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ImmunoGen Moves One Foot Forward

By Brian Orelli, PhD - Feb 13, 2018 at 3:54PM

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One step at a time is the only way to complete the marathon of drug development.

ImmunoGen (IMGN 2.44%) continues to move its pipeline of drugs through the marathon of drug development, but at least the biotech can hear the roar of the crowd at the finish line in the distance.

ImmunoGen results: The only number that really matters 

Metric

Q4 2017

Q4 2016

Year-Over-Year Change

Cash and equivalents

$267 million

$160 million

67%

Data source: ImmunoGen.

What happened with ImmunoGen this quarter?

  • Without any revenue-generating drugs, ImmunoGen's cash situation is the most important quarterly number for investors to keep an eye on. Fortunately, with some smart moves like its deal with Jazz Pharmaceuticals and a secondary offering that raised about $102 million, ImmunoGen ended the year with more cash than it had at the end of 2016.
  • The phase 3 Forward I trial remains the most important clinical study for ImmnoGen since positive results would pave the quickest way for the company to get mirvetuximab approved and on the market. Enrollment of ovarian cancer patients is expected to be completed in the middle of this year, putting a readout in the first half of next year.
  • The Forward II trial, testing mirvetuximab in combination with other drugs, such as Merck's Keytruda and Roche's Avastin, continues to expand. ImmunoGen recently started testing a triple combination of mirvetuximab plus carboplatin and Avastin in patients with tumors sensitive to platinum-based chemotherapy.
  • The phase 1 trials of IMGN779 and IMGN632 are progressing. IMGN779 looked promising in data presented at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in December, especially since the maximum tolerated dose hadn't been reached yet.
  • ImmunoGen has decided to close its manufacturing plant and move the manufacturing to contractors, which management estimates will save the company over $20 million during the next five years.
Man in lab coat talking to a woman

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say 

With all the combination data that ImmunoGen is generating this year, the next logical step would be a costly phase 3 trial testing the combination that's performing the best, but Chief Medical Officer Anna Berkenblit quashed that idea, at least for the immediate future: "We do not expect to start another phase 3 trial this year -- that will be down the road."

Rich Gregory, ImmunoGen's chief scientific officer, talked about the company's focus shifting from deals that result in royalties to ones where ImmunoGen is more involved, which result in bigger rewards, albeit at a bigger cost:

We have, I think, modified our approach to this thinking more about collaborative co-development as opposed to simply out-licensing our technology, which is I think of limited value, and we think we can gain the most value by working with people who have, for example, great targets or great drugs that might work in the complementary way with our drugs, and that would be the way we'll be pursuing our partnership strategy going forward.

Looking forward

While investors will have to wait until 2019 for the Forward I results, there will still be plenty of results from Forward II, including mirvetuximab-plus-Keytruda data in March, with data for additional patients available in the second half of the year, as well as mirvetuximab-plus-Avastin data, which will likely be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in June. Data from the phase 1 trials for IMGN779 and IMGN632 will be presented late in the year, likely at ASH in December.

Finally, ImmunoGen plans to start the marathon with a new drug that targets ADAM9, a protein that helps hold cells together, moving it into preclinical development before the end of the year.

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