Pfizer bulls go in search of hidden gems

As the company prepares to host its first investor day in over a decade the focus falls on underappreciated in-house assets.

Trial Results

With Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, publicly eschewing big acquisitions analysts’ attention has turned to identifying in-house assets to which the world’s biggest pharma company can turn as it nears its next wave of big patent expiries.

Pfizer’s March 31 investor day – its first for over a decade – will hopefully provide some answers. In the meantime, some on the sellside have already moved to uncover hidden pipeline gems, which according to EvaluatePharma have limited sellside forecasts attached at present; presumably this situation will change after the end of this month.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Pfizer’s battle plan is the absence of immuno-oncology. True, there are important cancer readouts coming up, but these concern the small-molecule drugs Ibrance and Braftovi/Mektovi. Instead, it is the immunology pipeline, and in particular the small-molecule Jak pathway, that takes centre stage.

Jak of all trades?

Mizuho analysts recently highlighted upcoming readouts that could validate four such assets: the Jak1 inhibitor abrocitinib, the anti-Jak1/Tyk brepocitinib, PF-06651600 (Jak3/TEC inhibitor) and PF-06826647 (Tyk2).

Remarkably, only the first of these has significant revenue forecasts attached, with the sellside expecting it to generate some $446m in 2024. The big readout here is the atopic dermatitis Jade Compare trial, pitting the project against Regeneron’s Dupixent, and analysts will seek more guidance on topline data timing.

Further key questions will be whether the Pfizer drug will, unlike other Jaks, avoid being lumbered with a boxed warning, and whether it will be tested head to head against more recently launched products like Abbvie’s Rinvoq. Mizuho reckons peak sales could exceed $1bn.

Brepocitinib, until recently the only other of these hidden prospects with consensus forecasts, should yield proof-of–concept data in psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. PF-06651600, meanwhile, has a 2020 readout in vitiligo, but Mizuho analysts seem more focused on a phase II/III alopecia trial, though it is not clear when data are due.

Finally, PF-06826647 should yield results this year from a mid-stage psoriasis study. A key consideration is what benefit in terms of Pasi-90 response could be needed for this to compete against the likes of Skyrizi and Cosentyx; as these are injectable MAbs an oral agent like PF-06826647 could conceivably still be competitive even if it is less efficacious.

The Tyk2 class has seen increased interest since Bristol-Myers Squibb’s vote of confidence in BMS-986165, which will yield two crucial pivotal psoriasis readouts this year, and analysts are keen to see how Pfizer can differentiate itself. Galapagos’s phase I Jak1/Tyk2 inhibitor, GLPG3121, was recently discontinued owing to an undesirable pharmacokinetic profile.

Due an upgrade? Four possible Pfizer hidden gems
Project Key 2020 readout(s) 2024e sales ($m)* Peak sales ($m)**
Abrocitiniib Jade Compare (dermatitis) 423 1,040
Brepocitinib Psoriatic arthritis
Atopic dermatitis
18 NA
PF-06651600  Allegro-2b/3 (alopecia areata) 112 230
PF-06826647  Psoriasis NA 230
*EvaluatePharma sellside consensus; **Mizuho analysts.

This focus on small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors does not necessarily mean that Pfizer is shying away from novel technologies, and indeed its factor IX gene therapy PF-06838435 is in a key phase III study.

But the group’s big oncology movers, Ibrance and the Braftovi-Mektovi combo, are small molecules. The former’s Penelope-B trial in Her2-positive breast cancer after neoadjuvant chemo and surgery, and the latter’s Anchor-CRC study in first-line colorectal cancer, are 2020 tests of these assets’ blockbuster label expansions.

Questions on data timing, internal expectations and any interim data analyses will, along with the immunology portfolio, no doubt take up much of the upcoming investor day.

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