Okay, what were the chances that ImClone (IMCL) would get bought and Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN) would come out with its interim test results on the same morning? Slim to none, I'd say. But that's exactly what the news gods had in store for two of the hottest names in biotech.
In what became a poorly kept secret, Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) announced that it is going to pay 70 bucks a share for ImClone in all cash money. Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter did a "First on CNBC" interview on "Squawk Box" yesterday morning. You can watch it here. Meantime, IMCL Chairman Carl Icahn took a told-you-so victory lap in this press release. But Miller Tabak healthcare analyst Les Funtleyder told clients in a research note yesterday morning that he's not sure the fight over ImClone is finished yet. "Until we get clarity on who wins IMCL and at what price it is difficult to quantify valuation," he wrote.
About an hour-and-a-half, later Dendreon put out the long-awaited press release with the interim results of the key study of its prostate cancer drug Provenge. The company essentially says the trend towards extending the lives of men with the disease looks promising, but at the midpoint it hasn't quite yet met the pre-specified (by the FDA) threshold for potential approval.
So, patients and investors will now have to wait until the middle of next year for the final test results. I wonder if they might be available in time for the prestigious American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting which takes place the end of May. Not surprisingly, DNDN shares were halted for trading yesterday morning. When they reopened they hit a new low and a new high. How's that for volatility?
David Miller who writes the investment newsletter Biotech Stock Research and who's been following this story for years says the data might have convinced naysayers that Provenge might actually work. Remember, there's also a huge short interest in DNDN, so that could be fueling the move up as well. If the results had been more positive Miller predicted the stock would have surged again to $17-$22. He's a believer in Provenge, but in a recent interview he cautioned investors about Dendreon, the stock. "This is not a stock, as is no biotech stock, but particularly Dendreon, that you should have a significant portion of your retirement savings invested in. It's just too darn volatile." Apparently a couple of people on his staff, though, have a stomach for it and are owners of DNDN shares.
Lilly and Dendreon held their conference calls at the same time. I chose to listen to DNDN's call. CEO Dr. Mitchell Gold repeatedly said, "We're encouraged by the results we've seen, so far, and the final analysis, by design, has a higher probability of success." The Dendreon saga continues. The ImClone drama may have finally come to an end.