ASCO15: Amgen Was "Quiet Winner" at Cancer Conference, Says Analyst

Published: Jun 08, 2015

ASCO15: Amgen Was
June 3, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

Although PD-1/PD-L1 cancer immunotherapies may have been the name of the game at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) , one analyst is positing Wednesday that the “quiet winner” of the conference was actually Amgen ’s broad pipeline.

Joshua Schimmer, a biotech analyst with Piper Jaffray, wrote in a note to investors that his team considers Amgen to be the ASCO standout.

“While the ASCO conference was again dominated by impressive results for the PD-1/PD-L1 cancer immunotherapy antibodies, we thought AMGN emerged with an increasingly strong and competitive profile in a rapidly evolving oncology space,” wrote Schimmer.

“We increasingly believe that well-designed bispecific antibodies represent one of the most underappreciated oncology platforms, and AMGN's ability to build off the MicroMet acquisition and improve durability of the constructs gives it an attractive position in this field,” he said. “Kyprolis data was also excellent as that product appears well positioned to grow its role in the myeloma treatment paradigm. We reiterate our OW rating and $192 PT as AMGN remains a core large-cap holding.”

Schimmer said that while adoptive immunotherapy platforms such as CAR-T and TCR have “captivated” investor attention, the bispecific antibodies remain “largely below radar screens.” That’s where Amgen really shines, he said.

“AMGN has the first bispecific cancer therapy approved in Blincyto (targeting CD19) for treatment of B-cell ALL. Blincyto is a potent agent but limited by its short half-life necessitating continuous infusion, but AMGN has developed new technology to extend half-life and improve dosing convenience,” wrote Schimmer.

“The company has two new bispecific antibodies poised to enter the clinic, and believes these approaches will rival the CAR-T therapies for potency while improving on convenience and potentially safety. With both a bispecific antibody platform and an emerging CAR-T platform, the company is well positioned to compare the two approaches, and it believes both will have a role in the oncology treatment paradigm.”

Schimmer also pointed to Amgen’s “budding” immune-oncology efforts, including the evaluation of T-vec, and the development of other checkpoint inhibitors in development. The company’s drug Kyprolis is also a bright spot, said Piper Jaffray.

“The combo of Kyprolis + Rd has shown the best PFS ever in a Phase III study in RRMM, clearly besting the data for elotuzumab and setting a high bar for future competition, in our view,” he wrote. “It also bodes well for success in the frontline CLARION study which is almost fully enrolled and comparing Kyprolis versus Velcade on a background of melphalan/prednisone, albeit it with a slightly lower dose of Kyprolis. AMGN is moving to explore 1/W dosing of Kyprolis in the P3 ARROW study as well.”

Will PfizerKline Become the Next Pharma Player?
The speculation surrounding a possible bid from Pfizer Inc. for struggling GlaxoSmithKline is heating up, after one closely-watched biotech analyst said in a note last week that Pfizer buying the company would “unlock access to its balance sheet and improve its tax situation.”

Gregg Gilbert, a biotech analyst at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a note to investors “Introducing PfizerKline” that he thinks a deal would be “materially accretive” for both companies. Gilbert estimated that a bid priced at $29.86 a share, via half stock and half cash, which would push up Pfizer’s earnings per share by 10 percent to 16 percent beginning in 2016.

“We believe that the company has a sense of urgency to create value by leveraging the power of its balance sheet to do needle-moving deals,” Gilbert wrote. “Since media reports in the past have pointed to the potential for a Pfizer/GSK combination, we are revisiting that theme.”

We want to know, dear readers, if you agree? Should Glaxo continue going it alone, or might Pfizer buy it and create one of the world’s largest pharma players in history?

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