Friday Five - The week in review

Novartis bolts on with oncology deal

Novartis' $3.9 billion acquisition of Advanced Accelerator Applications is the sort of 'bolt on' acquisition that CEO Joe Jimenez has touted for some time.

AAA's lead asset is the radiolabelled somatostatin analogue Lutathera, which is approved in Europe to treat gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (GEP-NETs) and is awaiting approval in the US. Analysts at Credit Suisse described the deal as a "good strategic fit," for Novartis, given its established position in the NETs market with Sandostatin LAR. Questions remain, however, as to how Novartis will leverage AAA's broader radiopharmaceutical platform – see ViewPoints: Novartis silences the rumour mill with Advanced Accelerator acquisition

Future performance of Lutathera in the US market will likely determine whether the deal is financially justified, which in turn will be influenced by the label Novartis receives. In Europe, Lutathera can be used in a larger population than that studied in AAA's registration-supporting trial and analysts at Jefferies are hopeful the US label could be broader still.

Ozanimod data no panacea for Celgene

Celgene has suffered a torrid time in recent weeks, confirming termination of a key late-stage pipeline asset and lowering both its full year and 2020 revenue forecasts. These events sharpened focus on the readout of Phase III data for Celgene's multiple sclerosis candidate ozanimod at last weekend's ECTRIMS-ACRIMS meeting. The data, while positive, do not conclusively favour ozanimod as a long term growth opportunity.

Feedback from a prominent key opinion leader and results from our neurologist snap-poll indicates that while ozanimod is a potentially compelling therapeutic option for MS patients, patent expiry for Novartis' competing drug Gilenya in 2019 could limit utilisation. At the very least it will make Celgene think long and hard about its pricing strategy.

Learnings from Q3 earnings

Celgene's forecasting woes have been one of the key features of third-quarter earnings season, replicated to some extent at Gilead. Others include less opaque discussion about future M&A, an intensified impact from biosimilar competition in Europe and question marks over the future direction of GlaxoSmithKline – see Spotlight On: What we learnt from Q3 earnings season

Expectations build for ASH

Abstracts released ahead of next month's American Society of Haematology (ASH) meeting confirm that CAR-T data will feature prominently. Novartis will present new six month follow-up data from the JULIET trial, for Kymriah in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), having also confirmed this week that its regulatory application in this indication has been accepted by the FDA – see ViewPoints: Novartis filing, ASH abstracts bring CAR-T competition a step closer

Juno Therapeutics is also showing signs of making up ground on both Novartis and Kite (now Gilead) in DLBCL, having outlined impressive early data for its CAR-T therapy JCAR017 in another ASH abstract – see ViewPoints: Early data support Juno’s bid to play CAR-T leapfrog

Other abstracts which attracted attention include new data for bluebird bio's sickle cell disease gene therapy and BCMA-targeting CAR-T treatment bb2121 in multiple myeloma – see ViewPoints: bluebird puts on a sheen for investors ahead of vital ASH readouts and GlaxoSmithKline's BCMA antibody drug conjugate GSK2857916; clinical data for this product could play a crucial role in determining whether the company increases its investment in oncology, management has suggested.

Incyte nears a decisive moment

With impressive Q3 results serving as a backdrop, Incyte continues edging towards what should be a pivotal moment in its evolution. Phase III data for the combination of its IDO inhibitor epacadostat and Merck & Co.'s PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic melanoma is due to read out in the first half of next year and, if positive, will validate this mechanistic approach across tumour types. Incyte and Merck appear confident of their chances, based on the high bar that has been set by the design of two late-stage epacadostat/Keytruda studies in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) – see ViewPoints: Why Incyte remains the immuno-oncology upstart to watch

CEO Herve Hoppenot also called out Incyte's recent PD-1-focused deal with MacroGenics as supporting its early stage pipeline (assets it hopes to keep in house) rather than epacadostat, while AstraZeneca and Incyte will collaborate to study the combination of Imfinzi and epacadostat in Stage III NSCLC – see ViewPoints: AstraZeneca becomes a more compelling partner for Incyte

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