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At Asco 2021, Big Pharma Reigns

For several years, Asco has been primarily a huge pharma conference, and 2021 only confirmed this trend. The most extensive stories at the symposium focused on the threat of low-cost cancer medications, the expansion of PD-(L) 1 inhibition into adjuvant situations, and the confirmation of a new checkpoint mechanism — all of which were essentially big-company topics.

Nonetheless, an examination of stock movers during the Asco period indicates a gold mine for biotech investors, with PDS, a relatively obscure business, taking home the prize for the most top climber. Meanwhile, Black Diamond was the biggest loser, falling behind in becoming a fiercely competitive targeted lung cancer sector.

It’s also worth noting that specific giant pharma results had an impact on smaller groupings. Consider Immutep, a company that did issue a pretty insignificant Asco update but whose 27 percent increase is due primarily to Bristol Myers Squibb’s landmark validation of Lag3 blockage with relatlimab. This research compares share values after the market yesterday, nominally Asco last day, to the close on May 19, when most abstracts went public.

Of course, the virtual meeting technically finished last week when all presentations were made public on June 3. Other issues, such as Covid-19, the approval of the Alzheimer’s medicine Aduhelm, and concerns about pricing control, all significantly impacted biotech equities during this time. Even though PDS’s lead project, the HPV16-targeting cancer vaccine PDS0101, failed to live up to data in the abstract at the Asco presentation, the small-cap group’s stock fell on Monday.The enthusiasm for PDS’s lead project, the HPV16-targeting cancer vaccine PDS0101, is undeniable. In an NCI-led phase 2 trial combining PDS0101 with Merck KGaA’s bintrafusp alfa and M9241, 14 patients with different HPV16-positive malignancies had a 71 percent overall response rate.

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