The American Society of Hematology (ASH) concluded its annual conference on Thursday with a wealth of new clinical data from biotech and pharma companies being presented, resulting in large stock movements for a number of biotech names. With the emergence of gene and cell therapies, together with further development of biological drug molecules, the hematology treatment field is moving forward at a very rapid pace.
Bluebird Bio presented a triplet of good news. Most importantly was the update on the company’s CAR-T program in multiple myeloma (where it has partnered with Celgene). 17 out of 18 that had experienced relapse form numerous standard-of-care myeloma treatment responded to the treatment, and of those 10 patient had a complete response meaning no signs of existing tumors cells after treatment. The dataset is unprecedented within this severe hematological cancer. In addition Bluebird also presented promising data from two gene therapy program for the inherited red blood cell disorders sickle-cell disease and beta thalassemia, resulting in an 18% rise in market value.
After an impressive year from gene therapy specialists Spark Therapeutics with the conclusion of a Hemophilia B clinical study and nearing an approval in a hereditary eye disease, the share took a sizeable hit after the company did an update on its early-stage hemophilia A program. For the four patients presented at ASH, Factor VIII (the missing blood coagulation protein missing in these patients) levels after the one-time therapy was highly variable among the patients. Competitors Biomarin presented more mature data in the same setting – Biomarin is about one year ahead of Spark in Hemophilia A, and results were fairly consistent and slightly better than previously reported by the company. Spark fell 35% on the data on Monday whereas Biomarin moved up 7% the same day.
Glycomimetics was one of the clear winners coming out of the conference. Their leukemia candidate drug continued to show strong efficacy measures. The company had previously presented encouraging combination data with chemotherapy and their novel drug that essentially draws out cancers cells from the bone marrow to circulation where chemo eradicates the diseased cells. Impressively Glycomimetics’ previously disclosed survival readout were further improved during ASH, sending the share up 15%.
Juno Therapeutics and their CAR-T program in B-cell lymphoma looks to be competitive with both Gilead (that acquired their program through Kite Pharma, and subsequently got an FDA approval) and Novartis. In particular Juno may have a certain edge on safety compared to the other two. Agios Pharmaceuticals presented solid data with their drugs designed for leukemia patient that harbor specific mutations. Genmab and Johnson & Johnson provided further details into the Darzalex development program in multiple myeloma where the drug is already selling for over USD 1bn a year, but also with promising data in the rare blood disorder amyloidosis. In addition, Morphosys and MacroGenics, both specialized in discovery and development of novel biological drugs, also showed good progress in their programs within myeloma and leukemia respectively.
The investment strategy of Arctic Aurora LifeScience includes strong conviction into emerging therapies within the cancer and gene therapy field that were in focus during the ASH conference. This is includes names like Juno, Bluebird, Spark, Glycomimetics, Genmab, Novartis, Morphosys, MacroGenics and Biomarin.
Arctic Aurora LifeScience is an equity fund investing in global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The fund is run by former portfolio manager in the Swedish AP3 Fonder, Ulrica Bjerke, as well as Dr. Torbjørn Bjerke, both with 20 years of experience from the market. Arctic Aurora LifeScience was launched in May 2016 with both hedged and un-hedged share classes.
Past performance in Arctic Aurora LifeScience s no guarantee for future returns. Future returns depend on the market, fund manager skill, fund risk level, costs, among others. Performance in the fund may at times be negative and may for this fund vary considerably within periods.