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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Discovery Labs

I asked Chrisian Itin, Micromet's CEO, about any changes to the company's relationship with AstraZeneca during a call Thursday morning. He wouldn't answer the question, stating only that as of now, the arrangement with AstraZeneca remains as it was.

It's hard to say what this all means. If blinatumomab were a great drug in the making, why did AstraZeneca relinquish North American rights last March?

Perhaps AstraZeneca's pipeline priorities changed and it could no longer devote resources to the drug. That's entirely possible, but then why would AstraZeneca also decide to accept just $6 million to further give up an option to reacquire the rights to the drug if it did turn out to be a big moneymaker sometime in the future?

If Micromet does buy out AstraZeneca completely, the company will own unencumbered worldwide rights to blinatumomab, which is being developed right now in two hematologic cancer indications. The company also has other drugs in earlier stages of development, some partnerned with other companies, and a platform to generate new antibodies.

Perhaps Wednesday night's money raise and the complete divorce from AstraZeneca is a precursor to a newer and more lucrative partnership or even an acquisition. Or, perhaps not.

A correction and further comment: When I filmed this week's video on Biocryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX), I inadvertently described the company's flu drug as a vaccine. Peramivir is an antiviral used to treat patients infected with the flu virus; it is not a vaccine used to protect people from getting infected in the first place.

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