BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The Biotech Stock Mailbag went AWOL last week. My apologies. I'm back and kicking off this week's Mailbag with an email from EK Watt on Immunomedics (IMMU - Get Report) and its experimental lupus drug.
EK asks, "Can Immunomedics be the competitive killer in lupus to Human Genome Sciences' (HGSI) Benlysta?"
Human Genome's Benlysta has about a three-year head start on Immunomedics' epratuzumab (e-mab, for short), so EK's question is difficult to answer. Data from a phase II study of e-mab in lupus patients will be presented at a European rheumatology conference on June 19. The Belgian drug firm UCB is running the e-mab lupus program under a license from Immunomedics.
The research abstract for the e-mab phase II lupus study was made available online Wednesday night. Lupus patients treated with 2,400 mg of e-mab reported a 43% response rate compared with a 21% response rate for patients treated with placebo. Response was measured after 12 weeks of treatment. E-mab doses of 200 mg, 800 mg and 3,600 mg also were studied.Here are two views of the data contained in the abstract, first from a health care fund manager who is long Immunomedics. (His firm's compliance rules bar him from speaking publicly.) "The data look pretty good and interesting with three caveats -- the highest dose was dead negative, did nothing, not even a trend. Also, the statistics are post-hoc (UCB never had a statistical analysis plan since this study was dose-ranging). The original press release