3 Things In Biotech, June 16: Do You Know Anything About EHA?

Includes: ABBV, APTO, BMY, MRK
by: Zach Hartman

Bristol-Myers continues to be underrated as it scores a first PD-1 approval in China.

AbbVie lays its myeloma chips on the table.

Aptose presents compelling preclinical data on an unusual combo drug.

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! What else do you get from me with a subscription?

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

Bristol-Myers continues to be underrated as it scores a first PD-1 approval in China

Company: Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY)

Therapy: Nivolumab

Disease: Advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

News: BMY announced that the Chinese National Drug Administration has approved nivolumab for the treatment of relapsed, advanced NSCLC, making it the first and (currently) only PD-1 inhibitor to be approved in China. The approval was based in part on the results from CheckMate-078, which enrolled Chinese patients almost exclusively and showed a 32% improvement in the risk of death compared with chemotherapy in previously treated disease.

Looking forward: So much for BMY getting challenged in China. By getting in first, the company has a prime opportunity to capture a market that could meet or even dwarf what we see in America. And the best part for BMY? No Merck (MRK) in sight for at least the next several months. The company has a chance to replicate its early success and dominance in a growth market, which should pay dividends for it in the coming years.

AbbVie lays its myeloma chips on the table

Company: AbbVie (ABBV)

Therapy: Venetoclax

Disease: Multiple myeloma

News: ABBV presented findings from an ongoing phase 2 study involving the addition of the Bcl-2 inhibitor to carfilzomib and dexamethasone for patients with relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma. The dataset only included 17 subjects who were evaluable for efficacy, but 8 of these patients achieved a response of some kind, with another 4 awaiting data. If confirmed in a larger study, this response rate might compare favorably with those seen in the ENDEAVOR study of carfilzomib-dexamethasone.

Looking forward: This analysis is a good look at the early efficacy potential of this combination. It was well tolerated, as well, which, combined with the efficacy data, suggests that this is a combo worth intensifying study into. As it stands, carfilzomib-dexamethasone is a standard treatment option for patients in the early lines of relapse. If ABBV can add to the benefit of this combination, it will have a major market to break into outside of CLL treatment.

Aptose presents compelling preclinical data on an unusual combo drug

Company: Aptose Biosciences (APTO)

Therapy: CG-806

Disease: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)

News: APTO presented a poster at EHA detailing the preclinical data supporting development of its small molecule inhibitor of both Flt3 and Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK). Kinase profiling revealed activity against a bevy of very interesting targets, including Flt3, BTK, and Trk. The agent demonstrated comparable binding against both wildtype and C481S-mutated BTK, a notable challenge for patients receiving ibrutinib for CLL.

Looking forward: Obviously, these findings are incredibly early stage, but they're worth highlighting because of the sheer potential of the drug if and when it goes to the clinic. Potentially, this is a drug with legs in both CLL and AML. I wouldn't buy today based on this news, but hot dog if I don't get a little excited by the multipotent targeting that we might see with this drug.

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