Ash 2018 event analyzer – Losers edge out winners in year’s final major meeting

Autolus leads winners in spite of scepticism over its CAR-T, and gene therapies disappoint.

Corporate strategy

The Ash 2018 trading period was marked by broader market swings on macroeconomic worries about a US-China trade war, but a few clear biotech winners could still be detected amid the background noise. Leading the pack was Autolus, a counterintuitive choice as its Ash presentations hinted at higher-than-expected relapse rates for AUTO3 in paediatric leukaemia.

Among the bigger companies, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals stood out, moving up 5% with follicular lymphoma data for its bispecific antibody REGN1979. Outside of the haem-onc world, Bluebird Bio and Spark Therapeutics took tumbles as their gene therapies disappointed.

To measure the effect of Ash-related share movement, Vantage analysed changes from the market’s close on October 31, just before the meeting’s abstracts were released, through December 4, the final day of the conference. Companies are ranked by percentage change in share price.

The generally negative market sentiment during this period might mean that the expected bounce from positive data did not materialise for many companies, although there is no doubt that some benefited.

Going up

Autolus was the Ash champion, its shares climbing 50% over the period. This was surprising as data from its CAR-T therapy AUTO3 in B cell malignancies disappointed some observers, along with news that its manufacturing process is a month long, raising commercial questions.

Notable Ash share price risers
Company Change in share price Change in market cap ($m) Vantage story
Autolus 50% 551  
Affimed 38% 75  
Fate Therapeutics 36% 315  
argenx 36% 1,090 Argenx keeps delivering
Apellis Pharmaceuticals 30% 235  
Global Blood Therapeutics 30% 547 Ash 2018 – Global Blood hammers home sickle cell advantage
Allogene Therapeutics 27% 868  
Xencor 20% 389  
Genmab 12% 1,148  
Bellicum Pharmaceuticals 12% 17  
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals 10% 3,628  
Syros Pharmaceuticals 6% 15  

Apellis got an Ash bump on paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria data for complement C3 inhibitor APL-2. Taking on the might of Alexion Pharmaceuticals is the long-term question for this candidate, but for now investors are more than satisfied with the progress.

Affimed rose on a series of presentations for AFM13, an anti-CD30 and CD16A bispecific antibody, including a Keytruda combination in post-transplant Hodgkin lymphoma patients who had progressed following treatment with Adcetris. At the highest dose, the combination scored an 88% objective response rate.

Data from five patients with inherited metabolic disorders gave a boost to Magenta Therapeutics. Its stem cell candidate MGTA-456 successfully engrafted by day 42 in two patients with cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy and three with Hurler’s syndrome.

Regeneron’s shift toward oncology is looking more promising with data from REGN1979 in liquid tumours. In a phase I trial, this CD3 and CD20 bispecific antibody generated a 100% objective response rate in 10 patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma.

Brutal on the way down

Joining the rush into the BTK inhibitor space did not benefit Sunesis or Arqule, at least for this Ash cycle. Investors found dosing data for vecabrutinib and ARQ 531 less-than-inspiring, driving down shares for both 62% and 6% respectively.

Notable Ash share price fallers  
Company Change in share price Change in market cap ($m) Vantage story
Sunesis Pharmaceuticals -65% -33  
Agios Pharmaceuticals -14% -512  
Spark Therapeutics -13% -212 Ash 2018 – Spark’s haemophilia A hopes dim
Cellectis -13% -129 Ash 2018 – Legend’s mystery CAR raises more questions
UNUM Therapeutics -11% -24  
Jazz Pharmaceuticals -9% -868  
MacroGenics -5% -33  
ArQule -4% -18  
Blueprint Medicines -4% -103  
Acceleron Pharma -4% -84  
bluebird bio -1% 4 Ash 2018 – Bluebird faces Lentiglobin reckoning

Aside from Global Blood Therapeutics’s progress with voxelotor, the inherited blood disease sector did not fare too well either. Safety was the chief concern for Spark Therapeutics and Bluebird Bio, with the former’s haemophilia A gene therapy candidate SPK-8011 stimulating suspected capsid immune responses and the latter reporting a case of myelodysplasia in a beta thalassemia patient dosed three years ago with gene therapy Lentiglobin.

For Agios, new data from Tibsovo and the Celgene-partnered Idhifa could not overcome a US FDA warning last week about a life-threatening side effect of the latter drug called differentiation syndrome.

This is an updated version of the story.

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