Phase: Phase III
Class: Anti-programmed death-1 ligand-1 (PD-L1) MAb
2020 sales: $967 million
Net present value: $4.7 billion
The fact that AstraZeneca ($AZN) managed to edge its way onto a list of top programs in and of itself is a notable win for the company. The U.K. company earned a spot on the worst-ever list of drug developers under CEO David Brennan, and Pascal Soriot has spent the last two years trying to clean up the mess and build a solid foundation for a turnaround. It's been a long, slow process, but he got a big assist with this checkpoint inhibitor, the last player to show up for the big game to see who gets a first shot at one of the biggest cancer markets on the horizon. To its credit, AstraZeneca has been hustling this program along, gaining attention for it at ASCO and winning some badly needed respect in the R&D field for its relatively new group of execs. AstraZeneca may still have been too late to offer a major threat to Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Roche ($RHHBY) or a resurgent Merck ($MRK), but it's bound and determined to advance this drug as quickly as possible.
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