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Peregrine Pharma: The Partner Guessing Game

TUSTIN, Calif. ( TheStreet) --Further thoughts on Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (PPHM - Get Report) following its conference call Monday discussing the bavituximab lung cancer data:

Peregrine says the bavituximab survival benefit observed in the phase II study is "similar" in patients across geographies. No details were offered, however, nor did the company say when we might see those data.

"We couldn't have conducted a more well-balanced clinical trial," company executives said.

Fine, but let's see the data. Real data, please! Let's see how lung cancer patients enrolled in India and Eastern Europe fared against those coming from the U.S.

It may have been my bavituximab skepticism shining through, but it certainly sounded to me as if Peregrine executives were lowering expectations for the survival results from the other phase II study in first-line lung cancer. We're supposed to see those survival data before the end of the year, which could go a long way to supporting or debunking Friday's bavituximab data in the second line.

Partnering discussions for bavituximab are moving forward at a "very active pace," said Peregrine. The company wants a deal in place before it meets with FDA later this year to clear the phase III study design. At the very least, Peregrine says to expect a partnership before the phase III study begins in the middle of next year.

Let's play a parlor game: Guess the bavituximab partner. AstraZeneca (AZN - Get Report) is perhaps the most likely suitor out of Europe given its desperation for new pipeline drugs.

Novartis (NVS) is a maybe, except for the bad taste left in its mouth from the Antisoma partnership that ended in failure in 2010. Antisoma's lung cancer drug was similar to Peregrine's in that they both target lung cancer blood vessels. Does Novartis want to go down this route again?

Hard to see GlaxoSmithKline (GSK - Get Report) or Roche (RHHBY) interested in bavituximab given their focus on anti-PD-1 antibodies . PD-1 is a hot cancer immunotherapy target, especially after promising data were presented at this year's ASCO conference in June.

Merck KGaA loves lung cancer immunotherapy but is already engaged to Oncothyreon (ONTY).

Closer to home, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY - Get Report) and Merck (MRK) are also working on anti-PD1 antibodies. Bristol, in fact, is moving a PD-1 drug into phase III studies, including in lung cancer. Again, why pay money to license bavituximab if you're already working on a competing cancer immunotherapy technology -- and one that has a lot more buzz.
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