ASH Conference Preview: What We’re Watching
December 3, 2020 – By Samantha Bailey
Investing is often oriented around the all-important quarterly earnings update, but the calculus is a bit different for pre-revenue, early-stage drug developers. These companies tend to rise and fall on clinical trial results, which aren’t typically released on a set schedule. This upcoming weekend isn’t typical, though, it’s when the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) — one of the most important healthcare conferences of the year for investors — takes place.
Over the course of four days spanning December 5th through December 8th, scientists across academia, industry, and academic research hospitals will gather — virtually — to share their latest research results. Although abstracts were released on November 4th, the anticipation amongst investors remains high. In the months leading up to the conference, companies often update their final ASH presentations with longer “durability” or “survival” data on patients in clinical trials, creating a degree of uncertainty.
Some companies’ data may falter under scrutiny or fail to hold up before ASH. Others will present exactly what was expected, but not enough to “move the needle.” Yet, there will always be a select few companies, whether already known by investors or flying under-the-radar, that will emerge from the conference as “winners” and garner much-deserved attention.
It’s not uncommon for industry to use this time as a “Black Friday” shopping spree to deepen their pipelines by licensing products from academia or by striking lucrative deals with smaller biotech companies. Whether looking to license products, acquire companies, emerge as a leader, or maintain the status quo, it behooves each company to put their best foot forward.
Investors are watching and stock prices will be fluctuating! It is of no wonder why ASH 2020 has scheduled in “Daily Zen” for attendees to destress and unwind.
This year’s conference has been organized into six categories highlighting the emerging modalities in research, diagnostics, and therapies for blood malignancies at the forefront of innovation:
- Precision Medicine: the use of sequencing technologies in drug development and disease management.
- Immunologic Treatments of Hematologic Malignancies: engineering the immune system to treat blood disorders.
- Genome Editing and Gene Therapy: the use of genetic medicines to correct the root cause of blood disorders.
- Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine: the understanding, manipulation, and use of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) treatments.
- Epigenetic Mechanisms: the understanding of environmental factors that affect gene expression and biomarkers that can be used to guide research and treatment.
- Venous Thromboembolic Disease: the understanding of and development of treatments for blood clots, which result in 600,000 fatalities each year in the United States and European Union alone.
There are hundreds of oral presentations scheduled for ASH — we can’t possibly preview them all! Nonetheless, 7investing Lead Advisors Simon Erickson, Manisha Samy, and Maxx Chatsko discuss why ASH matters to investors and a handful of companies and emerging areas they’ll be watching.
Publicly-traded companies mentioned in this podcast include Adaptive Biotechnologies, Beam Therapeutics, CRISPR Therapeutics, Editas Medicine, Exact Sciences, Fate Therapeutics, Gilead Sciences, Guardant Health, Illumina, Intellia Therapeutics, Microsoft, Personalis, and TG Therapeutics.
7investing’s advisors may have positions in the companies that are mentioned.
This interview was originally recorded on December 2nd, 2020 and was first published on December 3rd, 2020.
00:54 What is ASH?
03:00 Why does ASH matter to investors?
05:02 Fate Therapeutics
08:31 CRISPR Therapeutics14:28 If CTX-001 cures beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease, can other companies still improve on the results?
16:00 Beam Therapeutics
21:21 Adaptive Biotechnologies
24:24 How to differentiate among liquid biopsy companies and technology platforms?
25:49 What are some previous examples of under-the-radar companies making a splash?
28:36 What are some early-stage abstracts that Manisha is watching?
Simon Erickson 0:00
Hello, everyone, and welcome to our 7investing podcast. My name is Simon Erickson and we have a very special program tonight. It’s gonna be focused heavily on pharmaceuticals and drug development.
When it comes to the companies that are publicly traded in this space, they’re often on a different schedule than others. Because they’ll still be reporting quarterly earnings, they’ll still be recording revenues on all those quarterly conference calls, but some of the most important information for investors is the data that they present about the progress of their clinical trials.
They have a very important conference coming up next week, the American Society of Hematology, or the ASH conference for short. I am very fortunate to be joined by my fellow 7investing Lead Advisors, Manisha Samy and Maxx Chatsko. They are the resident experts in this space and we’re going to be diving in to that ASH conference. So Manisha and Maxx, are y’all ready to get started?
