With its eyes on a bigger prize, Pfizer cuts Bavencio loose

Bavencio was considered a likely target for anti-trust watchdogs reviewing Pfizer’s proposed takeover of Seagen, which helps explains the big pharma’s decision to get in front of the problem. Pfizer will exit its global partnership with Merck KGaA over the PD-L1 MAb on 30 June, handing over all future clinical work and commercialisation, and swapping a 50% profit share for a 15% royalty. Bavencio has long been an also-ran in the PD-(L)1 space and failure in first-line metastatic NSCLC a year ago cemented its reputation as a poor drug. Its biggest success is bladder cancer, from which it derives most of its sales, but Seagen’s Padcev is also approved here and is projected to hit blockbuster status next year. In 2022, Bavencio brought in $277m for Pfizer. Throw in sasanlimab, a subcutaneous PD-1 project in Pfizer’s pipeline that should make a much better combination partner for the future, and Bavencio starts to look even more like a losable cost centre. As for Merck KGaA, which counts Bavencio as it one of its biggest products, the question becomes how much more development spend is justifiable now it is picking up 100% of the bill. A look at ongoing clinical work suggests its foot is already off the accelerator.

Bavencio: in need of further work? 
Setting  Status  Ongoing work  2028e sales by indication
Bladder cancer  Approved in 1st-line maintenance and second-line/relapsed settings  Maintenance combination trial Javelin Bladder Medley ongoing  $699m
Renal cancer Approved 1st-line in combination with Inlyta  Academic-led trials only $164m 
Merkel cell carcinoma  Accelerated approval in metastatic setting US  Adjuvant Adam trial ongoing (confirmatory) $82m
Source: Evaluate Pharma


This story has corrected sasanlimab's mechanism to PD-1.   

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