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Biotech Stock Mailbag: ASCO

Moving on. Pablo writes, "Congrats for your superb job with the ASCO blogs. Since I'm not cool enough to know how to use Twitter, I'm sending you a very old fashioned email. Now that the ASCO conference and post sell-off craziness is over (at least I hope so because I was one of the schmucks who bought high and kept holding the bags) would you be kind enough to give your target range for some of the stocks I hold: Ziopharm Oncology, Oxigene (OXGN), Celldex Therapeutics (CLDX), Sunesis Pharmaceuticals, Aeterna Zentaris (AEZN) and Hana BioSciences (TICKER) (HNAB.OB)."

That's quite a speculative list of biotech stocks, Pablo. I hope these holdings make up a small percentage of your overall investment portfolio. Don't risk money you absolutely need in small-cap biotech stocks -- that would be my over arching advice to you.

I like Ziopharm the most from your list. I think Celldex had a fine ASCO in terms of phase II data on its brain tumor "vaccine" but the company is in a bit of dead zone while it waits for partner Pfizer (PFE) to design and start the phase III study. The rest of Celldex's drug pipeline is totally overlooked and probably deserves more credit.

Sunesis has two issues to deal with -- raising money to move its lead drug voreloxin into a phase III AML study and then getting the study started. Aeterna didn't make an impact clinically at ASCO; future value depends on the outcome of phase III studies underway for its lead drug perifosine, outlicensed to Keryx Pharmaceuticals (KERX).

Oxigene? Meh. I didn't follow Hana at ASCO.

@lomu_j tweets, "Surprisingly, Delcath hasn't raised cash and they probably need it more."

@johnwelshphd adds, "Delcath and Celldex are getting shorted at will because they did not do their shelf before ASCO and got greedy after big runs."

Both guys make good points. Delcath has less than $30 million in the bank and will raise money, either through stock sales or a partnership. [The bet is on the former, which is another reason why the stock sold off after ASCO.]

Ziopharm raised about $33 million at $5 a share right before ASCO. At the time, investors were emailing me a bit miffed and puzzled at the company's decision sell stock before ASCO. Today, the offering looks smart.

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