Manisha Samy 0:52
Let’s do this!
Maxx Chatsko 0:53
Let’s do it!
Simon Erickson 0:54
All right, Maxx, I’m gonna start with you. First, what is the ASH Conference? Can you give us a high-level view of what’s going on and why this is important out there?
Maxx Chatsko 1:02
Hematology is the study of blood. Perhaps you’ve heard about blood, it’s pretty important, right? So from basic biology in grade school, we know that red blood cells transport oxygen to all of our tissues. But red blood cells are actually one of the few cell types in your entire body that don’t contain your DNA. When things go wrong with red blood cells for certain diseases, we need to go upstream, which makes things more complicated for fixing those problems.
Of course, blood is more than just red blood cells. There’s different immune cells that are circulating to protect us against infection or disease, different cellular wastes, and one of the biggest advances ever really in hematology is the development of liquid biopsies, which are very important and popular among investors right now. That’s detecting very faint signals of circulating tumor DNA to find the presence of tumors. Hopefully we can continue to find that earlier on in the progression of cancer where it’s easier to treat.
ASH is this weekend, from December 5th to 8th. Manisha says, technically, it’s already started, so I believe her. The point is that investors should expect to hear and see a lot of press releases between now and next week with “ASH” in the title. ASH is where academic groups, startups, industry leaders, everybody in between, they get together and present their results from whether it’s basic research studies, or preclinical studies, or big clinical trials, and they’re pushing the field forward. There’s going to be a huge influx of data coming out just in the next week here, from all of these clinical trials.
This year, the conference is organized with six different categories. You can go on the website and look at all of them, but there’s a category for Regenerative Medicine, one for Genome editing and Gene therapy, and another one for Precision Medicine this year. They kind of just categorize with all the biggest trends and what’s going on.
Simon Erickson 3:00
Sounds like some pretty exciting stuff going on there, Maxx. Manisha, let me transition this to you. This is an investing show. You know, we’re doing a podcast about investing. Why is ASH so important for investors out there?
Manisha Samy 3:11
You know, Simon, I think right when you first started off, you’ve already answered that question. For most traditional companies that are publicly traded, we wait for the earnings calls, or some sort of M&A action.
Before you see any real price volatility or changes for these biopharmaceutical companies, everyone is looking at these medical conferences more than earnings calls. This is what investors should be looking at: what is the progress they’re making? Are they making any progress? Are they not? And not only that, with these medical conferences, you actually can compare different companies and look at up-and-coming companies that might even disintermediate some of the public companies. You can look at the data head-to-head, side-by-side, and not only that, because these conferences are not only for companies and clinical trial readouts, you have research from basic scientists. And by that I don’t mean they’re just basic, but they’re characterizing biological processes. How are blood cells transported? How do they interact with different enzymes?
These research scientists or large cancer hospitals, for example, they’re doing their own research, and these companies can network with them. A lot of times, especially with smaller companies, or even larger pharmaceutical companies, they’ll see data from these large cancer hospitals, and then they’ll decide “Hey, I want to exclusively license this product from them”. So you will see a lot of pipelines expanding because of this networking that’s happening. And based off of that, going into the new year, since it [ASH] is traditionally only held in December, you kind of have a glimpse into what we should be expecting more of at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, which happens to be the largest healthcare conference of the year.
Simon Erickson 5:02
Well, I’ve seen you refer to this as “The Thanksgiving Day Parade” of the biotech world and drug development. Sounds like a really big event, a lot of academic progress that then goes on to commercial opportunities from that, too.
I’d like to look at some of the companies that are on your radars, some of the things that you’re really most interested in, then there’ll be any of you watching this next week. Maxx, let’s start with you. One of the companies you said that you’d be interested in is Fate Therapeutics. What are you watching with this company?
Maxx Chatsko 5:27
Fate Therapeutics, I own shares, just to disclose that, but it’s a next-generation cell therapy developer. It’s still in the earliest stages of development, but it’s really turned some heads among investors and Wall Street.
