• ASX health stocks rise in past five days and outpace broader markets
  • Blue chip ResMed slips as US FDA approves weight loss drug
  • Clinical stage immuno-oncology small cap Immutep gains 160% 

Morgans healthcare and life sciences expert Iain Wilkie is filling in for his colleague Scott Power to explain what the movers and shakers have been doing in health and gives his ASX Powerplay.

Core components of yoga, slow and synchronised breathing, and attention to body movements and sensations during practice have been found to be effective for people with epilepsy, according to a study published in the medical journal American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers in India studied individuals with epilepsy who had an average age of 30,  to assess stigma perception based on discrimination, feelings of difference, and perceived societal contribution.

Of the 160 participants experiencing stigma, averaging one seizure per week and on at least two anti-seizure medications, they were randomly assigned to yoga therapy or sham yoga therapy.

Yoga therapy involved exercises in muscle loosening, breathing, meditation, and positive affirmations. Sham yoga mimicked the exercises but lacked key relaxation components. Both groups attended supervised sessions over three months and practiced at home, tracking seizures and their yoga practice  in journals.

After three months of yoga therapy, participants were followed for an additional three months. Yoga practitioners showed reduced stigma perception and were over four times more likely to experience a 50% seizure frequency reduction after six months compared to sham yoga.

Yoga practice also led to significant decreases in anxiety symptoms, improved quality of life, and increased mindfulness.


To markets….

And investors in health stocks can breath more calmly with the sector up for the second consecutive week after a tough 2023. While still down ~9% YTD, at  3pm (AEDT) on Friday the S&P/ASX 200 healthcare index (ASX:XHJ) was up 2.84% for the past five days, while benchmark S&P/ASX 200 (ASX:XJO) was down 0.1% for the same period.

Wilkie says gains in CSL (ASX:CSL) has helped boost the sector,  with Australia’s biggest healthcare name up more than 5% in the past five days.

“CSL is finding its feet but its also really trickling down to the smaller end of the market and we’ve seen a fair few smaller names really ripping this week which is a good sign for retail confidence,” he says.

“The health sector seems to have turned a corner for the better.

“I can’t quite put my finger on why but long may it continue for investors.”

ResMed slips as FDA approves weight loss drug

Any hopes of a recovery for blue-chip ResMed (ASX:RMD) following concerns an increase in popularity in weight-loss medications could lead to a reduction in  its sleep apnoea treatments got a setback on Thursday.

The leader in obstructive sleep apnoea and other sleep-related respiratory disorders fell ~4% after the US FDA approved Eli Lilly’s tirzepatide drug (Zepbound) for weight loss.

Tirzepatide has already been approved for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes under the name Mounjaro since May 2022, with the latest approval meaning adults who have obesity or are overweight with at least one weight-related condition can use the drug.

Zepound paves the way for a powerful new rival to Novo Nordisk’s increasingly popular Wegovy for weight loss.

“Tirzepatide is one of the class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists with previous research showing their effectiveness in weight loss,” Wilkie says.

“It’s been weighing on ResMed for a while just because obviously a lot of its core business is down to obesity.”

Wilkie says while there hasn’t been any indication yet of an impact on sales the theory is an increase use of weight loss drugs could have an impact, worrying investors.

“ResMed is 45% below its long-term forward earnings so you would assume that’s already priced in,” he says.


Could Antisense Therapeutics be the next Neuren?

Antisense Therapeutics (ASX:ANP)  is up 10.5% for the week after releasing its September quarterly update where it noted international recruitment had picked up heading into the December quarter for its lead asset ATL1102 phase IIb clinical trial into Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

As at October 31 2023, all four participating countries in the study were now open to recruitment. To date, 10 patients have been randomised and are receiving study medication, with a number of additional patients currently in screening.

“With all four sites now open, this should now start ramping up,” Wilkie says.

“They were originally guiding to end of December having it fully recruited but I’d say its looking more like January or February.”

In other DMD news, NASDAQ listed drug company Sarepta Therapeutics’ trial results for their drug Eteplirsen to treat DMD, which had received US FDA conditional approval, failed its primary endpoint.

“It went quite well on its secondary endpoints but the stock absolutely plummeted 30 to 40% (on a couple of billion company),” Wilkie says.

He says Sarepta, given the lack of options current on the market, may still get full FDA approval but it may not be as broad as they were originally hoping.

He says in a further positive for ANP, another company in the steroid space which has also been targeting rare diseases called PTC Therapeutics just sold its royalty stream for up to US$1.5 billion.

“The point is, there is a lot of money swishing around which may be looking for a home,” he says.

Wilkie says results for ANP’s Phase IIb are due mid next year.

“We see the Ph IIb results due mid next year will likely be positive based on prior results and will be interesting to see if is any movement on the partnership front prior to result readouts,” he says. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they did.”

“Antisense is one you need to just have just a little in your back pocket. We think it could be the next Neuren Pharmaceuticals (ASX:NEU).


The CSL, RMD, ANP & NEU share price today:


Wilkie’s Powerplay – Imugene soars 160%

Clinical stage immuno-oncology small cap Imugene (ASX:IMU), run by MD Leslie Chong, is Wilkie’s Power Pick of the week- it’s up more than 160% in the past five days.

IMU dropped a promising update on its phase 1 Metastatic Advanced Solid Tumours (MAST) clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of novel cancer-killing virus CF33-hNIS (VAXINIA).

Wilkie says the heavily shorted IMU seems to be coming back with optimism in the sector and punters appear to be loving the stock.

“They did have some positive news but on very early signals out of a phase 1 solid tumour study, so good results, but very early,” he says.

“Volumes are right through the roof with Imugene and it’s not just a one-day run but had six or seven sustained days in the green.

“It’s quite heavily shorted but the volume going through and some of the size of the bids that are going through look more like legitimate buying.”


The IMU share price today:



The views, information, or opinions expressed in the interview in this article are solely those of the interviewee and do not represent the views of Stockhead. Stockhead has not provided, endorsed or otherwise assumed responsibility for any financial product advice contained in this article.

Disclosure: The author held shares in CSL and ResMed at the time of writing this article.