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3 Things In Biotech, April 10: Major Wins For Merck, AbbVie, And Verastem

Apr. 11, 2018 8:00 AM ETABBV, MRK, VSTM10 Comments
Zach Hartman profile picture
Zach Hartman


  • Merck poises to flip the lung cancer table.
  • AbbVie sticks a phase 3 landing.
  • Verastem is a priority with the FDA.

Note: Subscribers to Avisol Capital Partners Total Pharma Tracker got an early look at this publication. Try for free today and see what we're talking about!

Welcome to another edition of "3 Things In Biotech You Should Learn Today," a daily digest dedicated to helping you keep pace with the fast-moving world of pharmaceutical and biotechnology research.

Merck poises to flip the lung cancer table

Company: Merck (MRK)

Therapy: Pembrolizumab

Disease: Non-small cell lung cancer

News: MRK announced that the phase III KEYNOTE-042 study met its primary endpoint of overall survival. This study compared the PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab to chemotherapy as first-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer that expresses PD-L1 at a 1% cutoff. This stands in direct contrast to CheckMate-026, which failed to demonstrate an improvement in progression-free survival for nivolumab compared with chemotherapy.

Looking forward: This is a very big potential game changer. Pembrolizumab is already approved for first-line non-small cell lung cancer, but this was in a rather restricted population (those with a PD-L1 ≥50%). Disease with 1% or more PD-L1 expression likely represents the majority of patients. But now it's totally clear why one worked whereas the other didn't. Different populations? PD-L1 not being a good biomarker? Maybe pembrolizumab is actually better tha nivolumab? At this point, we really need the full data. In the meantime, MRK stands to benefit mightily with these data, which will very likely lead to approval.

Massive news for MRK, which already was building a dominant position in the space.

AbbVie sticks a phase 3 landing

Company: AbbVie (ABBV)

Therapy: Upadacitinib

Disease: Severe rheumatoid arthritis

News: ABBV announced that the phase 3 SELECT-COMPARE study has met its primary endpoints of improvement in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and clinical response for their JAK1 inhibitor upadacitinib compared with placebo. The study also met secondary

This article was written by

Zach Hartman profile picture
I am a former PhD scientist-turned-writer focused on cancer education. My writings in Seeking Alpha have been devoted to helping people identify promising investment opportunities in cancer research through commentary of recent events. Readers can learn more about other aspects of cancer research by visiting my site Invest Against Cancer.I also collaborate with Avisol Capital Partners on their Marketplace service known as the Total Pharma Tracker (TPT). Some of my work will be available to TPT subscribers either exclusively, or in advance. If you are interested, please click the link above!

Analyst’s Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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