Ablynx will release on Wednesday 16 November its 3Q11 business update. In the leading biotech magazine ‘BioCentury’, Ablynx’ CEO provides an indication of the potential value of the TNF-alpha asset.
We expect the 3Q11 business update to be a non-event compared to the massive, stock-moving news flow of last week. Of most interest will be the end of September cash position, which we expect to be around € 84m. 3Q11 revenues only include the R&D income and grants, which we estimate at close to € 4m, resulting in a 9M11 revenue line of around € 16.5m, or flattish yoy. 9M11 operating expenses are expected to have grown to € 50m, up 30% yoy. As a result, we expect the 9M11 loss to arrive at around € 32.5m (up 50% yoy).
Note that the numbers do not include the upfront from last week’s announced Merck-Serono deal. Given this deal, we expect the company to reiterate its FY11 financial guidance.
In today’s issue of BioCentury, Ablynx’s CEO comments on the TNF-alpha program (that was recently regained from Pfizer) that ‘if you look at the benchmarks and if the data stay as good as we think they are, … this is an asset you could license for € 30-40m upfront’. We believe this is a quite ambitious target and only achievable if the company can indeed proof that ATN-103 has strong, unique differentiators versus the currently marketed TNF-alpha drugs and versus new rheumatoid arthritis drugs currently in the development. Moreover, based on the phase II data made available, we believe that the ACR20 scores do not suggest that ATN-103, after subtracting the placebo effect, is much better than the current commercial products. We've looked up the acr20 data for some commercial products, corrected for placebo:
ANT-103 : 72%, placebo 42%; placebo corrected: 30% (at week 16)
Cimzia (UCB): 59%, placebo 14%; placebo corrected: 45% (week 24)
Enbrel (Amgen, Pfizer): 62%, placebo 23%; placebo corrected: 39% (week 24).
Humira (Abbott): 63%, placebo 30%; placebo corrected: 33% (week 24)
Moreover, the ATN-103 results are phase II data, while those of the other drugs are phase III data. Phase II data is usually higher/better than phase III. So, with this in mind, and given the suboptimal trial conditions of ATN-103, we do not believe that the phase II data made publicly available is very strong or sufficient on its own to convince new partners. However, if the data from the planned pharmacokinetics/dynamics study in volunteers (in 1H12) does show that ATN-103 could be administered once every 8 weeks, the picture looks different and a solid upfront from a new deal should be expected (though € 40m would still seem quite ambitious).