Q1 2016 scorecard – Arrested Development

As if sentiment around Smid-cap biotechs wasn’t bad enough, Q1 provided a painful reminder of the high failure rate in biotech. The slew of disappointing results at ASH in December 2015 (which I discussed here) was followed by numerous clinical failures and regulatory setbacks. Most notable blowups came from Celldex (CLDX), Incyte (INCY), Alkermes (ALKS), Oncomed (OMED), Chimerix (CMRX), Atara (ATRA), PTC (PTCT) and Portola (PTLA). Continue reading

Buying more Exelixis following positive renal cancer data

The past six months have been quite frustrating for Exelixis (EXEL) investors (myself included). The company had a string of positive announcements for cabozantinib (cabo) and Roche-partnered cobimetinib (Cotellic) including positive overall survival readouts for both drugs. Since the July announcement on the METEOR study in renal cancer, the stock is up only 16% despite having a wholly owned drug with a blockbuster potential, imminent approval and significant label expansion potential. Continue reading

Biotech selloff leaves Wall Street disillusioned

After 5 years of a raging bull market, more than 140 IPOs and tens of billions in proceeds, there is a debate on whether the violent selloff in biotech stocks is a hiccup or the beginning of a real correction. I have no idea where the sector is heading in the coming weeks but it seems like the overall sobering experience coupled with this month’s selloff changed Wall Street’s perception around biotech. Investors are finally realizing drug development is fraught with uncertainty and that biotech is an attractive but not infallible segment, which is why I expect the correction to continue in 2016. Continue reading

Post-ASH bloodbath is a bad omen for the biotech sector

Although hematology represents a small portion of human diseases, its weight in the biotech equity markets is disproportionally high. Bluebird (BLUE), Agios (AGIO), Juno (JUNO), Kite (KITE), Cellectis (CLLS), Pharmacyclics (PCYC), Incyte (INCY), Genmab (GEN.CO), Seattle Genetics (SGEN) and Acceleron (XLRN) all derive the majority of their valuations from hematology drugs. This is also the case for larger companies such as Amgen (AMGN), Celgene (CELG) and Alexion (ALXN). Continue reading

Biotech portfolio update – Clovis, Array, ImmunoGen

Clovis Oncology

Clovis (CLVS) lost 75% of its market cap last week after disclosing a disappointingly low response rate for rociletinib in T790M+ NSCLC patients. Updated response rates were 28%-34%, dramatically lower than the 54-60% response rate reported at ASCO 2015. According to the company, the dramatic difference stems from analyzing the same data set based on more stringent criteria (confirmed response rate). Continue reading

Esperion – Seeing the glass half full

Esperion (ESPR) has been the target of a lot of criticism lately, demonstrated by the collapse from $115 to $24 in just 5 months. Investors became skeptical about Esperion’s ability to get FDA approval without cardiovascular outcomes data, which may push approval by 2-3 years and decrease probability of success. Even if the drug obtains FDA approval, many are worried about a narrow label that will limit initial commercial opportunity. 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

Biotech portfolio updates – Thoughts on ongoing correction and upcoming catalysts

The biotech sector is having a brutal summer, with major indices (IBB, FBT, XBI) down 15-20% from their July highs. Even after this decline, valuations for most biotech stocks are still rich and need to come down by an additional ~25% in order to become reasonably priced. As my working hypothesis includes a correction (with significant fluctuations) going into 2016, I still plan to have a significant cash position and complement it with leveraged short bio ETFs. 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