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Bristol Myers Squibb's Latest Data Could Help the Pharma Leapfrog Rival Merck

By Brian Orelli, PhD and Keith Speights - May 3, 2021 at 7:15AM

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LAG-3 is the new PD-1.

In this video from Motley Fool Live, recorded on March 29, Fool.com contributors Brian Orelli and Keith Speights discuss how Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY -0.21%) can maximize the value of its LAG-3 inhibitor, relatlimab, now that the pharmaceutical company has shown it works with its PD-1 drug, Opdivo. On the flip side, the loser here could be Merck (MRK 1.37%), which has a PD-1 drug, Keytruda, but is currently lagging Bristol Myers Squibb in the LAG-3 arena.

Brian Orelli: I counted seven different programs in phase 2 for drugs that are targeting LAG-3: Incyte; Merck; Regeneron; Novartis, which is working with Immutep; and I think Immutep has one on their own; and there are some others.

Merck really stood out there since it has Keytruda, which competes with Opdivo. They're obviously combining [Bristol Myers Squibb's] LAG-3 with Opdivo. But Keytruda has really been taking market share, I think, from Opdivo in the PD-1 space. This really seems like the data that shows that Bristol's LAG-3 and Opdivo works well in melanoma, might give it a fighting chance to look at other indications before Merck has a chance to catch up.

Keith Speights: Yeah. I would agree. Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb are the top two players in PD-1 right now. But Keytruda, like you said, has emerged as the bigger winner in the head-to-head battle against Opdivo. But the next frontier for immunotherapies, I think, are in combination therapies, and we've already seen several combos win approval already, more likely on the way. But Bristol's lead in anti-LAG-3 could give it a pretty significant competitive advantage in the near future, and I think it's one that the company could really use. I think this could end up helping boost Opdivo's market position against Keytruda, if we see combo therapies come out.

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