We break down five of the week's most important news stories.
For further analysis, listen to the latest episode of The FirstTake podcast here .
OX40 comes to the fore as a new target in atopic dermatitis
More wind in EQRx's sails
- CStone Pharmaceuticals and partner EQRx announced that a Phase III study of the PD-L1 inhibitor sugemalimab as consolidation therapy in patients with locally advanced/unresectable stage III NSCLC, without disease progression after concurrent or sequential chemo-radiotherapy, met its primary endpoint of progression-free survival (PFS).
- Sugemalimab is the first PD-(L)1 antibody to demonstrate a PFS benefit in this setting (AstraZeneca's Tagrisso is approved for use after concurrent chemotherapy).
- This is a notable win for a non-Big Pharma developed immunotherapy (although Pfizer has recognised sugemalimab's credentials by in-licensing marketing rights in mainland China ) and EQRx, which has promised to bring price competition to key drug classes .
- The annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) begins today (June 4).
- The use of immunotherapies and targeted cancer agents to treat earlier-stage disease (moving upstream from approved use in metastatic cancers) will be a key theme at this year's meeting.
- Notable study results that could reshape treatment practice include those for Roche's PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq in adjuvant NSCLC, Merck & Co.'s PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda in adjuvant renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and AstraZeneca and Merck's PARP inhibitor Lynparza in adjuvant BRCA-mutation breast cancer.
See ASCO 2021 FirstImpact Results – Survey suggests Tecentriq primed for adjuvant lung cancer use
- Also noteworthy will be presentation of data from Bristol Myers Squibb's RELATIVITY-047, the abstract of which was released last month. These data suggest that the novel drug relatlimab could become the first approved LAG-3 inhibitor – a third validated checkpoint inhibitor target.
See ASCO 2021 FirstImpact Results – LAG-3 success should see BMS dominate metastatic melanoma market
MorphoSys makes a move
- The German biotech company MorphoSys agreed to acquire Constellation Pharmaceuticals for $1.7 billion , it was announced this week.
- The purchase will be funded by a separate agreement with Royalty Pharma, which will make an upfront payment to MorphoSys worth more than $1.4 billion in return for future royalties on drugs discovered by the German biotech, including Johnson & Johnson's Tremfya.
- Constellation previously collaborated with Roche's Genentech division to develop cancer therapies, but the latter passed on an opportunity to acquire the company in 2015.
- MorphoSys investors will need some time to digest the deal, which not only raises question marks about the company's ability to develop new assets in-house, but the rationale of selling off a sizable revenue stream to fund its correction course.