Esmo 2021 movers – a handful of biotech winners emerge
Leap and Innate were clear winners on the stock market during the medical meeting, while Astrazeneca’s strong performance stands out among the large caps.
Big developers tend to dominate the vast oncology meetings and this year’s Esmo was no exception. Astrazeneca, with a plenary spot for Enhertu and several well-received presentations on other projects, was the dominant big pharma name.
Among the smaller biotechs a couple of winners stand out, according to Evaluate Vantage’s analysis of share price moves over the period. These include Leap Therapeutics and Innate Pharma among those with actual data at the meeting; other companies including Corvus and Surface Oncology benefited from the conference’s halo effect.
In fact Corvus, which had no presence at Esmo, could arguably be considered the meeting’s biggest stock market gainer. The company tripled in value – albeit from a very low $100m base – after Astrazeneca's Coast data prompted investors to search for others with anti-CD73 assets. Surface Oncology was another bystander beneficiary.
Innate, which had an asset involved in the Astra study, was also rewarded. Astra confirmed that both its in-house combo and the one with Innate’s asset were being taken into phase 3.
This news from Astra was one of a string of positive updates from the UK-based developer, the most notable being outstanding data on Enhertu in second-line Her2 breast cancer. Partner and source of the ADC, Daiichi Sankyo, is also notable among the big cap gainers over the Esmo period.
This analysis calculates share price moves from the close before the titles of presentations and abstracts appeared on September 13, and yesterday, September 22, when the conference formally ended. It should be remembered that this encompasses a period of weakness in wider stock market indices, which all fell on concerns about Chinese bankruptcies and the possible end to quantitative easing in the US.
Leap Therapeutics was another big Esmo winner, share price percentage-wise, with the micro-cap more than doubling in value to just over $200m. That was enough to justify a $90m cash call, however, with investors buying into phase 2a data on its anti-DKK1 MAb, DKN-01.
A first-line study in patients with gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancer testing DKN-01 on top of Beigene’s anti-PD-1 MAb tislelizumab generated an ORR of 68.2%, which climbed to 90% in patients with high DKK-1 expression. Responses were independent of PD-1 expression, with ORR remaining high even in low PD-1 expressers; data was only generated in 25 patients, however.
Tiny UK developer Redx got a boost from presentation of the first clinical data of its porcupine inhibitor, RXC004, with very early signs of activity reported in seven patients with Wnt-ligand dependent tumours. A milestone payment from Jazz, announced earlier in the month on a separate project, probably also helped boost the stock over this period.
Verastem meanwhile got a boost from results from the investigator-sponsored Frame study, which tested a combination of its Raf/Mek inhibitor VS-6766 with the FAK inhibitor defactinib in low-grade serous ovarian cancer. ORR of 46% (11 of 24) improved to 64% in 11 patients with Kras mutant disease. In further good news the company unveiled a deal with Amgen to test VS-6766 in combination with the big biotech’s Kras inhibitor Lumakras in lung cancer.
Among the disappointing presentations was Syros. An abstract released ahead of the conference showed zero responses in a study of its CDK7 inhibitor, SY-5609, 37 efficacy-evaluable subjects. The results improved in a later cut that was presented, with 13 of 45 (29%) showing stable disease, but the update was not good enough for the stock to recover.
And after Beyondspring seemed to find a way forward for plinabulin back in August, full data on the vascular disrupting agent disappointed.
Silverback Therapeutics seems to be one of the biggest Esmo losers, however, losing almost half of its value over the conference period. The group’s anti-Her2 MAb/TLR8 conjugate agonist SBT6050 showing just one partial response among 14 Her2-positive solid tumours.
|Esmo 2021 - the losers|
|Company||% SP change||Evaluate Vantage coverage/details|
|Roche||-1%||Concern about competition to Her2 franchise?|
|Zymeworks||-4%||75% ORR for zanidatamab in Her2+ GEA|
|Faron Pharmaceuticals||-8%||Ph1/2 solid tumour data with bexmarilimab|
|Syros Pharmaceuticals||-13%||Low responses from CDK7 inhibitor SY-5609|
|Macrogenics||-14%||53% ORR for Margenza in Her2+ GEA; MGC018 update|
|Beyondspring Pharmaceuticals||-38%||Full plinabulin data fail to convince|
|Silverback Therapeutics||-42%||Anti-Her2 conjugate SBT6050 disappoints|
|Note: share price change calculated from Sep 12 to 22. Source: Evaluate Pharma, Esmo 2021 & company statements.|