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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Keryx, Amarin, ImmunoCellular

When Amarin reported first quarter results last month, the company reiterated its expectation for AMR101 approval "in the second half of 2012, and commercial launch in Q1 2013."

"If Amarin was confident about AMR101 approval on July 26, why would the company say it expects approval in the second half of 2012?" my investor friend asks. Likewise, she believes that if Amarin really thought AMR101 was going to be approved on July 26, the company wouldn't be guiding to a commercial launch six to eight months later.

Good points, I must admit, but I'm still predicting full approval of AMR101 on July 26. Perhaps with a bit less confidence, however.

Don F. writes, "I have to say you really hate ImmunoGen (IMGN). What does 5% of $3 billion in sales [of T-DM1] come out to for ImmunoGen? Not bad earnings for a small biotech company, is it? And a lot of small biotech companies have to sell out to get the money to keep themselves going."

I don't hate ImmunoGen, I just believe the stock at $14-15 overvalues the company's future royalty revenues and earnings from the breast cancer drug T-DM1 and its drug pipeline, which is still relatively early stage and unproven.

Reasonable people can disagree on valuation but at some point, the numbers do matter. I was at the ASCO meeting last week where T-DM1 grabbed a ton of media attention -- and rightly so -- for the benefit offered to breast cancer patients. But the stock market looks ahead and investors have very much accounted for all that good news in ImmunoGen's market value already.

It's also unfair to accuse me of hating ImmunoGen when I've written favorably about the stock and T-DM1 since 2008. [ImmunoGen was trading around $4 at that time.] I'm happy to have championed ImmunoGen early, before most investors knew about the potential for T-DM1. Absence a fundamental change in the story, I simply believe the best chance for investors to make significant returns in ImmunoGen have passed. I'll certainly be watching to see if any such changes take place.

Brett D. asks, "Anything new regarding ImmunoCellular Therapeutics (IMUC)? Not many of us like the fact they are propping up the stock price with Seeking Alpha, but there appears to be signs of real science taking place versus a pump and dump! Any thoughts since your last comments?"

ImmunoCellular has in the past, through its investor relations firm, paid writers for positive coverage of the company. Seeking Alpha has published some of these stories. ImmunoCellular also continues to be promoted by CEOCast, a stock promotions firm with a troubled past, according to stories published by Barron's.

I understand that small-cap biotechs find it difficult to attract attention from the media and investors, but paying for favorable coverage isn't a credibility-enhancing strategy.

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