By Mark Terry
The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is a yearly opportunity for the biopharma industry to make major announcements and let analysts, investors and the media pick the brains of top execs. This year was no different. Here’s a look at what four of the top big biopharma companies were sharing at the meeting.
1. Bristol-Myers Squibb
Investors were hoping that Bristol-Myers Squibb would discuss a clinical trial of Opdivo with its older drug Yervoy in newly diagnosed lung cancer patients. But the company didn’t offer any. Max Nisen, writing for Bloomberg, noted, “The focus on lung cancer is natural. It’s the biggest market available to this group of medicines. And it has special significance for Bristol—the company got an early FDA approval in previously treated patients that was broader than rival Merck & Co.’s. That sped Opdivo to an early sales lead in this highly lucrative class of drugs.”
Instead, Bristol-Myers spent time discussing kidney cancer. The combo regimen of Opdivo and Yervoy gave kidney cancer patients a longer survival time, and the FDA is likely to approve it for that indication in the coming months. If so, the company expects another $1 billion in sales from Opdivo. Trial results are also expected in liver and gastric cancer, which are both $1 billion shots on goal.
Zacks notes, “The company said that business development remains an important priority with the focus being on deals that make sense from a financial perspective and where the assets and technologies are strategically aligned to its priorities and are potentially transformational.”
Last weekend, Pfizer indicated it was abandoning research and development into new neuroscience development, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. As a result, it’s cutting 300 jobs, primarily in Cambridge and Andover, Massachusetts and in Groton, Connecticut. It plans to continue working on tanezumab, a late-stage pain drug, and on Lyrica for fibromyalgia. It also plans to continue working on developing neurological drugs for rare diseases.
Within its immuno-oncology portfolio, the focus is mostly on combinations of Bavencio with other drugs. In the first half of this year, Pfizer expects to release the date on Bavencio as a second-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and expects to submit regulatory applications for Xtandi for non-metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and for talazoparib for breast cancer.
Zacks writes, “The second half of the year will see the company presenting Phase III data on rivipansel (sickle cell) and tanezumab (pain). The company also has a couple of PDUFA dates in 2018—Xeljanz for ulcerative colitis (its first indication outside rheumatology) and lorlatinib (second-line non-small cell lung cancer).”
Merck is looking to expand its portfolio through licensing deals and bolt-on acquisitions. Zacks writes, “While Merck will provide its 2018 outlook in February, the company said that headwinds remain in the form of competitive pressure for drugs like Zostavax and Zepatier while Zetia and Vytorin will still feel the impact of generic competition.”
Meanwhile, Keytruda is expected to continue to grow sales because it is being evaluated in several clinical trials for both label expansion and combo treatments. Its oncology portfolio and pipeline is strong and expected to provide plenty of opportunities for long-term growth.
Celgene is acquiring Impact Biomedicines for $1.1 billion upfront and up to $1.25 billion in contingent payments based on various milestones for myelofibrosis. Impact is developing fedratinib for myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera.
Celgene also released preliminary results and a 2018 outlook at the healthcare conference. It expects to release data this year in Revlimid + Rituxan for relapsed and/or refractory follicular lymphoma and on Otezla for scalp psoriasis. It also plans to submit a supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) to the FDA for Revlimid in combination with bortezomib and dexamethasone (RVd) in newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, as well as an NDA for fedratinib in myelofibrosis and an sNDA for Otezla in Behcet’s disease. The FDA will also make a decision this year on ozanimod for relapsing multiple sclerosis and a once-daily formulation of Otezla.