Drug Development

Roche adjusts Avastin franchise defense plans as PhII successor fails a key study

Daniel O’Day, CEO of Roche

Daniel O’Day, CEO of Roche

Vanucizumab was supposed to be Roche’s answer to the biosimilars of Avastin that are now steadily winding their way through the clinic on a short path to regulators. But in a Phase II head-to-head between new and old, the successor drug failed to distinguish itself. And now Roche is dropping its development as a monotherapy while pushing on with combos and high hopes for its marquee checkpoint drug Tecentriq.

Daniel O’Day, the CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals, told analysts on Thursday that they decided to end the monotherapy work on vanucizumab after assessing the mid-stage flop.

We set the bar very high. We have always but by testing vanucizumab against Avastin in the first line colorectal cancer study we set the bar very high and did not achieve that bar. But we do also have vanucizumab in ongoing studies with other combinations that are enrolled now and will continue those studies to see how read-out is of those as well.

But again I remind you that our Avastin strategy as we approach biosimilars was strengthened by the significant number of immunotherapy programs and targeted therapy programs we have with and without Avastin across the seven diseases in which Avastin is approved today, including things like lung cancer that we’ve already seen some good progress with Tecentriq.

Roche has a trio of blockbuster franchise drugs facing an onslaught of knockoffs: Avastin, Herceptin and Rituxan. On the other hand, it’s also launched four new drugs in the past 12 months – Tecentriq, Cotellic, Alecensa and Venclexta – which has given analysts considerable confidence in the pharma giant’s future. And an ocrelizumab OK is likely on its way for multiple sclerosis in the near future.

Roche’s acquisition of Genentech has paid off in a major way, when it needed it most.

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