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ASCO '11: YM BioSciences Attracts Wall Street

CHICAGO ( TheStreet) -- YM BioSciences (YMI) was the beneficiary of the first Wall Street scrum of ASCO 2011 Friday afternoon.

Dozens of investors and analysts jockeyed for position around a scientific poster detailing interim results from a phase I/II study of YM BioSciences' experimental myelofibrosis drug CYT387. Questions were hurled at the poster's author from the Mayo Clinic, while a few feet away, YM BioSciences' CEO Nick Glover was surrounded by still more investors and analysts.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting had just started a few hours ago, but Wall Street was already making its presence felt. The money crowd that showed up to see the YM BioSciences poster all wanted to know the same thing: Is CYT387 a real drug? And is it potentially better than Incyte's (INCY - Get Report) ruxolitinib, also being developed for myelofibrosis?

Incyte sports an enterprise value of approximately $2 billion, largely because of ruxolitinib in myelofibrosis. Incyte and its partner Novartis (NVS - Get Report) have completed two successful phase III studies of ruxolitinib and are preparing to seek regulatory approval. [New phase III data on ruxolitinib in myelofibrosis will be released at ASCO on Saturday afternoon.]

By contrast, YM BioSciences' market value is about $300 million. CYT387 is still in early stage testing and is probably two or three years behind Incyte's drug. Investors are taking a hard look at CYT387 because if the drug is real, YM BioSciences is a cheap stock in comparison to Incyte.

Myelofibrosisis is a disorder in which abnormal bone marrow stem cells produce scar tissue that replaces healthy marrow. Patients with myelofibrosis suffer from anemia and enlarged spleens. Approximately 3,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with myelofibrosis annually and about one-third of these patients develop acute myeloid leukemia or bone marrow failure.

The U.S. market potential for a new myelofibrosis drug is in the range of $300 million to $500 million, double that if the drug is also approved and used in Europe, according to analyst estimates.

The buzz for CYT387 is due to the fact that early data suggest the drug effectively treats anemia -- one of three key morbidities associated with myelofibrosis. Incyte's drug ruxolitinib doesn't improve anemia.
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