It has an absolutely loaded pipeline: over 14 clinical trials, I’m sorry, 14 assets that are in development right now, I think eight of those are in clinical trials. It’s making 12 different presentations at ASH this year. This is a pretty early company, that’s pretty impressive. More so, the impressive thing here is that it’s taking a lot of different shots on goal for next-generation cell therapy.
For example, it’s working on improving how we manufacture cell therapies. Rather than harvesting cells from patients, and then you have to send those to a lab, and you just separate them, and then engineer them, and then grow them again and expand them again, and then put them back into patients, a lot of steps, a lot of things can go wrong, it’s very expensive. The company is working on different technologies that would improve manufacturing, like “off the shelf”. So, if you had cancer, a cell therapy might just be available for you to try rather than wait the two or three weeks for the harvesting and engineering steps to take place.
It’s also working on different types of cells. So not just T cells, which we know of CAR-T, of course, but also working with natural killer (NK) cells, which are part of the innate immune system. They have some inherent advantages over CAR-T cells: they can be dosed multiple times, they have some advantages potentially in solid tumors in addition to blood tumors or, you know, working with cancers of the immune system.
This year, though… so… I own shares, so this has worked in my favor. But the company right now is worth $5.3 billion, which is maybe… The stock market’s been going crazy this year, right? We all know that. But I just wonder how much good news has been priced in. Maybe that’s a fair valuation for a company that has 14 different assets in the pipeline, but I wonder how much better it can get. These ASH data might actually work against the company if the data aren’t what investors or analysts were expecting. And there’s a ton of competition in this space, so the bar is very high. Even good results could send a stock, one that already has a lot of good news priced in, maybe down a little bit.
Simon Erickson 7:54
So what do you think about that, Maxx, about $5.3 billion? Is it overvalued? Or is this company ready to go even higher?
Maxx Chatsko 8:02
I tend to be more conservative, I guess, with valuations. And we’ve had these conversations on Slack: this year has been terrible for me in terms of how I approach that because everything looks expensive to me. But I don’t know. I guess we’ll see with ASH, maybe it’ll change my mind. Who knows?! But I think there’s a little more risk here with the valuation. There might be less return available for people who get in at this price, but I’ve been wrong so far. Who knows?!
Simon Erickson 8:31
Makes sense and sounds like they’ve got a lot of exciting stuff that they’re going to be reporting next week. Ticker on Fate Therapeutics is “F A T E”, named appropriately on that one.
Manisha, another therapeutics company, CRISPR Therapeutics is one that’s on your radar. What are you watching for CRISPR right now?
Manisha Samy 8:44
Sure. So, I’ll also disclose that I own shares of CRISPR Therapeutics. For those of you who haven’t heard about CRISPR, it is a gene editing system, but I’m pretty sure that all of you guys have at least heard of the terminology. CRISPR Therapeutics was the last of the three publicly traded pure play CRISPR companies to IPO. That was back in 2016 and they happen to be the first CRISPR company to enter human trials. They move pretty quickly. This is based on the [foundational] patents from Emmannuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna. Both of them won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020. Very exciting. Honestly, with CRISPR gene editing, the most simple way to put it is that it’s a two part system. You have a guide RNA that looks at your genome and attaches to the right part. And then you have a nuclease, which is essentially a scissor function and cuts the DNA and corrects point mutations, or, completely deletes genes that are erroneous or cause disease, or it can take out a gene and replace it with something that is corrective for a disease.
Manisha Samy 10:00
So right now, what we’re looking at ASH; well first, going back, CRISPR Therapeutics is working on a whole slew of things in regenerative medicine, including diabetes. But sickle cell disease is their front runner, CTX001. It is addressing sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. So sickle cell is exactly what it sounds like. Your red blood cells, which should be perfectly round and flow through your blood vessels, happens to have a sickle shape.
Beta thalassemia: rather than having the circular shape, it looks like a square and some of the issues that arise from that is it just gets restricted in certain blood vessels causing pain. Oftentimes, these patients have to get blood transfusions on average 10 times a year. They’re often going into the ER. So it’s a devastating disease.
Combined, they’re about 360,000 births globally. These babies have sickle cell disease or beta thalassemia. So, it’s a huge market. That is why previous to CRISPR Therapeutics, we’ve had a number of other gene therapy companies addressing sickle cell disease. For CRISPR Therapeutics, we initially received data earlier this June on three patients: two patients were treated for transfusion dependent beta thalassemia, and one patient for sickle cell disease.
