Threshold Scores Big With Pancreatic Cancer Data

Last month, Threshold Pharmaceuticals (THLD) surprised the market with positive data for its lead program (TH-302) in pancreatic cancer. Although actual results were not published and despite several issues with the trial design, TH-302 generated what is possibly the best pancreatic cancer data set in over a decade. Continue reading

5 Winners of ASH 2011

The annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) was concluded last week and provided investors a peek into the future of blood cancer treatment. Below are 5 companies that presented promising data that could change the therapeutic landscape in the coming years. Continue reading

Micromet unveils another fast route to market, marks Pfizer as lead competitor

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

Biotech Portfolio Updates – Immunogen, Array and Seattle Genetics

Immunogen becomes a $1B company

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.

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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 (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

Morphosys’ Growth Story Remains Intact

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.

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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

The Winner of ASH 2010 – Seattle Genetics

As expected, earlier this month at the annual American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting, Seattle Genetics (SGEN) reported positive results that will likely lead to the company’s first ever regulatory approval for Brentuximab vedotin (SGN-35). The data will transform Seattle Genetics into a commercial stage company, with an initial market opportunity of ~$250M in the US alone. In addition, the results further validate the company’s ADC (antibody drug conjugate) technology, which has broad utility and huge commercial potential. In particular, Seattle Genetics could become a market leader in hematology by next year’s meeting, with results for two additional ADCs.

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Immunogen beyond the T-DM1 delay

The FDA’s decision to reject Roche’s filing for accelerated approval of T-DM1’s had quite an impact on Immunogen’s (IMGN) stock. There is no doubt that T-DM1 represents the company’s most valuable, even if it is in the form of a mid single digit royalty rate, due to its blockbuster potential and impressive clinical activity. This justifies to some extent last week’s market reaction, as the next potential approval for T-DM1 will is anticipated in mid 2012. Nevertheless, T-DM1 is facing multiple potential value creation events in the coming year, including an important data set for T-DM1 next month. In addition, the company is involved in 6 clinical stage programs (#7 is expected to enter the clinic this month), some of which are expected to generate data in the coming months. Although none of these programs are nearly as exciting as T-DM1, some of them could become more attractive with time.

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How Array Got its Groove Back

Array’s (ARRY) recent licensing deal with Novartis (NVS) is another evidence of pharma’s appetite for new oncology compounds, especially for targeted agents. Facing a patent cliff and dwindling internal pipelines, pharmaceutical companies are willing to pay a generous price for promising early stage compounds.

This is why companies with broad platform technologies that can feed the industry with new compounds represent an attractive investment opportunity. These companies include (in alphabetical order)  Arqule (ARQL), Array, Exelixis (EXEL), Immunogen (IMGN), Micromet (MITI) and Seattle Genetics (SGEN). From that list, Array has been the worst performer in 2009 due to liquidity fears as well as lack of exciting clinical data for its proprietary compounds. The two recent deals with Amgen (AMGN) and Novartis helped Array strengthen its balance sheet, but more importantly, they prove that the company’s discovery and early stage development capabilities have been underestimated by the market. Continue reading