Friday Five – Your weekly pharma review

ESMO in focus

There were multiple examples of practice-changing clinical data presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) congress last weekend. Check out our comprehensive analysis here.

AstraZeneca's PACIFIC and FLAURA studies were the subject of arguably the most high-profile presentations and results were the focus of our latest Physician Views Poll –

We also spoke to a leading key opinion leader to take an in-depth look at data from Bristol-Myers Squibb's CheckMate-214 trial, which looks set to position the combination of Opdivo and Yervoy as a new standard of care in first-line renal cell carcinoma – KOL Views Results: CheckMate-214 changes the game in front-line RCC, says leading oncologist.

See alsoESMO Spotlight: PARP Wars

Teva tags Schultz

Following a protracted search – and a notable false start, with AstraZeneca's Pascal Soriot at one point rumoured to be taking the role – Teva confirmed the identity of its new CEO this week – Lundbeck's Kare Schultz. 

Reaction to Schultz's appointment from investors, who boosted Teva's valuation by almost $4 billion over 48 hours, is likely reflective of both relief the CEO position has been filled and delight that the company was able to attract someone of Schultz's pedigree. His task, however, will be challenging. More analysis here.

New data to supercharge market for biologic asthma therapies?

The market for next-generation biologic therapies for the treatment of asthma has been a slow-burner since the launch of GlaxoSmithKline's Nucala and Teva's Cinqair, but new late-stage data presented by Amgen/AstraZeneca and Sanofi/Regeneron Pharmaceuticals could spur accelerated growth if the products in question reach the market.

Elisabeth Bel – professor of pulmonary diseases at the Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam and current president of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) – noted that Amgen and AstraZeneca's tezepelumab "appears to be the broadest and most promising biologic for the treatment of persistent uncontrolled asthma to date." – analysis here.

Sanofi and Regeneron responded by announcing their own positive Phase III data for Dupixent in uncontrolled, persistent asthma – see ViewPoints: Dupilumab's asthma data mean billions for Regeneron, Sanofi – and opportunity for Amgen.

FirstWord will be snap-polling pulmonologists to gauge physician response to both agents next week.

Mixed news for JAKs

AbbVie presented new data for the JAK inhibitor upadacitinib in rheumatoid arthritis this week, simultaneously raising its profile as a potential best-in-class agent and reigniting safety concerns around this drug class – ViewPoints: JAK inhibitors back under safety scrutiny after AbbVie reports upadacitinib deaths.

Promising data for upadacitinib has also recently been reported in atopic dermatitis.

Upadacitinib likely remains three years from market as AbbVie continues to work on optimised dosing and formulation, suggested Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal. Eli Lilly recently announced that its own JAK inhibitor Olumiant – also associated with an imbalance in thrombotic events – will be resubmitted for approval with the FDA sooner than expected, possibly before January 2018. Gilead Sciences and Galapagos, co-developing their own JAK inhibitor, but yet to present pivotal-stage data, will be looking to take advantage of any delays.

Lampalizumab limps home

Roche suffered a relatively rare R&D setback this week with the experimental geographic atrophy treatment lampalizumab failing to hit its primary endpoint in the first of two Phase III studies. The miss is notable, not only because lampalizumab was previously touted as a potential blockbuster (in a market where no approved therapies currently exist), but also due to Roche's typically strong expertise in biomarker-focused drug development – ViewPoints: Lampalizumab data show cracks in Roche's biomarker armour.

Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson suggested that eagle eyed investors should have seen the disappointment coming; for despite its impressive Phase II data, lampalizumab never received breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA.

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