Investors — and AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot — are getting a tad nervous as MYSTIC data loom

AstraZeneca is getting close to seeing how the dice stop rolling on its all-important MYSTIC trial, and the CEO and a whole lot of investors are clearly starting to fret over the bottom line.

Reuters is reporting this week that investors have begun to take defensive positions on the stock in the options market. And some are worried that they really won’t know what AstraZeneca’s position in the lung cancer market will be until they see all the hard data from Phase III.

What is certain, though, is that the market sees this as a major turning point for the pharma giant, which has put a spotlight on the PD-L1/CTLA-4 combo of Imfinzi (durvalumab) and tremelimumab as its shot at immuno-oncology glory. And that’s how AstraZeneca wanted it, at least at the beginning of this year. This trial, after all, represents their belief that the right combo can pole vault them into a market leading position in the field, even though it was fifth to market.

So CEO Pascal Soriot must be happy that the moment of truth is about to arrive.

Or not.

“What people miss is everything else we’ve got,” Soriot told The Financial Times earlier this month in an article that focused squarely on the much anticipated MYSTIC data, due right around … now.

“What I’m hoping is that when we’re on the other side of MYSTIC, people will start looking at the rest.”

That would be true if the trial is positive and AstraZeneca can capitalize on it, continuing its recent roll in the field and blunting Merck’s blitzkrieg in immuno-oncology with the approval of a frontline combination of Keytruda and chemo. If the study fails, though, AstraZeneca investors will unhappily recall Soriot’s insistence that the company can boost sales to $45 billion by 2023 – a claim made when Pfizer came knocking with its buyout offer.

Last year, AstraZeneca earned $23 billion, making Imfinzi and MYSTIC central to its mission to get out of the trough. The market players are looking for a big swing up or down, once they get a handle on the results.

And down – especially if it wipes out the pharma giant’s substantial gains – is not where AstraZeneca wants to be in the middle of what it’s billing as a transition year.

Image: Pascal Soriot poses for a photograph outside the Houses of Commons / Bloomberg, Getty

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