Setbacks

Pfizer, Merck KGaA throw in the towel on another Bavencio PhIII as once bright hopes shrivel fast

Pfizer and Merck KGaA have hit the trifecta for PD-L1 failure in ovarian cancer.

The two partners said late today that they are shuttering the Phase III JAVELIN Ovarian PARP 100 study, their third straight fail in the ovarian cancer sector in recent months. The decision to close the trial, they added, was due to its earlier setbacks as well as the approval of AstraZeneca’s dominant PARP Lynparza in frontline cases.

David Hung

Researchers had hoped to find promising data for their combination of Bavencio with talazoparib, the PARP Pfizer $PFE obtained in the Medivation buyout, which had been brutally hyped by the biotech’s CEO David Hung as he sought to round up the sales price for the company. 

Researchers had hoped to make a case that the immuno-oncology drug plus chemo, followed by a maintenance round of Bavencio plus talazoparib, would prove a big help to frontline patients.

The latest setback, which follows a long lineup of failures for the partners, will only underscore the growing sense of dread about Bavencio’s future. Pfizer paid $850 million in a cash upfront for rights to this drug, which Regeneron R&D chief George Yancopoulos — who’s been pumping the future of their PD-1 rival — recently told me was the worst of a bad lot.

There’s been a lot of buzz about Bavencio in the industry, and none of it is particularly good.

Merck’s $MRK Keytruda and Bristol-Myers’ $BMY Opdivo were the first two PD-1/L1 drugs to be approved, and they are by far way ahead in market share, with billions in added revenue from each every year. As Regeneron $REGN, China-based drug makers and many others follow up with their own checkpoints in the field, and while PARPs duke it out against Lynparza, it will get tougher and tougher for new therapies to make a mark. And the industry is rife with new clinical programs around the world.


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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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