Biotech Stocks Day-in-Review: BioCryst Gets Flu Drug Support

by: Centient Biotech Investor

BioCryst (NASDAQ:BCRX) received a $102.6 million contract from the Department of Health and Human Services to develop flu treatment Permavir. Under the four-year contract, BioCryst will develop the neuraminidase inhibitor as a treatment for both seasonal and life-threatening forms of the virus, including avian flu. In humans, permavir has proved to be well-tolerated, and it has also shown efficacy against the H5N1 avian flu strain in animals. BioCryst rose 8%, climbing 90 cents to $12.07.

Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) will acquire privately held Syntonix, which focuses on long-acting therapies for chronic diseases. It has multiple pre-clinical programs in hemophilia, with much of their work aimed at drug delivery. FIX:Fc is a long-acting factor IX product for hemophilia B that will reduce the number of required injections. Biogen Idec paid $40 million upfront for Syntonix, and it will pay up to an additional $80 million in milestones. Biogen Idec gained 42 cents to end at $49.75.

Wyeth (WYE) will partner with Raven biotechnologies, a privately held company that develops monoclonal antibodies to treat cancer. Although specific terms were not disclosed, the deal follows the normal upfront, milestone, royalty structure. RAV12, the most advanced drug candidate, is in clinical development for gastrointestinal and other cancers. Wyeth traded 28 cents higher to $51.69.

Wyeth also signed a deal with Pharmacopeia (PCOP) to develop its JAK3 inhibitors. The compound is expected to treat immunological conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Pharmacopeia will have the right to market any topical products that treat dermatological diseases, while Wyeth will retain the rights to all other conditions and delivery methods. Parmacopeia will receive $5 million upfront, $9 million in research funding over three years, and up to $175 million in milestones. Pharmacopeia climbed 14 cents to $4.50.

Oscient Pharma (OSCI) sold the European marketing rights for Factive, its antibiotic, to Menarini, an Italian company with over $3 billion of revenue last year. Terms were not disclosed. Oscient inched up 1 cent to $5.23.

Alkermes (NASDAQ:ALKS) will develop an inhaled formulation of an Indevus (IDEV) drug that will be aimed at chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The Indevus drug, marketed as Sanctura for overactive bladder, is trospium chloride, a muscarinic receptor antagonist that relaxes smooth muscle tissue. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Alkermes was 49 cents higher at $13.58, but Indevus slipped 17 cents lower to $6.77.

Schering-Plough (SGP) and OraSure (NASDAQ:OSUR) will collaborate on an oral test for hepatitis C virus. OraSure already has an oral test for HIV 1/2, and Schering-Plough markets drugs that treat hepatitis C. Schering-Plough was a 19 cent winner, ending at $23.72, and Osure shot 59 cents higher to $8.74.

Sunesis Pharma (NASDAQ:SNSS) will out-license its LFA-1 inhibitor program to SARcode, which will use the program to target inflammatory diseases. Sunesis abandoned the drug when it turned its focus to cancer. Sunesis received $250,000 in cash and another $250,000 as a convertible note. $31 million is available for milestones. Sunesis gained 8 cents on the news, closing at $4.70.

Vical (NASDAQ:VICL) began a pivotal Phase III trial of Allovectin-7 as a first-line therapy for metastatic melanoma. AnGes MG, which is collaborating on the drug, will provide the funding for the trial. The 375 chemotherapy-naive patients will be treated with either Allovectin-7 or one of two chemotherapies. Allovectin-7 is designed to be injected into a tumor with the goal of provoking an immune response. Vical was flat at $6.43.

Medarex (MEDX) received a milestone payment from ImClone (OTCPK:IMCL), a payment triggered when the FDA allowed a Medarex-developed monoclonal antibody to begin a Phase I trial. IMC-3G3 targets solid tumor cancer. Medarex dropped 2 cents to $14.47.

Genaera (GENR) will discontinue any further development of Evizon for wet age-related macular degeneration. The company will turn its attention to trodusquemine (MSI-1436) for obesity. Genaera, which expects to begin a Phase I test of the drug in the first half of 2007, will cut its workforce by 30%. It has also asked Banc of America to look for strategic alternatives. Genaera lost a whopping 35% of its value, dropping 14 cents to $.26.

Biotech had a very positive day. The Centient Biotech 200™ made up its loss for the entire 2006 year by shooting 1.9% higher. The CBT 200™ gained 73 points to close at 3992. Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) was up over 4% and Genentech (Private:DNA) gained almost 3%. Nasdaq was 1.25% higher, but the S&P 500 moved up only .12%.

Disclosure: Centient management holds a position in Genentech shares and does consulting work for Genentech.