It was nice to see M&A picking up in the 2nd half of 2019, with multiple high profile acquisitions. Two sectors of interest were kinase inhibitors for oncology (Array Biopharma, Loxo, ArQule) and Gene therapy for rare diseases (Spark, Audentes). siRNA came back to the limelight with Novartis’ $9.7B bid for MDCO for its twice-yearly PCSK9 treatment, marking a radical change in sentiment towards siRNA.
This uptick is great news for investors in small/mid-cap biotechs for which acquisitions are the primary exit route. Looking at some of the deals, I am having a hard time justifying valuations or seeing the acquirers making a decent ROI in the long run. What bothers me is not the fact that many acquired assets eventually fail but the amount some biopharmas are willing to spend for high risk assets, sometimes even preclinical ones. Continue reading →
It has been a hectic 5 months here at Pontifax (10 new investments, some yet to be announced) so unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of time to publish new posts. Going forward, I will try to make posts more concise so I’ll be able to publish stuff also during busy periods.Today, I will focus on what I consider to be the three winners in the portfolio in 2017 so far, not only from a stock performance but also from a strategic development perspective. All three will have important readouts in the coming 6 months.
Esperion – Flawless execution, pivotal readouts in Q2/18
Despite its strong stock performance (+275% YTD), I still feel that Esperion (ESPR) and its management team don’t get the credit they deserve for their flawless execution in 2017. After starting 2017 with poor investor sentiment and great uncertainty about its clinical/regulatory strategy, Esperion is ideally positioned for pivotal readouts next year (Q2 2018). Although risk is still significant I am more excited than ever about Esperion for the following reasons: Continue reading →
This year’s ASCO marks a second year in a row of relatively uneventful meetings, with very few groundbreaking or practice-changing data. Just like last year’s meeting, there were too many “me too” drugs targeting the same validated targets while results for truly novel MOAs were mostly underwhelming or immature. This stagnation is particularly troubling in light of the huge budgets the industry is pouring into oncology drug development, which used to be a highly capital-efficient sector.
Looking at the different vertical segments, stagnation is apparent across the board with some exception with few kinase inhibitors and BCMA CARs. Continue reading →
Shares of Esperion (ESPR) doubled within two weeks after Amgen (AMGN) announced positive CVOT (cardiovascular outcomes trial) outcome for Repatha, Amgen’s PCSK9 antibody. Although this news will make the lipid-lowering field more competitive for Esperion, it also validates the LDL hypothesis and removes some regulatory risk around Esperion’s LDL-lowering pill, bempedoic acid (ETC-1002).
Until now, investors assumed Esperion will need to have CVOT data in order to file for approval but now the likelihood of FDA approval based on positive LDL readout in 2019 is much higher. Beyond regulatory uncertainties, investors’ primary concern revolves around whether an oral drug with a 25% LDL reduction has room in a market dominated by generic oral drugs (statins, Zetia) on the one hand, and branded highly effective (50%-60% LDL reduction) PCSK9 antibodies on the other. Continue reading →
The ECC/ESMO meeting, the European equivalent of ASCO, will take place next weekend. Historically, this event has received limited investor attention (since most of the important late stage stuff is reserved for ASCO) but in recent years its importance is growing as more practice-changing data are presented. As a proof of this trend, this year’s meeting will include the two most important breakthroughs in renal cancer in almost a decade. Continue reading →
As in previous years, the upcoming ASCO meeting will be dominated by immuno-oncology with a particular focus on PD-1 antibodies. The market’s primary focus is expected to be on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with data from three large randomized trials from BMS (BMY) and Roche. Beyond lung cancer, investors will look for additional indications where PD-1 agents may have clinical utility as monotherapy or in combination with other agents.
Overall, PD-1 programs continue to generate positive data across many indications but to date clinical experience has been sobering. PD-1 antibodies may lead to durable responses in some cases but the vast majority of patients derive limited benefit or don’t respond at all. This is true in most indications with the exception of melanoma where PD-1 antibodies have a dramatic impact and combination with Yervoy appears to lead to further improvement. Below is a recap of some of the data which will be presented over the weekend. Abstract numbers and links are also provided. Continue reading →
ArQule (ARQL) has doubled in less than two months, following two years of weakness. While tivantinib’s phase III liver cancer is the company’s most visible asset, investors are starting to notice ArQule’s early stage pipeline and its potential to generate meaningful data in the coming year. Both ARQ 092 (Akt inhibitor) and ARQ 087 (FGFR inhibitor) are being tested in biomarker-enriched trials with the potential to have clear efficacy signals during 2015. Continue reading →
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.
With most of its market cap covered by cash, ArQule (ARQL) and its pipeline are receiving very limited appreciation. The negative sentiment stems from skepticism regarding tivantinib, currently in phase III for liver cancer (partnered globally and in Japan with Daiichi Sankyo and Kyowa Hakko Kirin, respectively). The skepticism is based on the drug’s 2012 failure in lung cancer as well as uncertainty about its mechanism of action. Continue reading →
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 →