Brad Loncar's ASCO18 preview: Past ASCOs point to the top drugs that will soon elbow for the Oscars of cancer R&D
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To prepare for the future, it helps to look back on what has happened in the past. ASCO is a great benchmark for doing that. Drug development does not happen overnight. A pattern of real progress emerges if you view things in the context of two “ASCOs” ago, or five, or ten. I always try to approach it from this macro perspective as I prepare for the conference because it helps set the stage for how today’s new developments might fit in.
Consider the following:
With that past history in mind, here are things I am watching for at ASCO 2018 to build on the success. Note: these are things I’m personally interested in and this is definitely not an exhaustive list for the entire conference.
Loxo is looking like it might be the star of ASCO two years in a row. Has such a small biotech company ever done that before? Has any company period? Welcome to 2018, where most of the innovation in drug development is coming from the mid and small cap range of our sector. As far as RET goes, this is clearly an excellent target. The only question at this point is whether $LOXO or $BPMC is going to come out on top.
Atlas Venture’s Mike Gladstone had the call of the year last December when he predicted 2018 would be the Year of the Cytokine. We have since seen Bristol pay Nektar $1.85 billion upfront to own essentially 1/3 of its CD122 agonist and then last month Lilly came from out of nowhere to acquire Armo for $1.6 billion. The biology behind cytokines brings a familiarity and comfort factor given the decades it has been researched. Will today’s new approaches to harnessing them be the first major breakthrough in the IO combo race? Already this year $3B+ has been bet on it.
There is a ton riding on the Nektar data at ASCO. Bristol is both in need of positive news after being routed by Merck in 1L NSCLC at AACR and also must justify the cash they threw at Nektar to partner on this. Early data at SITC looked stellar, but it was just that….early data. How will the response rates hold up with more patients on drug and in more types of cancers? The abstract release caused some nervous butterflies and so we will have to look to the full ASCO presentation for more comfort. Nektar is hosting a hugely important analyst meeting on Saturday afternoon that is not to be missed.
Thanks a lot for your interest. These have been some of the things I am watching and I hope it helps. Best of luck to all the companies, researchers, physicians, and patients who will no doubt make 2018 another great ASCO.
Image: 2017 annual meeting. ASCO