Biotech Stocks Day-In-Review: Amgen Rises On Speculation Over Patent Suit

by: Centient Biotech Investor
Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) moved higher after Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) said it thinks Amgen will prove that Cera infringes Amgen’s patents. Cera is a Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) drug that is challenging Amgen’s hegemony in the EPO market. Bear Stearns feels that Cera will infringe on manufacturing patents, even if it does not prove to have the same chemical configuration as EPO (a matter that is still to be decided). Once Amgen defeats the Roche challenge, Bear Stearns thinks Amgen could move over $90 per share. Amgen closed $1.60 higher at $75.85, a gain of 2%.

PharmAthene, a privately held biodefense company, will be acquired by Healthcare Acquisition Corp. (HAQ), a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company, in a deal worth $93 million. Healthcare Acquisition will have $70 million in cash at the closing, and PharmAthene shareholders will be issued 12.5 million shares of stock, which will represent 52% of the stock of the post-merger company.

Recently, PharmAthene receive a DoD contract for up to $213 million of Protexia, the company’s nerve gas treatment. If PharmAthene lands a contract for more than $150 million of anthrax treatment drug Valortim, existing PharmAthene will be eligible to receive a cash payment of 10% of the proceeds, up to $10 million.

Infinity Pharma (NASDAQ:INFI) and MedImmune (MEDI) released preliminary data from a Phase I trial of their heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) inhibitor. The drug was administered to patients with Gleevec-resistant metastatic gastrointestinal stromal tumors [GIST]. Using PET scans, the investigators determined that IPI-504 produced biological activity, reducing the tumor uptake of an imaging agent. Because there have been no side effect problems, the two companies began a higher dosing schedule. The goal of the trial is to overcome resistance to small molecule kinase inhibitors, like Gleevec from Novartis (NYSE:NVS).

(NYSE:AZN) will invest $100 million in its Boston-area facility, primarily to increase its development of infectious disease product candidates though it will also boost cancer research.

Geron (NASDAQ:GERN) exercised an option to use a proprietary cell loading technology from MaxCyte in manufacturing vaccines. Geron will use the system to help manufacture mRNA-loaded autologous dendritic cell-based vaccines, including the telomerase vaccine GRNVAC1 (see story).

Cell Genesys (CEGE) reported follow-up data from a Phase II trial of GVAX, a cancer vaccine, in patients with pancreatic cancer. Treatment with GVAX follow surgical removal of the tumor, plus radiation and chemotherapy. Median survival was 26.8 months against usually reported median survival of between 12 and 22 months. The trial was conducted among patients who were considered high risk because their cancer had spread to lymph nodes.

Roche [RHHBY] reported that XELOX, a combination of its Xeloda drug plus oxaliplatin, was just as effective as FOLFOX-4 against metastatic colorectal cancer. Roche pointed out that oral Xeloda was more convenient than infused FOLFOX-4.

Molecular Insight Pharma
[MIPI], which develops molecular imaging drugs and targeted radiotherapeutics, set its IPO terms. The company will offer 5 million shares in a $14-$16 range, implying a market cap of $400 million for Molecular Insight.

Halozyme (HTI) reported positive data from a trial that measures the utility of its Enhanze technology with large protein molecule therapeutics [LPMT]. Enhanze is an enzyme-based drug delivery platform that is used as a spreading agent, accelerating the delivery of drugs such as local anesthetics, etc. This is the first time that Enhanze has been shown to increase the bioavailability of LPMTs. Halozyme moved up 10% on the news, rising 69 cents to $7.68.

Discovery Labs (DSCO) reported that, following discussions with FDA, it has a clear picture of the path necessary to win final approval of Surfaxin. Surfaxin aims at preventing respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants. The FDA will not require additional clinical trials, but it does want additional information for the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls section of the drug filing. In April 2006, the FDA issued an approvable ruling on the drug. Discovery expects to respond to the FDA’s questions by October 2007. The FDA will take 6 months to review the response.

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) announced a 7,500 employee layoff and additional plant closings that will save the company between $1.5 billion and $2 billion annually. The European sales force will be reduced by 20% while, overall, the personnel count will shrink by 10%. These savings were over and above the $4 billion in cutbacks announced in 2005 and 2006. Earlier today, Pfizer announced $48.4 billion in revenue for 2006, a figure that will more or less hold for the next two years, according to the company. Profits were higher, though they were inflated by a one-time gain on the sale of Pfizer’s consumer healthcare business. Pfizer slipped 27 cents or 1% to $26.95.

The Centient Biotech 200™ fell 12 points to just under 4100, a loss of .12%. In relative terms, that was still a decent showing as the S&P 500 was down .53% and Nasdaq was off by .83%.

Disclosure: none.