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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Amarin

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Amarin (AMRN) kicks off this week's Biotech Stock Mailbag.

Chris A. writes, "Thanks for all you do here on TheStreet. I've been reading your articles for about three and half years now and I have found you to be an excellent reporter. I have always had a passion for the markets, but I didn't think much of biotech investing until I was diagnosed with cancer a little over three years ago. Having that life-changing event got me interested in the sector, and your articles were one of the first sources I looked at to start educating myself. This morning, with the help from your reporting, my family and some of my friends scored big time with Amarin. Keep up the great work and thank you for helping us make some real money."

Thank you for the kind words and congratulations. I'm glad my earlier reporting on Amarin contributed a little to your success.

On a related note, Nancy M. emails, "What's next for Amarin? I know in the past you've discussed a possible takeover. Can you update us with your new thoughts?"

The AMR101 plus statin data from the "Anchor" phase III study released on Monday were great -- a statistically significant reduction in triglycerides at both doses versus placebo; and more importantly, AMR101 didn't raise levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol levels. In fact, the higher AMR101 high dose lowered LDL by 6.2% compared to placebo -- a stellar and statistically significant result.

Obviously, investors loved the data -- Amarin shares have almost doubled since Monday. The company is now an even sweeter acquisition target than before the Anchor results were released.

AMR101 looks very much like a blockbuster cardiovascular drug in the making, which should attract Big Pharma attention. Pfizer (PFE - Get Report), Merck (MRK), AstraZeneca (AZN - Get Report), Abbott Laboratories (ABT) all have existing cholesterol-lowering and HDL-raising drug businesses that could easily find a comfortable and profitable home for AMR101.

The timing of a potential acquisition is hard to predict. It could happen before AMR101 is approved next year for patients with very high triglyceride levels (the Marine study patient population), although I'd expect any interested acquirer will want resolution on a couple of key questions before taking the plunge. Those questions include the possibility of extended patent protection for AMR101 based on the Anchor data; and clarity on the timing of the clinical outcomes study that FDA says is necessary before AMR101 can be approved as a treatment in the much larger Anchor study population of patients with "high" triglyceride levels.

I hesitate to guess at a possible acquisition price, but I will caution that Amarin at $17 isn't a cheap stock. The fully diluted share count is around 150 million (almost all the warrants and options are in the money now), so Amarin's current enterprise value tops $2.4 billion.

This not to say that Amarin, if acquired, won't fetch a premium, but just remember that it's easy to get carried away when thinking about possible takeover prices. Clinical Data was bought by Forest Labs but at a price that disappointed some of the company's table-pounding shareholders.
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