Biotech portfolio update – Sage, Marinus and Immunogen

A new lucrative indication for Sage (and potentially Marinus)

Last week, Sage (SAGE) surprised the market by announcing preliminary but impressive results for SAGE-547 in patients with postpartum depression (PPD, also known as postnatal depression). Four patients with severe PPD experienced a dramatic improvement in their depression score from an average of 26.5 to 1.8. In other words, these patients entered the study with a severe debilitating depression and became symptom-free within 2-3 days. Despite the preliminary nature of the results, they generated a clear efficacy signal that merits evaluating SAGE-547 in a randomized trial, to be started later this year. 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

Top 10 Oncology Drugs Available For Partnering (Part I)

One of the questions I am frequently asked is whether there are any good oncology drugs out there which are still available for partnering. The past years saw a surge in licensing and M&A deals, however, there are still several high quality assets out there being developed independently by small or mid cap biotechs. Below are ten companies with promising wholly-owned development stage programs, in alphabetical order.  

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Seattle Genetics Strengthens Its Foothold Within Genentech (At The Expense Of Immunogen?)

In its earnings release last week, Seattle Genetics (SGEN) did not surprise anyone with the financial guidance and expected timelines for approval of its lead agent, SGN-35. However, on the business development front, the release did include an intriguing announcement that did not receive the attention it deserved. The company announced that Genentech recently advanced 3 new antibody drug conjugates (ADC) based on Seattle Genetics’ technology to phase I, this is in addition to the CD22 ADC already in clinical testing.

The announcement has several important implications for Seattle Genetics. First, the number of clinical programs in its partnered pipeline instantly jumped 50% from 6 to 9. By definition, this provides Seattle Genetics with more shots on goal and increases chances of substantial milestones and royalties down the road. More importantly, it establishes Seattle Genetics’ technology as Genentech’s preferred ADC platform, an attractive position given Genentech’s dominance in oncology and ADCs in particular. Continue reading

Lessons Learned from Sanofi’s Failure

Last week, Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) announced disappointing results from a phase III trial evaluating iniparib in breast cancer. The drug failed to improve survival and progression-free survival (PFS) in breast cancer patients and although actual data were not published, approval is unlikely even for a subset of patients. Failed phase III trials are quite common in oncology, a field with one of the highest attrition rates in the pharmaceutical industry. Nevertheless, iniparib’s failure is particularly disturbing, as the phase III was supported by compelling results from a randomized controlled phase II trial as well as strong scientific rationale. Importantly, this trial could have broader implications as it raises questions regarding the role of randomized phase II trials as a go/no go decision point for pivotal trials. 

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