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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Exact Sciences

That's why I was happy to hear Conroy say that Exact Sciences does have plans to release additional Cologuard validation data this year. New data equal to or better than what was released last year should remind investors again that Exact Sciences is a strong and underappreciated early-cancer detection investment story.


Linda M. emails, "I'm interested in your thoughts on the long or short-term growth story of OncoGenex (OGXI)."

OncoGenex suffers from the same dearth of short-term catalysts as Exact Sciences. OncoGenex and partner Teva are running twin phase III studies of OGX-011 in prostate cancer, but neither company has offered specific guidance for when data will be ready for release. The best guess I've seen is late 2012.

New drugs to treat prostate cancer drugs are hot with investors right now (witness the attention being paid to Exelixis (EXEL), Medivation (MDVN) and, of course, Dendreon (DNDN).) OncoGenex seems to be missing the party. The stock, at $16, trades for about half its value in 2009 after the OGX-011 phase II data were released and presented.

OncoGenex CEO Scott Cormack, in an interview Wednesday, says his company's stock price suffers because he can't offer investors a near-term clinical catalyst to play. He also battles lingering misperceptions that Teva was a bad choice for an OGX-011 partnership, he says. Teva, of course, is best known as a generic drug powerhouse, not a big player in new oncology drug development.

"Teva was probably not the partner that most investors expected us to choose ... but they are a very smart group and good drug developers," said Cormack in an interview Wednesday. "We were the first deal signed by Teva after they announced plans to branch out into branded oncology drugs so the market didn't quite get it."

Most importantly, Teva has put significant financial resources behind OGX-011, Cormack adds, including paying for most of the costs of the two phase III prostate cancer studies and funding a third phase III study in lung cancer that is expected to start soon.

OncoGenex today sports a $110 million enterprise value with less than 10 million shares outstanding. That's not very expensive for a company with a late-stage cancer drug, even one that's already partnered.

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