Now, in the abstract released for ASH, we’ll have data for seven patients. And what we can tell from the abstract is that of the five beta thalassemia patients, all of them have remained transfusion free since getting CTX001 and both of the sickle cell disease patients have not had something called the VOC. That is basically extreme pain that results in them going to the ER, very promising however, a lot of the data that they presented– it was pretty early on. They submitted the abstracts in August. So by the time they present their data in December, we have a good six months of data and durability analysis. So that’s very exciting. I think a lot of the good news has been priced in. it’s over a $9 billion company. So I completely commiserate right here with Maxx. In terms of upside, probably not too much. But I can see a lot of downside if it doesn’t meet investor expectations.
And then Manisha CRISPR is such a big deal. It’s something academically that’s been talked about for years. But how exciting and how big of a deal is it now actually start seeing these human trials taking place seeing some data from actually how it’s working out there?
It’s extremely exciting. And I think, you know, we’ve talked about CRISPR a lot in terms of therapeutics, but just the [number of] applications are so large. You can think about diagnostic applications, there are applications in just pure research and understanding how genes function, there are applications in creating enzymes, or industrial applications. But for therapeutics, we’re talking about curative approaches. So it’s no longer getting blood transfusions every month or every two months. It’s: here’s one time you go in for, and get a transfusion of stem cells.
So, Maxx was talking about how our red blood cells don’t have nuclei . What stem cells are–luckily–they do have a nucleus, which means we have our DNA in there. So, they take stem cells to make the edit. Stem cells then differentiate and basically populates your red blood cells, then it creates your NK cells that Maxx was talking about, your T cells, and all of the cells that make sure that you’re healthy. And this is the first piece of data that we’re getting in human patients.
We have the other two CRISPR companies also and they are in human clinical trials. We’re still waiting for data. One is going after pediatric childhood blindness. The other is for a rare liver disease and they are [adminsitering] CRISPR editing in vivo. So they’re doing the editing directly in the body.
Simon Erickson 14:26
Great look for CRIS…
Maxx Chatsko 14:28
Yeah, I want to stick with that. Let’s stick with CRISPR. So, those data from CRISPR Therapeutics look really good. I know, it’s still very early. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but let’s say that all the results hold up and this looks like a cure for beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease. Is this the end? Is this the last treatment we’ll ever need for these diseases? Or how do companies from here advance on these results? Is it making, like, bone marrow harvesting easier or like whatever… How and where do we go from here?
Manisha Samy 15:02
Yeah, there are a lot. I don’t think this is the end-all-be-all. This is just the first step. Now I think the next thing is: How do we optimize this process of manufacturing? Right now this is autologous stem cells that are being edited. Is there a way that we can make it off the shelf therapy for these patients to make it even cheaper? So actually, I did notice a number of abstracts talking about that. So that would be really interesting to learn more about. And then you do have other companies. This is the first generation of CRISPR editing. There are other editing systems that are up-and-coming. There are companies that are using variants of CRISPR to also address sickle cell disease. And I don’t know if I should just go right into it, and maybe I will.
Maxx Chatsko 15:54
I kinda, I guess I led you into your next company that you’re watching, it’s related. Why don’t you go into that?
Manisha Samy 16:00
Sure. Another company that I have invested in is Beam Therapeutics. So this company, IPO’d, I believe just this year, but it was founded in 2016. So basically, the same year that CRISPR IPO’d was the same year that base-editing was first published in an academic journal. And this year, we have Beam Therapeutics IPO and they are over a billion dollars in valuation, but they have nothing in clinical trials right now. So people are actually noticing gene editing, as the future of medicine.
What we’re expecting from ASH is more data from sickle cell disease in preclinical trials. This is animal studies: They were able to basically use base editing — and I’ll go into kind of how that’s different from CRISPR — to activate a gene that produces something called fetal hemoglobin. So, fetal hemoglobin is what babies have. It’s what you have birth, what we have is adult hemoglobin, so that binds oxygen. Fetal hemoglobin has higher binding affinity to oxygen. So basically, what scientists have figured out is if you have fetal hemoglobin, and if you still have sickle cell disease, as long as you have upwards of 20% of fetal hemoglobin in your body, you are asymptomatic and you live a normal life.
