JP Morgan 2017 – What they said


Celgene could not claim the plaudits of over-delivering with the first presentation of JPM17 but struck a confident tone as they increased their 2017 profit and revenue guidance in line with consensus forecasts. With an eye on continued growth, CEO Mark Alles noted the momentum currently enjoyed by Celgene's flagship drug Revlimid; four years ago the company had expected sales to reach $7 billion by 2017, a benchmark which was achieved last year.

Customary for Celgene, management was both able to lean on the sizeable catalogue of collaborations which support its R&D pipeline and suggest that longer term forecasts to 2020 are upgradable on the basis of clinical data read outs later this year, notably ozanimod for multiple sclerosis. If these data are positive, Celgene will file an NDA by year end, added Alles, suggesting that if the product is competitive enough MS is a disease where Celgene believes it can build a franchise. Earlier stage pipeline assets such as CAR-T products being developed in collaboration with Juno and bluebird bio are "aspirational," said Alles in reference to potential use in solid tumours. "It's critical we follow the science with our business development," stressed the CEO.  


Vertex had already set a cautious tone for 2017 before the start of JPM17 by announcing lower than anticipated full-year revenue guidance for its cystic fibrosis treatment Orkambi. Speaking at the conference on Monday, management reiterated that the top end of guidance – sales of approximately $1.3 billion for Orkambi in 2017 – would be achievable if reimbursement in a number of European markets is secured in a timely manner. Reiteration that US Orkambi sales are likely to be "flattish," this year further emphasise the importance of pipeline readouts in the second half of 2017 which hold the potnetial to expand labelling for Vertex's suite of products to a broader CF population. 


Only the most optimistic of investors were hoping that Gilead would provide tangible hints regarding future M&A activity; as it was, the company chose to skirt around the issue of business development altogether during its presentation, focusing instead on its growth potential in HIV and the commercial opportunity presented by non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This came as something of a surprise, suggested analysts at Barclays, who expected Gilead to present a "more proactive," stance towards M&A at the very least. That said, the tone loosened during a subsequent Q&A session where management noted that the hiring of new oncology head Alessandro Riva will enhance the company's ability to identify suitable M&A targets. Any major cancer acquisition woudl require integration of an asset the company can "build around," said CEO John Milligan, adding "we have a stubborn streak when it comes to the science not just the numbers."


CEO Len Schleifer caused a stir in December when he accused competitors of relying too heavily on drug price increases to drive revenue growth. His tone remained consistent during Regeneron's presentation slot where he called out a raft of recent price increases by Allergan for falling fractionally below the10 percent limit set by CEO Brent Saunders' 'social contract'. Schleifer also rounded on Amgen for implementing (a currently successful) bid to remove Regeneron and Sanofi's PCSK9 inhibitor Praluent from the market; "is that putting patients first," questioned the CEO.


New CEO, new approval – Michael Vounatsos told investors at JPM17 that Spinraza, Biogen's recently green-lighted treatment for spinal muscular dystrophy (SMA) should be viewed as indicative of a development model the company will use moving forward. While pressures on its multiple sclerosis portfolio persist, Vounatsos played up Biogen's pipeline credentials and potential position of leadership in Alzheimer's disease if adacanumab delivers positive data.

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