Biotech Stocks Day-In-Review: Amgen Drags Biotech Lower

by: Centient Biotech Investor
Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) put a considerable damper on biotech with its 4.5% loss in Thursday’s session. Wednesday, the company reported improved revenues and earnings, though profits were below street expectations. Also, Amgen released negative clinical news about its anemia drug Aranesp and a new cancer drug Vectibix (see story). Amgen dropped $3.35 to $71.50.

According to a story in Forbes, Genentech (Private:DNA) will turn its research attention from cancer to immunology, hoping to come up with drugs for arthritis, multiple sclerosis and asthma. Present treatments for rheumatoid arthritis still leave patients with pain, and Genentech would like to discover a more powerful therapy.

The good news (for drug companies) about immunological drugs is that patients take them over long periods of time. But that means they face a more difficult approval process, and it also means that Genentech can not charge as much as it can for drugs that treat a life-or-death illness. Genentech joined Amgen on the downside, dropping 1%. It was off 89 cents at $86.57.

Oscient Pharma (OSCI) completed enrollment in a post-approval trial of Factive, its fluoroquinolone antibiotic. Following approval in late 2004, Oscient enrolled 7,500 patients in the study, 5,000 of whom were prescribed Factive for community-acquired pneumonia. The trial was completed one year ahead of schedule. Oscient will file a report with the FDA before the end of 2007.

Crucell (NASDAQ:CRXL) reported that its West Nile vaccine passed a Phase I trial. The vaccine, along with an alum adjuvant, was given to 47 healthy subjects. It uses Crucell’s PER.C6 manufacturing technology.

GenVec (NASDAQ:GNVC) dosed its first patient in a Phase I/II trial of TNFerade for head and neck cancer. The drug is being given as a second-line treatment to patients with unresectable, recurrent tumors and as a first-line treatment to elderly or frail patients. TNFerade is injected directly into tumors. It is an adenovector that contains the gene for tumor necrosis factor-alpha, an immune system protein. GenVec gained 6%, moving up 18 cents to $3.06.

BioVeris (BIOV-OLD) has an exclusive license from Baxter Healthcare (NYSE:BAX) for a vaccine that prevents meningitis, sepsis and pneumonia. The technology will be incorporated into existing vaccines, reducing the number of injections given to children. Financial details were not disclosed.

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) will appeal a decision by a Canadian court that refused to block a generic version of Lipitor, made by Ranbaxy. The patent, which expires in 2010, covers the calcium salt of atorvastatin, which is the active ingredient of Lipitor.

Enzon Pharma (NASDAQ:ENZN) received approval of its Investigational New Drug application for a new cancer drug. Enzon will begin a Phase I clinical trial of its HIF-1 alpha (hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha) antagonist in the first half of 2007. Enzon in-licensed the drug from Santarus (NASDAQ:SNTS) in July 2007.

Biotech was lower throughout the session, thanks largely to the decline in the price of shares of Amgen. The Centient Biotech 200™ fell 42 points to 4023, a loss of 1.06%. Broad market indexes were only slightly changed. The S&P 500 was off .12%, but Nasdaq moved .05% higher.

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

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