So they [Beam] said in one of their presentations: They’re seeing if with base-editing, if you tend to have fewer off target effects in RNA or DNA. Off target effects are there if you end up changing the wrong part of the genome; what you don’t want to do. And the key difference between CRISPR and base-editing is that with base-editing, you’re not cutting DNA to change it, it’s chemically induced. Now the parts are the same as CRISPR is that you still have that guide RNA that the gene sequence — it’s kind of an index code. So, it takes you to the right part of the DNA. But rather than cutting that, they have something called a deaminase, which chemically kind of changes the structure of one base pair of DNA.
Say you have in the letter “A”: So,with base pairs, we have “A, T, G C.” So rather than an “A”, you can end up having a “G” and that essentially corrects the gene that you have. You are correcting individual letters. We’re looking at that and people say that it’s more specific and potentially safer. So they’re [Beam] providing information on one hand, they can actually do what they say. And two, they said they didn’t see any off target effects. So I think once they do present that data, we’ll be able to see if the mechanisms through which they tried to identify any off target effects was sufficient enough. Either way, I think people are looking at both companies. To me, I will say, preliminarily, it looks like it works. So it’s just a matter of, you know, which one works better in which kind of environment for cancers and especially in hematologic cancers.
Maxx Chatsko 19:27
Yeah, base editing seems like a more ideal form of… well, it’s not gene editing, but a way to engineer genomes or genes. I don’t know what words to use, people get mad when you start calling it gene editing. But yeah, Beam Therapeutics stock has been crazy lately. It’s actually valued at $3.3 billion. It’s almost doubled in November. So maybe a lot of this enthusiasm for ASH has already been priced in.
Manisha Samy 19:49
And $3.3 billion for a company that is not even in human trials, I will say that’s pretty remarkable. A bit scary, I’d say.
Simon Erickson 20:04
The idea is though, Manisha, that it would be potentially safer and more precise than some of the other CRISPR gene editing technologies that are out there right now.
Yes, that is the thinking. And the way I see it, a lot of people are thinking that, either CRISPR will win, or it will be base-editing. And then there’s another type of editing called prime editing, which I won’t go into. But if I were to get super geeky and nerdy here, each has advantages and disadvantages. There’s something called a protospacer adjacent motif. So basically, there has to be a certain sequence of genetic DNA in your genome. So you can’t just edit anywhere willy-nilly. If you have to have, say, three G’s in a row or two G’s in a row before you can actually make that edit. So areas of the genome that’s amenable to CRISPR may not be amenable to base-editing, which may not be amenable to prime editing. So really, all of these technologies and editing systems, they’re complementary. So there will be multiple winners, in my opinion. And that’s how you have these companies popping up.
Simon Erickson 21:12
Well, for anyone listening to this podcast, to clarify, we are not geeking out and getting too nerdy here tonight. We’re just talking about drug development genomics, right. It’s after hours, we’re having a good time. Also, I think it hopefully is very clear that we’ve got the right advisors on the case for following the upcoming conference, a wealth of knowledge here.
Maxx, bring us home with one more company that you’re watching. This one is Adaptive Biotechnologists, a diagnostic company. What’s on your radar with this one?
Maxx Chatsko 21:34
Yeah, Adaptive Biotechnologies. Again, it’s also kind of trading at a pretty big premium. It’s over $6 billion, only has one product on the market, I think maybe $90 million in revenue in the last 12 months. So pretty, trading at a pretty high premium.
But it’s got a pretty interesting technology platform. I mentioned at the beginning, liquid biopsies, so those are where we’re trying to detect faint signals of circulating tumor DNA. So those are pieces, little strands and fragments of DNA that are shed by cancerous tumors. We can pick those up while they’re circulating in your blood and say, “Hey, wow, look, you have cancer” even though maybe we can’t see it with other tests, or you don’t have any symptoms yet.
Adaptive Biotechnologies is developing a technology platform for detecting various things, not necessarily just cancer, but evidence of disease, at earlier stages. Whether before you have symptoms, or after you have the disease and have it cleared.
