Flamel Technologies Delivers the Goodies for Big Pharma

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Flamel Technologies SA (FLML) is in the business of making drugs that are already on the market work better. The company, based in France, creates biotechnology. Its two products in use right now are Medusa and Micropump -- both are controlled release mechanisms, allowing patients to take a drug fewer times a day, and without as many side effects.

Flamel makes deals with other big pharmaceutical companies to team with its technology, receiving a royalty in exchange. For a recent and exciting example, Flamel recently struck a deal with GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK) to create a controlled-release version of GlaxoSmithKline's heart-helper, the beta-blocker Coreg. The new product is called Coreg CR. Users only need to take one dose a day, which is going to draw consumers like flies to the product.

Detractors of Flamel point to the fact that while Coreg is wildly successful right now, with roughly $1.3 billion in sales in 2006, it will lose its patent protection this year. But other analysts point to this deal as establishing Flamel's strong position in the field, prompting other Big Pharma firms to take it seriously as well. Also, its technology works well, so people may not switch to the generic version of Coreg as quickly.

There is a problem inherent in the general Flamel business model, however. While the company is clearly strong in technology development, it relies on partners to get that tech into the marketplace. It simply isn't a big enough company to do it on its own. But I love what it's creating, and teaming with heavy-hitters like GlaxoSmithKline points to its ascendancy in the field.

Additionally, there are great products in the Flamel pipeline; among others, it has an insulin product in Phase II clinical trials called Basulin that awaits approval by Food and Drug Administration. For me, if the product is novel and works, the big companies will come to Flamel as partners. As royalty income grows, operating margins have a chance to fall.

Type of stock: A small player in the biotech field who teams with Big Pharma to license its innovative products.

Price target:
Currently trading at $29, I'd wait for Flamel to dip to the $25 level and then buy. This is one to hold onto for a few years as I think it's going to continue to make strides as a smart new bio-technology.

FLML 1-yr chart

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Tagged: , Drug Delivery & Accessories, France
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