After a great 2012, Onyx (ONXX) is well positioned as one of the few remaining commercial stage biotech companies with a diverse oncology pipeline. The company has 4 assets: Nexavar (co marketing agreement with Bayer), Kyprolis (wholly owned in US +EU), Stivarga (20% royalties from Bayer), PD-0332991 (~7.5% royalties from Pfizer).
The American Society of Hematology’s (ASH) annual meeting is the most important event in the field of hematology. Although blood cancers represent the minority of cancer cases, the field is garnering a lot of attention thanks to great advancements over the past decade which translated to huge commercial success stories. This year’s meeting, scheduled for next month, will include important data for the following companies.
So what does the market really think about Synta’s (SNTA) lung cancer data? 2 weeks ago, the stock lost 33% in 1 trading session following interim results from the phase II trial for the company’s lead agent, ganetespib. Since then, Synta regained most of the fall, as the market digested the data with the help of supporting analysts from Jefferies and Roth Capital.
Looking at the clinical results, it is easy to understand the market’s bi-polar reaction. One the one hand, there are multiple promising efficacy signals and a good safety profile. On the other, the data set was less mature than what investors had expected.
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
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.)
Earlier this week, Incyte (INCY) announced positive phase III results for its lead agent, INCB424, in myelofibrosis (MF). Although the full data set was not published, it will almost certainly lead to FDA approval, opening up a $200-$300 market in the US alone. Another similar phase III trial which will be reported in the coming months should support approval in Europe as well.
In the pharmaceutical industry, it is very common to see multiple drugs in development that go after the same target. Usually, there is a direct correlation between the recognition a target has and the number of competing agents. This is the case with “hot targets” such as PI3K,RAF and mTOR, which are pursued by many pharma and biotech companies.
In most cases (especially with targeted therapies), the different compounds are being developed in parallel, and there is no way of identifying a clear winner. This can persist even after approval. For instance, both
BMS Pfizer and Novartis (NVS) have an mTOR inhibitor on the market for the treatment of renal cancer. It is clear both drugs are active but each compound was approved based on a different trial in a different patient population, so neither can claim superiority.
The ESMO meeting is the most important oncology conference in Europe. This year in particular, it included very interesting data that affected the sentiment towards many biotech companies. Here, I intend to focus on what I view as three clear winners from the conference: Seattle Genetics (SGEN), Arqule (ARQL) and Dendreon (DNDN).
Seattle Genetics is about to conclude the best year in its history, since it was incorporated 13 years ago. The company’s lead agent, SGN-35 (aka Brentuximab Vedotin), generated astonishing results in two types of blood cancers earlier this year. Based on the results in Hodkin’s Lymphoma, SGN-35′s approval seems inevitable, even though results are not from large randomized studies. Unlike T-DM1′s case, Seattle Genetics negotiated a special protocol assessment (SPA) with the FDA, implying that the trial design and endpoints are acceptable by the FDA.
Array’s (ARRY) shares keep on fluctuating in the $2.5-$3.5 range, relatively unchanged from the beginning of 2010. It seems that the market is having trouble assessing the real value of the company and its pipeline, which includes 13 (!) drugs in clinical trials. With a market cap of ~$170M, the market puts an average price tag of $13M per asset, a ridiculously low valuation (assuming no value is assigned to the company’s discovery platform). The company’s long term debt (due in 2014) could be partially blamed for this anomaly, but the problem seems to be more related to the company’s business model. The good news is that during the next year the company is looking at multiple events that might change the way Wall Street views Array. Continue reading
The past year certainly was not an easy one for Arqule’s (ARQL) investors who saw their shares plummet more than 50%. Perhaps this kind of decline does not look too big of a deal for a small biotech company when compared with “solid” investments such as AIG (AIG) or Citi (C), but the current price level is certainly not what the institutionals who bought $55 million worth of stock for 7.75$ a share last year envisioned. The good news is that now, with a new management team and an imminent partnership deal for Arqule’s lead compound, ARQ-197, the stock represents an opportunity for an aggressive upward move in 2009.
The company has been talking about licensing ARQ-197 for some time now, but based on remarks made by its new CEO, there are active discussions with potential partners that could mature into a deal in the near future. Last month, the Oppenheimer & Co healthcare team issued an insightful report titled “Collaborations as Catalysts” which mentioned ARQ-197 as a potential licensing candidate. According to Oppenheimer, although such a licensing deal could happen already this year, it is more likely to happen next year following the release of clinical data from ongoing clinical trials.