Bristol-Myers Squibb Company ( BMY ) is a leading developer in Immuno-Oncology, the new wave of therapeutics aimed at displacing chemotherapeutics in cancer care with both improved efficacy (measured via survival outcomes) and safety profiles. While the class as a whole represents a success for society, the race for class dominance is heated and has proven to be difficult to predict. Coming into mid-2016, Bristol was the clear leader. The company squandered this lead in July when a widely anticipated clinical trial whose outcome was expected to read out positively, failed. While few question the drug's efficacy, statistics and poor clinical trial design submarined Bristol and allowed competitor Merck to take the pole position commercially. Given the dire need for this patient population, the FDA granted Merck a pathway to market by the first half of this year that will give Merck at least a one year commercial advantage in time to market versus its competition. As a result, we decided to exit our investment in Bristol. While Merck has become the consensus leader, we think that their combination employs the wrong science approach and that Bristol is one of two players (AstraZeneca, the other) that will have an opportunity to ultimately come out on top given its strategy of combining two immune-therapeutics. We intend to follow the situation closely while looking for a more appropriate time to potentially get back into the investment.
From Baron Funds' Fifth Avenue Growth Fund fourth quarter 2016 commentary .
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