It has its first product called clonoSEQ and this is used to detect and monitor something called minimal residual disease (MRD). It’s actually becoming a very important metric for various blood cancers. So if you have, let’s say, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma or some type of white blood cell cancer, and then you get treatment and it gets cleared and you’re in remission. You still have to go to your doctor and get follow up. This test, clonoSEQ, actually is a simple blood test. And we can detect whether or not you’re in the early stages of your cancer coming back. So it really helps to change the treatment paradigm and we can get patients back into treatment sooner before their cancer re-occurs. We can potentially keep them cancer free, or help them have long, healthy lives.
The company itself is not presenting at ASH, I don’t believe, but its product clonoSEQ is going to be involved in 37 different ASH presentations. You can see with Fate Therapeutics and with Adaptive Biotechnologies, Simon, I’m going with volume here at ASH, okay? I just want the people who are taking over the floor.
This is good for Adaptive Biotechnologies, it shows that the product is gaining traction, it shows that MRD is an important metric, and it also will help to build out the rest of the company’s platform. It’s looking at different diagnostics for Lyme disease, for instance, various types of cancers. It also has a drug pipeline that is still in the early stages, but that’s coming as well.
So it has three different pipelines: two of which are diagnostics, one of which are drug candidates. It’s an interesting company to watch. It’s also partnered with Microsoft, which it’s using as the backbone of its data mining and mapping technology platform. So pretty interesting.
Simon Erickson 24:24
I’ve heard that Microsoft company a time or two, Maxx. Just in general, liquid biopsies and diagnostics, it’s a competitive space, there’s a lot of awesome stuff going on in this space. Is this just a race to who can detect more biomarkers? Or is there a way to differentiate or how do you make sense of all the companies that are competing in this space right now?
Maxx Chatsko 24:42
Yeah, so we should probably talk about that in another podcast, I think. Yeah, it’s kind of like Manisha said with CRISPR, right? There’s different types of CRISPR tools, right? There’s gene editing, there’s base editing, there’s prime editing, and they all have a place in healthcare and therapeutics. Same thing here. I think investors tend to maybe see liquid biopsies, and they think they’re all the same. And that’s not at all true. Personalis does something different than Guardant Health, which is something different than Thrive Detection, which just got acquired by Exact Sciences, which does something different than… what was the company that Illumina just bought? What was that?
Simon Erickson 25:17
Manisha Samy 25:18
Maxx Chatsko 25:18
Yeah, all right. Sorry, I forgot. They all have their different advantages, disadvantages, and data. It’s just a matter of what data are you throwing into your training algorithms and what are you getting out? So, I would say it’s competitive, and it’s new. But it’s brand new. So it’s not like you have to displace existing incumbents necessarily. This market is going to grow very fast, it’s going to be a very large market. There’s going to be a lot of winners and a lot of big companies.
Simon Erickson 25:49
That’s great, Maxx. So just to recap, those four companies that we mentioned: Maxx mentioned Fate Therapeutics, ticker “F A T E”. CRISPR Therapeutics, “C R S P”. Beam Therapeutics “B E A M”, and then Adaptive Biotechnologies “A D PT”.
Maxx, you’re mentioning about a lot of new stuff being presented at ASH. One of the advantages, I think, of this conference is finding those under-the-radar companies who we just never heard of before, and they impress us with something we didn’t even know they were working on before. Can you give us kind of an example of how that can look when successful data gets presented? What’s the aftermath of that can can look like?
Maxx Chatsko 26:25
Yeah, so ASH is great. I mean, I always look forward to ASH. It’s the end of the year, always in December, and I know I’m going to pick up like 2, 3, 4 companies and add them to my watch list before the end of the year. And companies I don’t know. Like right now, I don’t know these companies and next week, they’re gonna be on my watch list. That’s pretty exciting, right?
So a couple examples just from last year. There was a company called FortySeven — I never heard of it before — it was valued at about $700 million right before ASH, so about a year ago. And then it released data on its acute myeloid leukemia (AML) drug candidate. This drug addressed a population that was completely underserved, it was almost 75% of patients that have this cancer. And they had a complete response rate, meaning they put people into remission, it was over 55%. So it just kind of came out of nowhere and was like, “yeah, we’ve really moved the needle here”.
