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 – 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

Reviewing data for cabo and Opdivo in renal cancer

Yesterday at the ECC meeting, BMS (BMY) and Exelixis (EXEL) presented data for their respective drugs ,Opdivo (nivolumab or nivo) and cabozantinib (cabo) in renal cancer (RCC). Before delving into the inevitable comparison, it is important to note that cross-trial comparisons are tricky and it’s impossible to definitively say which drug is better without a direct comparison in the same study.  Nevertheless, the studies were very similar in terms of patient population, control arm and prior treatment lines so as far as cross-trial comparison goes, this is as good as it gets. Continue reading

ECC 2015 – Renal cancer showdown between BMS and Exelixis

The ECC/ESMO meeting, the European equivalent of ASCO, will take place next weekend. Historically, this event has received limited investor attention (since most of the important late stage stuff is reserved for ASCO) but in recent years its importance is growing as more practice-changing data are presented.  As a proof of this trend, this year’s meeting will include the two most important breakthroughs in renal cancer in almost a decade. Continue reading

Exelixis – Renal cancer data are too good to ignore

As followers of this blog know, I have been a long term Exelixis (EXEL) bull for many years but to date the stock has been one of my biggest losers. Despite this experience and although I have been proven wrong on Exelixis in the past, I feel the recent P3 success in renal cancer makes it an attractive story based on (for the first time ever) good visibility on a significant commercial opportunity and a differentiated product profile. Continue reading

ArQule – Finally out of the penalty box

ArQule (ARQL) has doubled in less than two months, following two years of weakness. While tivantinib’s phase III liver cancer is the company’s most visible asset, investors are starting to notice ArQule’s early stage pipeline and its potential to generate meaningful data in the coming year. Both ARQ 092 (Akt inhibitor) and ARQ 087 (FGFR inhibitor) are being tested in biomarker-enriched trials with the potential to have clear efficacy signals during 2015. Continue reading

Array gets binimetinib back (phenomenal deal terms)

After months of uncertainty regarding the fate of binimetinib, Array (ARRY) announced it regained full rights for the drug from Novartis (NVS). Binimetinib (MEK162) was originally partnered with Novartis in 2010 (discussed here) and has been aggressively pursued since. Novartis had to return binimetinib back following the acquisition of GSK’s (GSK) oncology portfolio which included Mekinist, a MEK inhibitor approved for melanoma. Although binimetnib has a high likelihood of returning to Array, the decision is still subject to final approvals for the GSK-Novartis deal. Continue reading

Biotech portfolio update – Three readouts and an acquisition

There was a lot of activity in my coverage universe in the last two weeks, including positive data readouts for three companies and an acquisition announcement. However, of the four cases, only two resulted in share appreciation.

Ambit – To keep or not to keep (the CVR)

Two weeks ago, Ambit (AMBI) agreed to be acquired by Daiichi Sankyo in a deal that included a $15 upfront payment and $4.5 in Contingent Value Right (CVR) per share. The CVR represents a milestone-like mechanism in which Ambit’s shareholders may eventually get additional payments equal to 30% of the initial purchase price. Continue reading

ArQule –An ultra-rare opportunity emerges

With most of its market cap covered by cash, ArQule (ARQL) and its pipeline are receiving very limited appreciation. The negative sentiment stems from skepticism regarding tivantinib,  currently in phase III for liver cancer (partnered globally and in Japan with Daiichi Sankyo and Kyowa Hakko Kirin, respectively). The skepticism is based on the drug’s 2012 failure in lung cancer as well as uncertainty about its mechanism of action. Continue reading

Exelixis following the prostate cancer failure

Yesterday, Exelixis (EXEL) announced Cometriq (cabozantinib) failed to improve overall survival in a pivotal study in prostate cancer. Cometriq is already approved for MTC (medullary thyroid cancer, a rare tumor type) and prostate cancer was viewed as the drug’s most significant opportunity given the large commercial opportunity ($1B+).

Following the failure in prostate cancer, investor focus moves to Exelixis’ MEK inhibitor (cobimetinib, partnered with Roche) and Cometriq in other indications. Although the news are obviously disappointing, Exelixis still has several irons in the fire, which will provide important catalysts over the next 12 months. I previously discussed these catalysts earlier this year. Continue reading