Esperion – Seeing the glass half full

Esperion (ESPR) has been the target of a lot of criticism lately, demonstrated by the collapse from $115 to $24 in just 5 months. Investors became skeptical about Esperion’s ability to get FDA approval without cardiovascular outcomes data, which may push approval by 2-3 years and decrease probability of success. Even if the drug obtains FDA approval, many are worried about a narrow label that will limit initial commercial opportunity. Continue reading

Biotech portfolio update – 2014 summary and 2015 preview

Below is my traditional end of the year summary and a recap of catalysts for 2015. As always, I did my best to cover the most important events, let me know if I missed anything… I would like to use this opportunity and wish the readers of this blog a happy and prosperous new year.

Ohad Continue reading

Drugs to watch at ASCO 2014

Below is my ASCO 2014 preview (better late than never…). I tried to make this recap as comprehensive as possible but it is practically impossible to cover all the interesting stuff (let me know if I missed anything dramatic). Unlike last year, I decided to group interesting abstracts based on mechanism of action rather than companies in order to provide a more holistic perspective. On top of attending the conference itself, I will try to attend as many analyst events as possible (this year I have Clovis, Roche, BMS and Incyte on my list) and include them in my post-ASCO write-up. Continue reading

Exelixis – Down but not out, plenty of catalysts in 2014

Last week, Exelixis (EXEL) lost 47% after announcing the COMET-1 trial was not stopped for efficacy at the interim analysis. The reaction implies investors were expecting a positive outcome based on experience with other prostate cancer phase III trials that had been stopped early due to efficacy. These include Medivation’s (MDVN) Xtandi and Bayer’s Xofigo.

Even after the disappointing announcement, I still think Exelixis has significant upside potential for 2 reasons: Continue reading

Top picks for ASH 2013

The annual ASH (American society of hematology) meeting will take place next month in New Orleans. Based on the abstracts that were released 2 weeks ago, it seems that after 2 phenomenal years of introducing novel mechanisms, this year’s meeting is going to be more on the evolving landscape in each segment (Btk/PI3K inhibitors, antibody drug conjugates, myelofibrosis, CD38 antibodies, chimeric antigen receptors etc.).

Below are my top picks.   Continue reading

Is Genmab’s daratumumab the next ibrutinib?

Earlier this week, Genmab (GEN.CO) announced the first J&J (JNJ) – initiated study for daratumumab, an anti-CD38 antibody that already demonstrated phenomenal clinical activity in multiple myeloma. The announcement comes after a drought of more than a year without any new clinical trials or meaningful clinical data. From this point onwards, investors should expect J&J to accelerate daratumumab’s development with a broad and aggressive program, just like it did with ibrutinib. Continue reading

Incyte’s Jakafi is likely a $1B drug

Predicting future sales for a given drug is always challenging, let alone in a case like Incyte’s (INCY) Jakafi (Marketed in Europe under the name Jakavi by Novartis), which is the first drug in history to receive approval for myelofibrosis (MF). With no precedents to serve as a benchmark, it is still unclear how big Jakafi can be. However, based on Incyte’s recent 2013 guidance and remarks from the head of Novartis’ (NVS) oncology business unit, it has a high likelihood to reach $1B already in 2016.
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Upcoming catalysts for Exelixis and Immunogen

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%… 

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Winners of ASCO 2012

BMS’ PD-1 antibody – As good as it gets

 

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

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