ASCO's damp squib

Market watchers look to the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) as a springboard to drive the industry through the quiet summer months. Fundamental progress at this year's meeting, however, fell on deaf ears, as 28 of the 30 biotech companies reporting efficacy data traded down over the week (see "This Weeks Selling on News?).

The sour performance raises the question of what drivers could propel the industry through the summer. "If stocks perform well during ASCO, we usually have short summer doldrums. If they perform poorly, the doldrums could be more significant," said Prudential Vector Healthcare analyst Rob Toth.

Lehman banker Eric Roberts suggested that investors were disappointed with data on anti-angiogenesis compounds. "It let a little air out of the balloon," he noted. Companies presenting data on anti-angiogenesis agents at ASCO included Genentech (DNA), ImClone (IMCL), Celgene (CELG) and Pharmacia/Sugen.

Praecis (PRCS) also was among the losers, falling $3.188 (16 percent) to $16.375 after reporting data on its Abarelix Depot-M to treat prostate cancer. Partner Amgen (AMGN) lost $0.875 to $59 (see "Technology Focus, A7).

It didn't help that the general equity markets were in a funk last week. The tech-laden NASDAQ fell 5 percent; the Dow Jones Industrials slid 3 percent and the S&P 500 was off 2 percent.

To get through the summer, Roberts said the group needs positive news on multiple fronts to bring back some of the money that left the sector in March. "We need positive clinical outcomes, unusually robust earnings and we need

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