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

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

ASCO 2015 preview

As in previous years, the upcoming ASCO meeting will be dominated by immuno-oncology with a particular focus on PD-1 antibodies. The market’s primary focus is expected to be on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with data from three large randomized trials from BMS (BMY) and Roche. Beyond lung cancer, investors will look for additional indications where PD-1 agents may have clinical utility as monotherapy or in combination with other agents.

Overall, PD-1 programs continue to generate positive data across many indications but to date clinical experience has been sobering. PD-1 antibodies may lead to durable responses in some cases but the vast majority of patients derive limited benefit or don’t respond at all. This is true in most indications with the exception of melanoma where PD-1 antibodies have a dramatic impact and combination with Yervoy appears to lead to further improvement. Below is a recap of some of the data which will be presented over the weekend. Abstract numbers and links are also provided. 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

Biotech portfolio update – 2014 summary and 2015 preview

Below is my traditional end of the year summary and a recap of catalysts for 2015. As always, I did my best to cover the most important events, let me know if I missed anything… I would like to use this opportunity and wish the readers of this blog a happy and prosperous new year.

Ohad 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

Drugs to watch at ASCO 2014

Below is my ASCO 2014 preview (better late than never…). I tried to make this recap as comprehensive as possible but it is practically impossible to cover all the interesting stuff (let me know if I missed anything dramatic). Unlike last year, I decided to group interesting abstracts based on mechanism of action rather than companies in order to provide a more holistic perspective. On top of attending the conference itself, I will try to attend as many analyst events as possible (this year I have Clovis, Roche, BMS and Incyte on my list) and include them in my post-ASCO write-up. Continue reading

Biotech portfolio update – 2013 summary and 2014 preview

Seattle Genetics (+65% in 2013)

In 2013, Seattle Genetics’ (SGEN) Adcetris reached market saturation in its approved labeling (relapsed/refractory HL), shifting market attention to label expansion. These include DLBCL, where Adcetris showed impressive efficacy in highly refractory patients (42% response rate, PFS of 5 months) and CTCL (73% response rate). Adcetris is in phase III for earlier stages of HL as well as CTCL, which are viewed as the next opportunity to grow sales. The company will outline its registration strategy for DLBCL in early 2014. Continue reading

Drugs to watch at ASCO 2013

Below is a recap of interesting data expected to be presented at the Annual meeting of The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).  This year’s meeting will have a strong focus on immunotherapy (PD-1 antibodies in particular) as well as novel oral agents for hematology. Companies for which important data are expected are reviewed as well.

PD-1 takes center stage

PD-1 antibodies are by far the hottest and most active field in cancer drug development. Although technically, all data to date were from phase I studies, there is wall to wall consensus that inhibitors of the PD-1 pathway will become a cornerstone in several cancer types and a $5-$10B franchise.

Continue reading

ArQule’s Akt inhibitor – A fast-follower call option

Following the failure of ArQule’s (ARQL) tivantinib in lung cancer, market attention shifted to the ongoing phase III in liver cancer. With a $173 market cap and $130M in cash, the market ascribes little value to tivantinib. In addition, the market completely ignores 2 additional clinical programs (both in phase I):  ARQ092 is an Akt inhibitor that was developed with Daiichi Sankyo (Daiichi recently returned rights to ArQule) and ARQ087 is an FGFR inhibitor. Continue reading