So they present great data, they have some follow up data earlier this year in 2020. And then I think it was March, Gilead Sciences came in and took them out — bought them for $4.9 billion. That’s, what? 600% in six months or something? And nobody even heard about it until ASH last year. That’s pretty cool.
Another example, just real quick, TG Therapeutics. This company’s had some problems in the past, it’s been around for a little bit, but they announced some promising data in various types of blood cancers. They had a double combination therapy, and then a triple combination therapy, each of which had some very impressive data. Depending on how you slice the different types of lymphomas that they were looking at, they had overall response rates, and even complete response rates, of 100%. So it’s like unheard of, right? That’s like curing these types of cancers. The stock actually didn’t move at all on that data last year from ASH, which I thought was weird, but year to date, just to right now, it’s up 144%.
It’s a good example that maybe sometimes — I don’t know about this year because the stock market’s crazy — but maybe you can buy some of these stocks, if the data are good and you do your homework, and you can still enjoy a nice return even after the pop. It’s a good way to get some good companies on your watch list at the very least.
Simon Erickson 28:36
Yeah, it makes sense on why we want to pay so much attention to this conference. Manisha maybe has one final segment we can talk about. Maxx, you talked about doing your homework, a lot of the homework that you’re doing is really, really early stage research, really early in the pipeline. Are there some abstracts being presented this year that are of interest to you earlier in the pipeline?
Manisha Samy 28:53
I will start off with saying I looked through the different types of abstracts, or the therapies, and which buckets they were falling under. There are over 2,000 abstracts that are presented — and clearly I read all 2,000, right? No, I did not. But what I noticed — which was really interesting — is that you have Keytruda and Opdivo and these are huge, multi-billion dollar drugs based on checkpoint inhibitors. This year, there’s only 3%, or 4.5%, of abstracts based on checkpoint inhibitors, which tells me that new and up-and coming-companies are moving on. Checkpoint inhibitors are things of the past and there are new technologies and things to look at.
The majority of abstracts are based on antibodies, and then immunotherapies. So Maxx mentioned earlier, CAR-T therapies, so we’re past first generation, so even though Gilead and Kite-KITE is a Gilead company –they’re presenting new information, probably the same old stuff similar to their old pipeline. But what’s really interesting is that 12% of the abstracts, so the second largest cohort is still based on CARs — and not the automobile — CAR-T therapies.
Manisha Samy 30:13
And we’re seeing second generation, third generation more and more. So it’s not, you know, a patient derived source of T cells, we are seeing off the shelf T cells. We’re also seeing — actually — Maxx mentioned earlier how you can re-ducere-dose with Fate Therapeutics’ natural killer cells. There’s a lot of abstracts talking about using a combination of natural killer cells with Car-T. I think that’s very early on and re-dosing with that, I think, that’s very interesting. We don’t have any clinical trials, they may do a combo therapy. But that’s something I’m keeping an eye on. I’m really excited to see what the data shows for those.
And then overall, just looking at the regenerative medicine space, that is looking at stem cells. It’s a really an exciting area for me. I used to work with stem cells, but it hard. It’s really difficult to research our stem cells Procedurally, what are the best rich techniques or the best to ways use stem cells, and get the most out of Regenerative Medicine. And I think that’s going to be, maybe not 2020 ASH, but perhaps 2021 ASH, we’ll see more of that. So keeping an eye on that.
Simon Erickson 31:27
For me, I love that you’ve described healthcare in general as a giant puzzle. And there’s always pieces that are being fit together. It sounds like this upcoming ash conference is another opportunity for us to learn more about those technologies that are early in stages. For us to look at some of those companies are going to make a splash we’ve never heard of before and also get some updates from those that are publicly traded, and already have some drugs that are on our radar. minissha and Max, thank you both very much for your insights about the upcoming ash conference next week.
Manisha Samy 31:52
Maxx Chatsko 31:53
Simon Erickson 31:54
And we’ll continue to follow up on what our takeaways from the ASH conference are a little bit later in the month. Thank you for tuning into this episode of our 7investing podcast. We are here to empower you to invest in your future. We are 7investing.
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