Asco 2023 movers – maintaining the momentum

Several biotech stocks maintained throughout Asco the momentum they had going into the meeting, and intrigue over Tigit continued.

Mark Verastem and Effector among the winners of Asco. The micro-caps, seemingly unlikely bets going into the meeting, were among several biotechs that largely managed to maintain the share price gains they had experienced on first disclosure of their Asco abstracts.

In another Asco where the key datasets mostly concerned big pharma, another clear winner was Immunogen, whose Mirasol late-breaker confirmed the promise the company had toplined for Elahere a month ago. But perhaps Asco 2023’s most memorable role will have been to reignite – and then at least partly extinguish – interest in the Tigit mechanism.

That interest was driven by Roche’s Morpheus-liver study, which sent up most Tigit players. Among these Compugen’s climb was maintained through the Asco weekend, and Iteos and Arcus were notable risers – the latter all the more surprising as its own Tigit dataset, the Gilead-partnered Arc-7 trial, showed a worrying deterioration at Asco.

As ever, this analysis has to be treated cautiously. It compares closing share prices on Tuesday, formally Asco’s last day, against 25 May, when all regular abstracts went live after market close. Significant fluctuations within that period are therefore not always evident, and it should also be remembered that late-breaking abstracts only went live on the morning of their presentation.

Biggest Asco 2023 risers
Company Share price chg Note
Effector Therapeutics +162% Deep and early responses lift hopes at Effector
Verastem +117% Roche castoff avutometinib positive in Ramp-201 trial
Gracell +42% Zero neurotoxicity in multiple myeloma trial of GC012F
Compugen +32% Roche sees Morpheus and takes the red pill
Cullinan +29%  
Replimune +23%  
Coherus +23%  
Arcus +15% Six months on Gilead/Arcus’s Tigit deflates
Geron +15% Commands leaves the door open for Geron
Iteos +10% Tigit lives again
Immunogen +10% Mirasol hits prompts talk of earlier ovarian use
Theseus +9%  
Prelude +9%  
Daiichi Sankyo +7% Enhertu hits with pan approach
Blueprint +7% Dizal heralds a “super-Tagrisso”
Zai Lab +5%  
Zymeworks +5% Jazz hits high note with zanidatamab data
Agios +4% Liver tox casts a pall over Servier’s Indigo readout
Note: market close 25 May to 6 Jun.

Effector and Verastem climbed early and stayed up. Interestingly, the former is championing a novel mechanism – eIF4A inhibition – while the latter is repurposing an old one, through the Raf/Mek inhibitor avutometinib; not only that, but avutometinib was picked up from Roche after being scrapped by the Swiss group.

Also notable among the risers is Daiichi Sankyo, on the back of promise for Enhertu in a broad setting of Her2-expressing cancers, and for datopotamab deruxtecan’s upcoming catalyst in second-line lung cancer. Daichi also achieved one of the biggest market cap swings over the Asco period, adding $4.7bn to its valuation.

Though several big pharma names saw similar swings these were achieved on relatively small share price movements so are not captured in this analysis. It is difficult to put a big pharma share valuation change down to Asco, but it will be noted that Johnson & Johnson gained $9.8bn; its Cartitude-4 data impressed, backing Carvykti’s filing for second-line multiple myeloma on Tuesday.

And Daiichi’s Enhertu partner, Astrazeneca, gained $5.0bn, with overall survival data from the Adaura trial wowing Asco. This was despite some criticism that many patients in the study’s control cohort were not given Tagrisso on progression even though this was an option, an issue that goes to the heart of drug access and pricing.

Going down

While Merck & Co’s market cap lost $5.8bn over the Asco period this was down largely to the company’s decision to sue the US government over the constitutionality of the proposed Inflation Reduction Act.

But another large swing, the $3.2bn of valuation haemorrhaged by Novocure, definitely was down to Asco data. Detailed results from the company’s Lunar study showed a marginal gain for its tumour-treating fields technology, raising additional questions over its relevance in an outdated treatment setting and over its cumbersome nature.

Affimed fell going into Asco and continued falling, reporting positive monotherapy data with AFM24 but discontinuing a trial being run with NK Gen Biotech. And Elevation Oncology, an early riser, sold off as four of eight responses in its SYSA1801 study remained unconfirmed even though the dataset presented was seven months old.

Biggest Asco 2023 fallers
Company Share price chg Note
Novocure -39% Novocure sinks as Lunar’s limitations become clear
Immutep -16% Regeneron nips at Bristol’s heels in Lag3
Affimed -14%  
Dizal -10% Dizal heralds a “super-Tagrisso”
Leap Therapeutics -8%  
Zentalis -7%  
PDS Biotechnology -7%  
Elevation Oncology -4% Elevation follows in Astellas’s slipstream
Autolus -4% Data from pivotal Felix trial of obe-cel
Gilead -2% Trop2 could validate Merck’s savvy deal with Kelun
Note: market close 25 May to 6 Jun.

Before Asco Jacob Plieth spoke with Brad Loncar on BiotechTV to preview the conference:

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