Clovis Oncology – still a long term core holding

Clovis (CLVS) was one of ASCO’s clear losers following safety issues for its lead program, CO-1686. Despite demonstrating robust efficacy in T790M+ lung cancer, hyperglycemia associated with the drug raised concerns about its ultimate market positioning vs. its close competitor, AstraZeneca’s (AZN) AZD9291. 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.

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Biotech portfolio update – 2012 summary and 2013 outlook

In the last post of the year, I will try to provide a status update as well as key 2013 milestones for the stocks in our portfolio. I would like to use this opportunity to wish everybody happy holidays and a happy New Year.

Seattle Genetics

Seattle Genetics’ (SGEN) main task is expanding Adcetris’ use outside of approved niche indications (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and ALCL). As an anti-CD30 antibody-drug conjugate (ADC), Adcetris has potential utility wherever CD30 is expressed by tumors. Continue reading

Top 10 Oncology Drugs Available For Partnering (Part II)

This is the second part of an article I posted back in April. The final list includes only 9 candidates, as one of the candidates (Seattle Genetics’ SGN-75) was taken off the list after generating fairly disappointing results at ASCO. Enjoy.

Micromet

Micromet (MITI), who is developing antibodies for cancer, definitely has a potential game changer in its hands. The company’s lead agent, blinatumomab (Bmab), belongs to a new class of antibodies called BiTE (Bispecific T cell Engagers). These antibodies can harness the patient’s immune system to attack tumors by redirecting T cells (the most potent immune cells in the body) against cancer cells. BiTE antibodies achieve this by simultaneously binding a cancer cell on one side and an immune cell on the other. This unleashes a potent anti-tumor immune response. Continue reading

Putting A Price Tag On Synta’s Lead Agent

2011 is shaping up as a transformational year for Synta (SNTA), who is making progress on multiple fronts with its lead agent ganetespib (formerly known as STA-9090). Ganetespib is an Hsp90 inhibitor, a protein with a well recognized role in cancer. The concept of inhibiting Hsp90 to fight cancer goes back two decades, but all attempts have been beset by failures so far. As Synta’s ganetespib appears to be the first active and safe Hsp90 inhibitor, it is poised to make a big dent in the multibillion dollar oncology market. I discussed the history of Hsp90 inhibitors and Synta’s unique positioning in a previous write up.)

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Spicing Up The Biotech Portfolio – Curagen and Curis

 

The past six months have not been kind to microcap biotech stocks, as it is hard to find a lot of love in today’s market for tiny, high risk, cash burning biotech companies. Honestly, who can blame investors for throwing stocks that offer a distant dream with minimal success rates and heavy spending? Surprisingly (or not), the negative sentiment also presents unprecedented opportunities in the microcap arena, as some microcaps are making tremendous progress, which is not yet reflected in their stock prices.

 

There are quite a few companies with market cap under $100M active in the fields of oncology and inflammatory diseases, the two fastest growing segments in the pharmaceutical industry. Hypothetically, these companies represent huge upside potential in the form of imaginary returns over a period of several years. The issue with these companies is that they usually have only one or two drugs in very early stages, the vast majority of which are doomed to eventually fail. While identifying the right drugs based on concrete clinical data is complicated but possible, evaluating drugs based on earlier results is even more challenging. The idea is therefore to identify companies who have already reached proof of concept in humans, thus facilitating better visibility to investors. Since investors today focus primarily on risk mitigation, they typically ignore potential reward and shrug off any positive developments. This, in turn, may result in an “arbitrage-like” situation, where companies with a potential success rate of 25% are traded as if they had a potential success rate of 10%, simply because the progress they have made is not factored into stock price.

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