CAR-T, Market

Celgene shares sink after another PhIII lymphoma flop and J&J steps up for the late-stage BCMA race

Celgene shares were hit hard over the last 24 hours as shareholders reacted to a double dose of bad news: A late-stage Revlimid combo study in follicular lymphoma just failed and its BCMA-targeting CAR-T partnered with bluebird $BLUE now finds itself in a development race with pharma powerhouse J&J.

And they aren’t ahead.

Brian Skorney

In a Phase III pitting a combination of its franchise drug Revlimid with Rituxan against Rituxan and chemo, Celgene’s drug failed to make a significant difference for patients. Following a failure for Revlimid in the most common form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma back in the summer of 2016, it’s not hard to see why analysts are writing off its hopes for lymphoma.

Notes Baird’s Brian Skorney:

Failure to achieve a meaningful benefit in the two largest lymphoma indications likely means there will be no role for Revlimid in a rapidly changing treatment landscape.

Celgene’s shares $CELG are down about 5% in pre-market trading, and J&J’s deal with Legend to partner on a leading BCMA-targeting CAR-T hasn’t helped.

When Legend popped up out of nowhere last summer at ASCO, a number of analysts covering the industry pooh-poohed the idea that an unknown biotech could overtake bluebird and Celgene in the BCMA race. Now that J&J $JNJ agreed to pay $350 million upfront to partner on the drug, those same analysts are doing a double take today, considering J&J’s global resources and ability to assess the drug’s potential.

For Skorney, it all adds up to another reason why Celgene, which has been a disappointment on the numbers side, should buy a company. Say, for example, bluebird.

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Biotech Investment Analyst
SV Health Investors Boston, MA
Director, Program Management
Contrafect Corporation New York, NY
Director, Translational Sciences
Cadent Therapeutics Cambridge, MA

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