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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Exelixis, Protalix, Arena

Adam's mistakes: The Vivus Qnexa decision wrong (he predicted approval) and Discovery Labs' (DSCO) Surfaxin. He guessed rejection but the drug was approved. You can find Adam on Twitter at @crusadernz.

Finally, a tie for third place between Patrick Crutcher and Joseph Lee. Both gents compiled a 12-3 record. Patrick is a statistics PhD candidate at UCLA and co-founder of Chimera Research Group, a subscription-based biotech investing web site. He's on Twitter at @chasingthealpha.

Joseph is also a graduate student but in San Francisco and the founder of FDATracker.com, a web site focused on analyzing FDA drug approval decisions. [Hence, his strong showing in the contest.] Joseph's Twitter handle: @fda_tracker.

Congrats to all the winners and a big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the contest. I'll definitely organize another one soon.

Oh, if you're wondering how I performed in my own contest, well, I'm proud to say I finished with an 11-4 record, tied with several others for fourth place.

Dave B. asks, "How much value should we place in Protalix's (PLX) pipeline? Seems like these rare treatments are the new moneymakers. Gaucher first, then others next? Is this a solid long-term buy?"

The business of developing new therapies for orphan (rare) diseases is exploding, agreed. These drugs treat relatively small numbers of patients but do so at super-premium prices with no reimbursement risk. But if you're interested in investing in orphan disease stocks, look at Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) and BioMarin (BMRN), perhaps Synageva Biopharma (GEVA), before Protalix.

Protalix is the me-too orphan drug company. By that I mean Protalix's pipeline is filled with drugs that are late to the market. Elelyso, approved this week for Gaucher disease, faces competition from currently marketed therapies Sanofi's Cerezyme and Shire's Vpriv.

The next drug in Protalix's pipeline is PRX-102, a therapy for Fabry disease but again, Sanofi (SNY) already sells Fabrazyme and Shire (SHHPGY) sells Replagal for the same disease. PRX-102 is still in preclinical development, meaning it's years from the market, if ever.

Protalix is also developing a bio-defense drug and a biosimilar version of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel. The former might be interesting although bio-defense drugs only have fickle, budget-constrained governments as customers; the latter will almost certainly run headfirst into generic competition and growing market share for the emerging class of rheumatoid arthritis pills.

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