Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG), as per usual, was one of the all-stars of ASH 2018. The megaconference on blood conditions is one of the most significant events for the healthcare sector throughout the calendar year, and CELG is usually one of the plenary presenters in the spotlight. This year was no exception, and the aspect of the company’s presentation that was likely the show-thief was on its CLL CAR-T play.

We covered Gilead’s CAR-T ALL success a few days ago. GILD had recently acquired KITE, which had developed a leading CAR-T drug. Now, GILD is starting to see strong success from that acquisition.

Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG) is actually in a very similar position, having recently acquired JUNO and absorbed its CAR-T program.

At ASH, the company presented initial data on the primary asset involved in that equation, Liso-Cel or JCAR017, which is involved in a phase 1/2 study in patients with relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL), including patients with cytogenetic features of high-risk disease, who were previously treated with ibrutinib.

CLL is the most common form of leukemia diagnosed in adults. It’s a bone marrow cancer impacting white blood cells.

The standard of care for CLL is AbbVie’s Imbruvica (which just further solidified its position as SoC with a 7-year study). For some patients, Imbruvica doesn’t work or stops working at some point and the disease remains or returns. They are called “relapsed/refractory” patients.

The JCAR017 study presented was for just that cohort of patients. So, it’s a big market because CLL is a huge market and 10-15% of it is the relapsed/refractory CLL market.

The exciting point to make here is that 81% of patients in this trial responded, and almost half of them showed a complete response.

That’s a home run for CELG for this market. It suggests an approval down the road. And that would make JCAR017 the only CAR-T in the CLL market.

So, it’s a big win on a lot of levels. As the market continues to see some soft action, it might be worth keeping CELG on the radar. The company had a huge ASH overall, and this was probably the biggest gemstone in the crown.


From the Rafters

Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG) frames itself as a biopharmaceutical company that engages in the discovery, development, and commercialization of therapies for the treatment of cancer and inflammatory diseases worldwide.

The pipeline and product menu are both extremely deep and impactful. The company offers REVLIMID, an oral immunomodulatory drug for multiple myeloma (MM), myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), and mantle cell lymphoma; POMALYST/IMNOVID to treat multiple myeloma; OTEZLA, a small-molecule inhibitor of phosphodiesterase 4 for psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis; and ABRAXANE, a solvent-free chemotherapy product to treat breast, non-small cell lung, pancreatic, and gastric cancers.

The company’s products also include IDHIFA, a small molecule inhibitor of the isocitrate dehydrogenase 2 to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML); VIDAZA, a pyrimidine nucleoside analog for intermediate-2 and high-risk MDS, chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, and AML; and THALOMID to treat patients with MM and erythema nodosum leprosum.

Its clinical stage products comprise OTEZLA for use in treating various immune-inflammatory diseases; luspatercept for the treatment of patients with beta-thalassemia and MDS; CC-486 to treat MDS, AML, and solid tumors; LSD1 inhibitor to treat non-hodgkin lymphoma and solid tumors; CC-122 and CC-220 to treat hematological and solid tumor cancers, and inflammation and immunology diseases; CC-92480 to treat multiple myeloma; and durvalumab, an anti-PD-L1 antibody for multiple hematological cancers.

The company has agreement with BeiGene, Ltd; Acceleron Pharma, Inc.; Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Sutro Biopharma, Inc.; bluebird bio, Inc.; FORMA Therapeutics Holdings, LLC; OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; NantBioScience, Inc.; AstraZeneca PLC; Lycera Corp.; Juno Therapeutics, Inc.; Nurix Inc.; Vividion Therapeutics, Inc.; Jounce Therapeutics, Inc.; Prothena Corporation plc; Zymeworks Inc.; and Evotec AG, as well as strategic collaboration with Skyhawk Therapeutics, Inc.

Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG) pulled in sales of $3.9B in its last reported quarterly financials, representing top line growth of 18.5%. In addition, the company has a strong balance sheet, with cash levels far exceeding current liabilities ($4.4B against $3.7B).

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