Spark’s Hemophilia A data indicate best-in-class profile

Last month Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) reported initial results for SPK-8011, its hemophilia A gene therapy program. Despite their preliminary nature, the data are very positive and put Spark in a strong position vs. Biomarin (BMRN) and its Hemophilia A gene therapy, BMN270. Providing the signal is corroborated with additional patients, results may have broad implications on the liver-targeted gene therapy. Continue reading

Gene therapy’s 2017 scorecard – No alarms and no surprises (please)

Readers of this blog know I have high hopes for gene therapy, a field with a checkered history but disruptive potential that may finally be ready for primetime. After two years of dramatic progress 2017 is shaping up to be a year of incremental progress, focusing more on establishing and validating results seen to date. Continue reading

Notes from ASCO 2017 – another year of stagnation

This year’s ASCO marks a second year in a row of relatively uneventful meetings, with very few groundbreaking or practice-changing data. Just like last year’s meeting, there were too many “me too” drugs targeting the same validated targets while results for truly novel MOAs were mostly underwhelming or immature. This stagnation is particularly troubling in light of the huge budgets the industry is pouring into oncology drug development, which used to be a highly capital-efficient sector.

Looking at the different vertical segments, stagnation is apparent across the board with some exception with few kinase inhibitors and BCMA CARs. Continue reading

Biotech portfolio updates – Esperion, Trevena, Exelixis and ArQule

Esperion – Positive read-through from Repatha

Shares of Esperion (ESPR) doubled within two weeks after Amgen (AMGN) announced positive CVOT (cardiovascular outcomes trial) outcome for Repatha, Amgen’s PCSK9 antibody. Although this news will make the lipid-lowering field more competitive for Esperion, it also validates the LDL hypothesis and removes some regulatory risk around Esperion’s LDL-lowering pill, bempedoic acid (ETC-1002).

Until now, investors assumed Esperion will need to have CVOT data in order to file for approval but now the likelihood of FDA approval based on positive LDL readout in 2019 is much higher. Beyond regulatory uncertainties, investors’ primary concern revolves around whether an oral drug with a 25% LDL reduction has room in a market dominated by generic oral drugs (statins, Zetia) on the one hand, and branded highly effective (50%-60% LDL reduction) PCSK9 antibodies on the other. Continue reading

Biotech portfolio updates – Exelixis, Spark, buying more gene therapy stocks

Exelixis – Decreasing exposure on valuation

Exelixis (EXEL) continues to look very strong after hitting a 15-year high on Friday, which is never a bad point in time to realize some gains. While I still view Cabometyx as the most effective agent ever approved in renal cancer (even better than Opdivo), a valuation of $5.1B seems to fully capture the current label. Continue reading

Biotech portfolio updates – ESMO 2016, Exelixis, Abeona, Esperion and Seattle Genetics

After a two-month break here is a recap of key highlights from the September/October time frame. On the menu today: PD-1 controversies at ESMO 2016, Exelixis’ (EXEL) launch in renal cancer,  gene therapy data from Abeona (ABEO), long awaited update from Esperion (ESPR) and a positive surprise from Seattle Genetics (SGEN).

ESMO 2016 – Merck wins by a landslide (for now…)

While ESMO is typically secondary in importance to ASCO, this year’s meeting overshadowed its US counterpart (which was relatively quiet to begin with…), generating big headlines in the PD-1 arena. Continue reading

Biotech portfolio update – Jumping into gene therapy

After a long summer break it is time to review recent events and update the portfolio. As far as clinical readouts go, my portfolio had a brutal summer with one complete P3 failure from Array Biopharma (ARRY), a mixed data set from Aurinia (AUPH) and a win from SAGE (SAGE) that resulted in limited share appreciation. This was offset by strong performance from Exelixis (EXEL), my biggest holding which is up 48% quarter to date.

For the remainder of 2016 I plan to gradually increase exposure to gene therapy, which I hope will become one of the industry’s primary growth drivers in the coming years. In parallel, as I am still pessimistic about the biotech field in general (R&D productivity, pricing, biosimilars…), I intend to keep my short ETFs and a significant cash position. Continue reading

Could gene therapy become biotech’s growth driver in 2017?

Despite bouncing off a 2-year low, biotech is still an unpopular sector and investors are rightfully concerned about its near-term prospects. Recent drug failures, growing pricing pressure and the potential impact of biosimilars all contribute to the negative sentiment, but the main problem is the lack of growth drivers for the remainder of 2016 (and potentially 2017). Continue reading

Notes from ASCO 2016

Although this year’s ASCO contained a limited amount of groundbreaking data, it provided some interesting take-aways and signaled important trends in oncology drug development.  Below is my take on a quiet but important meeting.

Immuno-oncology – PD-1 combinations at their infancy

As in previous years, the meeting was dominated by PD-1/PD-L1 antibodies. Now that PD-1 blockers have been tested on every tumor known to mankind (see below a great figure from Merck), focus is shifting to combination regimens with PD-1 as a backbone. Combination partners range from other immune checkpoints to chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation. Continue reading

Biotech catalysts for 2016

After last week’s pessimistic post, this week I am focusing on potential catalysts in 2016 that could improve sentiment towards biotech as a sector.

As if to remind us late stage trials don’t always fail, last week saw positive news from three different programs, all of which are antibodies in non-oncology indications. Regeneron (REGN) and its partner Sanofi (SNY) announced excellent data in atopic dermatitis, Alder (ALDR) reported positive results in a P2b in migraine and Pfizer (PFE) had positive P3 data for its PCSK9 program.

Below are four additional clinical data readouts that (if positive) may serve as important catalysts. Continue reading