational expenses.

"This fall, we expect to see first-in-human results from Novartis’ (NYSE:NVS) ongoing Phase 1 trials of Aduro’s STING agonist, ADU-S100, which could provide the next major catalyst for ADRO shares," Oppenheimer said. "Similar intratumoral therapies, including TLR9 agonists, have generated impressive clinical responses in combination with checkpoint inhibitors, and Aduro presented compelling preclinical evidence of similar synergies with ADU-S100 at AACR in April."

In addition, Oppenheimer said Aduro "continues to advance two promising clinical-stage assets, pLADD and BION-1301, and we believe the company’s comfortable cash runway, extending into early 2021, should continue to provide operational freedom."

Oppenheimer reiterated its Outperform on Aduro and its $13 price target.

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