Gilead, Merck to Pitch Billion-Dollar Deal Merits to Investors

Gilead and Merck’s Billion Dollar Bets Face Tests as Ink Dries

Gilead Sciences Inc. and Merck & Co.’s big bets on emerging cancer-fighting technologies will have an opportunity to show their worth at a highly anticipated cancer conference, just days after announcing their deals.

The European Society for Medical Oncology meeting, which begins this week, will be headlined by results from Immunomedics Inc. -- which Gilead is buying for about $21 billion; and Seattle Genetics Inc., which drew more than $1 billion dollars in an investment and partnership from Merck.

The meeting will offer investors a peek into the blockbuster hopes for Immunomedics’ lead cancer drug and provide Merck holders added details on the effectiveness of a cancer drug the company has signed on to help bring it to patients.

Gilead, Merck to Pitch Billion-Dollar Deal Merits to Investors

“The intensity into ESMO has never been at such a profound level,” given the deals paired with enthusiasm that was already running hot, wrote Jared Holz, a Jefferies health-care trading desk analyst. Ahead of the conference, Holz also highlighted favorable data from Roche Holding AG which helped to validate a new class of medicines that target certain T-cell proteins, known as Tigit-inhibitors.

See also Bloomberg Intelligence’s Planner: What to Watch for at ESMO 2020

Data for Merck’s Tigit program paired with results from Roche may boost optimism for the space. However, it could spark some questions as to “whether the race will leave room for the numerous smaller companies in the class” like Compugen Ltd., ITeos Therapeutics Inc., Arcus Biosciences Inc., Mereo BioPharma Group, and Agenus Inc., SVB Leerink analyst Daina Graybosch wrote.

Another key presentation for biotech investors will be results from Bristol Myers Squibb Co. and partner Exelixis Inc.’s late-stage trial of their cancer combination in a type of kidney cancer. Truist analyst Asthika Goonewardene wrote that the data could help Exelixis “shake off its recent downward and lethargic share price move.” William Blair analyst Matt Phipps said the data could maximize the opportunity for Bristol Myers’s Opdivo and provide a new growth driver for Exelixis’s Cabometyx.

Wall Street’s most highly anticipated presentations:

Thursday, Sept. 17

  • BeiGene’s tislelizumab and chemotherapy combination as a front-line treatment for locally advanced/metastatic lung cancer
  • Merck’s Tigit-inhibitor, vibostolimab, in combination with Keytruda results in lung cancer

Friday, Sept. 18

  • Autolus Therapeutics Phase 1 “Alexander” trial data for AUTO3 in B-cell lymphoma

Saturday, Sept. 19:

  • Bristol Myers and Exelixis initial results from Phase 3 “CheckMate-9ER” trial for Opdivo plus Cabometyx in first-line kidney cancer
  • Immunomedics full data for Phase 3 “Ascent” trial of Trodelvy in previously treated metastatic triple-negative breast cancer
    • Updated results for “Trophy-U-01” trial for Trodelvy in metastatic urothelial cancer

Sunday, Sept. 20

  • Amgen updated Phase 1 data for sotorasib in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer; SVB Leerink sees a greater than 50% confirmed response rate likely viewed as the best-case for shares -- results could have read across to Mirati Therapeutics Inc. which is focused on drugs with the same technology
  • Pfizer Phase 3 “Pallas” data for Ibrance plus endocrine therapy in hormone receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative early breast cancer. Investors will look to see why the trial was disclosed as a failure in May
  • Pieris updated data from Phase 1 dose escalation study of PRS-343 in HER2-positive tumors; William Blair anticipates additional monotherapy responders and longer follow-up of previously reported patients

Monday, Sept. 21

  • Late-breaking oral presentation on Seattle Genetics and Genmab results from Phase 2 trial of tisotumab vedotin in advanced cervical cancer, following positive data in June
    • Seattle Genetics updated data from Tukysa trial HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer
  • Late-breaking Bristol Myers data from “CheckMate-649” study of Opdivo in first-line gastric and esophageal cancer
    • “CheckMate-577” study of Opdivo in esophageal cancers; William Blair writes that duration of treatment will provide insight into the commercial opportunity for Opdivo in these settings

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