Cell Therapy

Analyst offers Amgen a boost for its rival anti-BCMA BiTE, blemishing GSK as well as CAR-T rivals Celgene and bluebird

Baird’s Brian Skorney is giving Amgen a thumbs up today for a snapshot of human data from its anti-BCMA BiTE program AMG 420, possibly causing a few headaches among its rivals in the closely watched space.

In a note out at mid-day, Skorney wrote:

Over the weekend, initial clinical data for AMG 420 were presented at the Myeloma 2018 meeting. Notably, in the high dose group there were five patients with stringent complete responses (sCR). This included four MRD-negative patients. The presentation indicated that four of the patients had responses ongoing > 10 months. We think this compares favorably to Celgene/bluebird’s CART-BCMA program, bb2121, which has a 50% CR/sCR, 36.4% VGPR and ORR of 95.5% and a median dOR of 10.8 months in 22 patients administered > 150 x 106. The antibody approach to targeting BCMA has, so far, been disappointing.

In particular, he adds, that antibody approach includes GSK’s antibody-drug conjugate — GSK2857916 — which had a 60% response rate with only 2% in the CR range. GSK has highlighted this particular program as one of its most advanced for their oncology group. Amgen notable scrapped its own anti-BCMA ADC last July after concluding that BiTE was the better route.

Brian Skorney

The supportive note backs a program that Amgen — which bought the BiTE from Boehringer in 2016 — has long felt is competitive to CAR-T, able to offer a distinct alternative to patients. 

The bb2121 program has been widely credited with the lead, and while it continues to deliver solid efficacy data that stays well within the range needed for an approval, it’s also likely still quite vulnerable to competition. 

That’s helped add attention to J&J’s work, which partnered with China’s Legend Biotechnology on their anti-BCMA after reporting stellar initial results for its program at the 2017 ASCO meeting.

So how is all this playing out on the street? 

Celgene $CELG and bluebird {BLUE} are both down slightly, 1.5% and 3%. Amgen $AMGN is up 3% and J&J is essentially flat. GSK $GSK, which has been floundering, is also down slightly.

Skorney notes that the first snapshot is still largely under the radar with the focus shifting to more mature data at ASH. 

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Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
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