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More Biotech Lessons Learned From JPM 2012

SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) --The 2012 J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is in the books. Here's more of what I learned:

The M&A mania pushing hepatitis C drug stocks higher paid off nicely for executives at Achillion Pharmaceuticals (ACHN - Get Report) who took the opportunity to cash in stock options. Among the notable sales: Chief Financial Officer Mary Kay Fenton banked $110,000 while CEO Mike Kishbauch made $856,000.

I single out these two because Fenton told Bloomberg this week that Achillion is "not eager to go out and plant a 'for sale sign on our front lawn." Yet, selling Achillion is precisely what Kishbauch has promised investors for a long time.

Oncothyreon (ONTY) chief Bob Kirkman, speaking to Reuters, says of the ongoing Stimuvax phase III study in non-small cell lung cancer: "In some sense, the longer it takes the better it is." Or not. Just ask Cell Therapeutics (CTIC) and Novelos Therapeutics.

AMAG Pharmaceuticals (AMAG - Get Report): The current Feraheme business is flattish although the company guides to low double-digit, year-over-year sales growth and the goal of staying at cash flow breakeven. The only story that really matters with AMAG, really, is the ongoing strategic review and the possible sale of the company. Amag is getting interest on that front, according to a source familiar with the review.

Two small drug companies -- one forgotten, the other somewhat disgraced -- seek redemption in results from phase II breast cancer studies with results expected later this year. Best yet, both studies are randomized and controlled, so we'll get real data!

Celldex Therapeutics (CLDX - Get Report) fell off the investor radar map in 2011 but is hoping to re-emerge this year with a phase II study of CDX-011, a monoclonal antibody drug conjugate. Results are expected at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in June, says Celldex chief Tony Marucci. Interestingly, the linker-chemotherapy toxin component of CDX-011 was licensed from Seattle Genetics and is the same one used in its newly approved lymphoma drug Adcetris.

Geron (GERN - Get Report) took a beating late last year when it gave up on its embryonic stem cell therapy. Now, the company is focusing its drug development activities on its cancer therapeutics, many of which pre-date its stem-cell research. Geron will help its turnaround efforts a great deal if it can manage to produce a win from a phase II lung cancer study of imetelstat. Results expected in the fourth quarter.
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