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

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

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

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

6 stocks on my watch list

The recent pullback in the biotech sector hit the vast majority of small/mid cap biotechs. As a group, it is hard to argue biotech stocks are cheap right now but some stocks are becoming attractive after losing 30-50% in several months.  Below are 6 companies that are approaching or already are at attractive valuations.  A key theme for all 6 is that they have been sold off alongside the general market rather than for fundamental reasons. Market fluctuations in 2014 may present investors with attractive entry points.  Continue reading

2 affordable biotech IPOs – Ambit and Esperion

2013 will be remembered as one of the strongest years for biotech IPOs, with over 30 successful offerings year to date. A lot has been written on the biotech IPO boom and what will be the long term consequences. My personal view is ambiguous. On the one hand, most if not all of the companies that went public are “IPO worthy”: They are innovative, address medical unmet needs and are run by capable management teams. On the other, I find it extremely hard to justify the valuations of many of the companies. What is even more frustrating is the fact that the ones with the most exciting technologies and belong to my coverage universe are also the most ridiculously priced. Agios (AGIO), Oncomed (OMED), Blue Bird (BLUE) and Epizyme (EPZM) are all good examples for great companies whose stocks are way too expensive. Continue reading