Earlier this month, I attended the TAT (Targeted anticancer therapies) congress in Paris. This conference focuses exclusively on targeted therapies for cancer, one of the most active areas in drug development. As a small conference (~500 participants), it does not generate a lot of high profile clinical data, still, it is a great opportunity to “feel the pulse” of oncology drug development. Speakers include clinical oncologists, basic scientists and industry researchers, which provide a fairly broad spectrum with respect to existing and upcoming trends.
Here, I focus on three major themes from the meeting: PD-1 inhibitors, antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) and cancer metabolism. Continue reading →
Roche’s investor day, held last week, gave Seattle Genetics’ (SGEN) investors reasons for optimism. Roche has 9 antibody drug conjugates (ADC) in clinical testing: T-DM1, powered by Immunogen’s (IMGN) technology and 8 additional ADCs (in phase I) that are based on Seattle-Genetics’ technology. These ADC programs are expected to have data readouts in the coming year, making them Seattle Genetics’ major near-term growth opportunity. Following last week’s event, it is now clear that at least 5 of the 8 ADCs are active in cancer patients.
Exelixis (EXEL) and Immunogen (IMGN) will have important phase III readouts in 2014. For Exelixis, the readout is from 2 phase III trials in prostate cancer and for Immunogen, a phase III trial in 1st line breast cancer. This raises the question – why should investors hold the stocks throughout 2012-2013?
It is important to identify near term catalysts for biotech companies, but biotech stocks tend to be volatile and their movement is not always catalyzed by fundamental events. A good example for that is the recent surge in Pharmacyclics (PCYC) despite limited news flow. Unfortunately, we sold Pharmacyclics 6 months ago for a 413% profit, under the assumption that the company had no meaningful catalysts until 2014. Since then the stock is up more than 150%…
The biggest news at this year’s ASCO came from BMS’ (BMY) PD-1 antibody, BMS-936558. This antibody belongs to a new class of antibodies that stimulate patients’ immune system to attack cancer. This approach has been recently validated with another BMS antibody, Yervoy, which was approved last year for melanoma.
Based on results presented at the meeting, BMS-936558 is superior to Yervoy by any measure. In fact, it is probably one of the most promising oncology drugs ever to be tested in humans. It induces tumor shrinkage in a substantial portion of patients, creates an immune response that keeps the disease under control for long periods and it does so with limited side effects. To make things even better, there might be a way to pre-select patients who are more likely to respond to this agent. Continue reading →
Below is a list of drugs and companies which will have meaningful data at this year’s annual meeting of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). As I will be attending this year’s conference, I will try to write updates on a regular basis. Feel free to send me questions or post them as comments to this post. Continue reading →
Developing oncology drugs is getting harder and harder. The rising regulatory hurdles, the constant flow of new agents and competition for trial participants all make getting a drug to market a formidable challenge. This is particularly true in drugs for blood cancers, a field that saw tremendous progress in the past decade and is becoming very crowded. As a result, even highly effective drugs require long and expensive studies with active regimens in the control arm and survival as an endpoint. Continue reading →
Immunogen (IMGN) concluded the week with a market cap of ~$1B, up 200% in less than a year. This valuation is quite unusual for a company that ascribes the vast majority of its value from a 3-5% royalty stake in a single drug – Roche’s T-DM1. T-DM1, which utilizes Immunogen’s antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology, comprises of Herceptin conjugated to a drug payload. It is in two phase III trials and multiple phase II studies in breast cancer. If proven effective, many believe T-DM1 will eventually replace Herceptin, at least in certain treatment lines.
This year’s meeting will probably be remembered as a historical event with regards to melanoma. Last year, it was a phase III trial for BMS’ (BMY) Yervoy (ipilimumab), which was the first in history to show a survival benefit in advanced melanoma patients (discussed in my ASCO 2010 write up). This trial led to Yervoy’s historical approval 3 months ago.
This year, investigators will present studies evaluating Yervoy as well as Plexxikon/Roche’s vemurafenib in pretreated melanoma patients. Yervoy was evaluated in combination with chemotherapy while vemurafenib was compared with chemotherapy. According to BMS’ and Roche’s press releases, both studies were successful and each drug led to a survival benefit.The extent of this benefit is still unknown and will be revealed only at the conference. Continue reading →
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.
Last month, Morphosys (MOR.DE) reported its 2010 earnings, which seems like a good point of revisiting the stock. Last time I wrote about Morphosys (see article) was almost two years ago. Since then, the company has made a lot of progress but still without reaching a real value creation event. Nevertheless, Morphosys’ value proposition is now greater than ever, as it still offers a rare opportunity to invest in the fastest growing segment of the pharma industry with limited downside.