AstraZeneca, GSK reiterate 2020 outlook; Shanghai biotech I-Mab is looking for a US partner — report
→ The coronavirus pandemic may have thrown off the predictability of what the rest of 2020 will bring for most industries, and indeed many drugmakers, but British biopharma AstraZeneca stuck by the full-year guidance it laid out in February and reported first-quarter performance buoyed by the impact of global stockpiling. As expected, the company’s oral drug sales were more resilient to Covid-19 disruptions.
Product sales came in 7% ahead of analyst expectations, driven by Covid-19 related stocking, longer prescriptions, and improved patient adherence — these gains should largely be offset in the coming quarters. “I don’t know if I should call it anxiety, but people are willing now to build safety stock, it may take more time to reverse itself,” chief Pascal Soriot said in a post-earnings conference call. “When the inventory effect reverses itself, net-net we should expect a domino effect on sales because there is a decrease in the number of patients visiting physicians.”
Meanwhile, some encouraging earlier-than-expected trial data from its lung cancer trial on its blockbuster drug Tagrisso and kidney disease data on its SGLT2 drug Farxiga should help balance that shortfall, Soriot suggested.
Drug sales in China grew by 14% to $1.4 billion in the quarter, accounting for more than a fifth of AstraZeneca’s product revenue. Although some critics in Western democracies are calling for China to be censured for its role in the outbreak, Soriot indicated that China will remain a key player in the globalized world now and in the future.
“There have been some political tensions that we can all see, but it’s been also very energizing to see the medical community come together and share knowledge … today, everybody says all we have to be able to do everything in our own country. It’s not going to be possible, I think … everybody will realize the world is made of collaboration,” he said. “I see China as an integral part of the future … I see the future world as an interconnected one.”
→ Fellow drugmaker GSK also stood by its 2020 outlook, as it reported its first-quarter revenue that beat expectations by 4%, according to New Street Research analyst Naresh Chouhan: “Guidance unchanged but will look to adjust guidance if needed depending on the extent of the COVID impact. Seems that Vaccines and in particular, Shingrix are key to GSK making guidance. Q220 will also look poor.”
→ Now that Shanghai-based I-Mab has a foothold on the Nasdaq, it’s seeking a US partner to jointly develop and commercialize an anti-CD47 antibody in a deal that could be valued at $2 billion, Bloomberg reported. Several large drugmakers are negotiating with the biotech over the drug, sources told the news service, which blocks the “don’t eat me” signal that some cancer cells use to evade immune attack. After raising $104 million in an IPO, I-Mab has been building a clinical team in Maryland and setting up a translational medicine group stateside.