12:00 AM
 | 
May 21, 2001
 |  BioCentury  |  Finance

Ebb & Flow

Savvy investors rarely use significant public events - FDA panel meetings, major conferences - to buy stocks. Smart money makes its bets long before the news hits the wire. Such front running was underscored at last week's American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in San Francisco, which by many measures was well attended and newsy, but did little for the valuations of the companies presenting data.

The real price moves came in the weeks prior to the meeting, as money managers readied their portfolios for the upcoming presentations. Of the 15 companies that presented efficacy data at ASCO, 11 traded up in the month prior to the meeting, with five of the 11 moving up 20% or more (see "AS-is-CO"). The BioCentury 100 traded down 2.4% during the same period (April 13-May 11).

By comparison, of the 10 companies that traded up last week, only one - Genaera (GENR, up 50%) - rose more than 20%. And the daily moves were minimal. Eight of the 16 companies traded up on the day of their presentation (including moves on two days by Genentech (DNA), which had two different partners presenting data), seven traded down, and one was unchanged. No daily move was larger than +/-8%.

The daily moves reflected the lack of any major surprise, unlike last year's meeting where Phase II findings revealed that DNA's recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody against VEGF produced episodes of sudden and life threatening hemoptysis (expectoration of blood) in non-small cell lung cancer patients.

Anti-antiangiogenic

ASCO did serve to reinforce upbeat trends in attacking cancer through the EGF receptor and kinase pathways (see Cover Story & Technology Briefing, A5), but the meeting also showed that investors consider the jury is still out on antiangiogenic agents. EntreMed (ENMD) - the company most closely linked to the class of compounds - presented Phase I data on three angiogenesis inhibitors in several cancers (see B12). The trials were to assess safety and pharmacokinetics and showed the compounds to be well tolerated. But scuttlebutt was that investigators and investors were looking for a bit more tumor shrinkage, and ENMD lost $3.95 (21%) to $15.30 on 1.2 million shares on Monday, lost another $1 to $14.30 on Tuesday on 439,100 shares and closed Friday at $14.56, down $4.69 (24%) on the week. ENMD had no comment, but on Friday scheduled a conference call for today to "discuss the clinical significance of data" presented at ASCO.

Not peachy-keen

Although Amgen was miffed, investors last week were unmoved by a story in the prior weekend's Financial Times that pronounced AMGN's Aranesp second generation erythropoietin to be in trouble. The story - "Amgen Treatment Suffers Blow" - went on to assert that data that were to be presented at last week's American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting would deal the company a "damaging blow" because its "next generation drug had failed to show any clear advantage over its main rival" Procrit, Johnson & Johnson's first generation version of EPO.

However, AMGN's main goal for Aranesp has been to show a dosing advantage over Procrit, not necessarily a better efficacy profile. "We were disappointed in the FT's angle," said company spokesperson Michael Beckerich. "The negative headline was surprising to everyone in the oncology community."

Beckerich said the take-home message from the data presented at ASCO on Monday was that Aranesp was just as effective as Procrit, but dosed half as often. The Phase I/II data showed that once weekly and once every other week treatment with Aranesp gave similar efficacy in treating anemia associated with chemotherapy. AMGN also presented Phase III data showing that the compound reduced the incidence and volume of blood transfusion, time of hospitalization, and time to disease progression in lung cancer patients undergoing platinum-based chemotherapy; and Phase II data that it reduced the incidence of...

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