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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Keryx, Amarin, ImmunoCellular

Updated with disclosure of investor's position in Amarin. BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The Biotech Stock Mailbag is open.

Some of you were unhappy with my ASCO coverage of Keryx Pharmaceuticals (KERX - Get Report), believing there was no point in focusing on the failed phase III study of perifosine in colon cancer since the company had already dropped the drug to focus R&D efforts on the iron-based phosphate binder Zerenex for chronic kidney disease.

SL writes, "Adam, I don't like your style, you are again dancing on graves. In oncology, negative outcome is almost as valuable as positive ones because now scientists know for sure that perifosine is not the right way to fight against this terrible disease. We should be thankful for those investors, investigators and patients who made the X-PECT trial possible."

Sim says, "Old story of perifosine -- why is it still mentioned in this latest report??? KERX had returned its rights and gave it up to Aeterna Zentaris(AEZS)."

Doug M. writes, "Nice hatchet job on Keryx. What could possibly motivate you to mention negative information from the past with a heading of "Keryx" and "Very Bad"? Oh, I wonder. How does a guy like you sleep at night and look yourself in the mirror in the morning?"

Guy says, "Man, you are an ugly [bleep]. I understand you used to be a used car salesman, I see you still operate as such. I saw your take on Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, what a pathetic [bleep] you are. Keryx will go over $2. I guess you can [bleep] as much as you like, what a pathetic way to make a living. Man, you are really ugly."

Finally, Marc S. chimes in, "Just another note to chastise you, again. Perifosine was not, from what I can tell, shown to cause patients taking it to die earlier, Yes, the numbers went against it, but I saw no data in your article suggesting the null hypothesis could be rejected. That is, perifosine, at this stage appears to do nothing. While the companies involved almost certainly deserve all the derision heaped on them, someone of your obvious talents should be a bit fairer. Anyway, I still maintain you are the best journo out there in biotech, so keep up the good work. Just perhaps be a little fairer."

Late-stage cancer drug trials fail all the time. That is undeniably true. But less common is when the drug being studied (perifosine, in this case) is found to be potentially more harmful than a control. Experimental drugs that are less effective than placebo (or an active control) are usually screened out and dropped in earlier-stage clinical studies. That perifosine made it all the way through a phase III study and placed colon cancer patients at risk for a quicker death is alarming and most certainly noteworthy.

Let's also not forget that Keryx pursued the phase III study based on an observed "survival benefit" favoring perifosine found only in a subgroup of colon cancer patients enrolled in the phase II trial. This perifosine efficacy signal turned out to be a total fiction. So, please, repeat after me:

I will not believe "positive" results derived from data-mined, failed clinical trials.

If you're an investor in Keryx who believes perifosine is the past and therefore has no bearing on the company's future, I say you're missing the big picture. The same management team that pursued perifosine's development (and should have known better) is largely the same management team also responsible for the phase III blowup of the diabetic nephropathy drug Sulonex in 2008.

This same management team is now making similar promises about Zerenex -- not exactly confidence-inspiring.

Sticking with Keryx, @Juliux tweets, "Zerenex will replace Fosrenol and their $300 mil in sales. That's a dud? That's 3x current market cap, lol." Then he adds, "I just don't understand how AF can be so bearish on Zerenex, it has massive potential, could take over Renagel."

Keryx is developing Zerenex as a treatment for treat kidney disease patients on dialysis with excess phosphate in their blood. A phase III study is under way with results expected before the end of the year. Unlike perifosine, there is a good chance that Zerenex works, based on previous studies.
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