Biotech Day in Review: Biotech Takes a 3% Hit

by: Centient Biotech Investor

Biotech followed the broad market lower on Tuesday, after the Shanghai stock exchange fell 9%.

In China, there were reports that the government would try to slow speculation by clamping down on lending money to buy stocks. In the States, stocks have been running up since July, and the durable goods number came in weaker than expected. Most U.S. indexes registered a decline between 3% and 4%.

Threshold (NASDAQ:THLD) lost almost 60% of its remaining value after reporting that glufosfamide did not meet its endpoint in a Phase III trial. The trial tested the drug in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who had failed an earlier round of Gemzar from Lilly (NYSE:LLY). Glufosfamide improved overall survival by 18%, which was not enough to reach statistical significance. Glufosfamide remains in a Phase II trial as a first-line therapy for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer, where glufosfamide is given as an adjunct to Gemzar. Threshold fell $2.06 to $1.53, a drop of 58%.

Par Pharma (NYSE:PRX) returned the rights for Difimicin, an investigational treatment for Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea [CDAD], to Optimer Pharma (NASDAQ:OPTR). The two began the partnership in May 2005 to develop the drug. Optimer expects to begin a Phase III trial of Difimicin next month. Optimer will pay $20 million to Par, plus Par sold $6.8 million of Optimer stock in Optimer’s IPO, which took place on February 9. Par will also be paid a $5 million milestone and royalties from the drug. Par explained its move by saying it wanted to focus its resources on bringing a drug to market this year. Optimer priced its IPO at $7, and it closed today at $9.75, after losing 25 cents. Par was off 93 cents at $23.93.

Teva (NYSE:TEVA) partnered with privately held Vaccinex to develop a pre-clinical targeted therapy for multiple sclerosis. In animal studies, VX15 suppressed the autoimmune response and blocked damage to the central nervous system. The compound has also shown anti-angiogenesis properties, but Teva will have an option to co-develop VX15 after the Phase I trials for oncology. Teva will make an equity investment in Vaccinex, make an upfront and milestone payments, and pay royalties on any marketed drugs, though the exact amounts of each were not disclosed. Teva and Pan Atlantic Bank and Trust Limited, an existing investor, are the lead participants in a third financing round for Vaccinex, which is expected to raise more than $25 million.

Teva also published data showing that Copaxone, its existing MS drug, was effective in males who have primary progressive multiple sclerosis. The data are part of a post-hoc study, as Copaxone failed to meet its endpoint in the original trial. In the trial, 61.6% of the male Copaxone patients remained progression-free against 49.1% of the placebo. Teva markets the drug in the US and co-markets Copaxone with Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) in Europe. Teva slipped 2 cents lower to $35.51.

Cytogen (CYTO) began a Phase I trial of CYT-500, its radiolabeled monoclonal antibody targeted to prostate-specific membrane antigen [PSMA]. CYT-500 combines the molecular imaging agent of Prostascint with Lutetium 177 (Lu-177), a particle emitting therapeutic radionuclide. It is designed to deliver high doses of radiation to PSMA-expressing cells. Cytogen was unchanged at $2.37.

Celera (NASDAQ:CRA) published data that identifies genetic markers of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease [LOAD], several of which have never been identified previously with LOAD.
The genes include PCK1, a gene that regulates blood glucose levels, and GALP, a gene that is modulated by insulin and regulates food intake. These genes suggest a link between AD and irregular glucose levels. Celera gave up 52 cents to end at $13.91.

Kosan (KOSN) and Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) selected a second-generation epothilone R1645 (KOS-1584) that they will put into Phase II trials against solid tumors. The partnership will end their work on a first-generation compound, R1492, to focus on its more promising successor. Kosan dropped 85 cents to end at $5.62.

Tongjitang Chinese Medicines Company [TCM] filed its initial submission for an American IPO. The company offers traditional herbal Chinese medicines to its home market in a tablet, or modernized, form. Most of its revenues, which totaled $62 million last year, came from an osteoporosis herbal drug. The company is based in Shenzhen, but the holding company is incorporated in the Cayman Islands. The company will offer 9.7 million shares in a range between $15 and $17. It expects to price the offering in the week of March 12.

The Centient Biotech 200™ lost 3.16% of its value today, falling 128 points to end at 3927. As bad as it was, the broad market was worse: the S&P 500 fell 3.46% and Nasdaq was lower by 3.86%.

Disclosure: none.