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TheStreet Open House

Oncothyreon: A Failed Drug Autopsy Performed By A Short Seller

Stocks in this article: ONTY

We spent a lot of money but the advice given to us by these consultants was never definitive or convincing. Some of it was just wrong. In the end, the Northfield study failed. My firm's short bet was right but not because some consultant told us what to do. Instead, the Northfield study failed because its drug didn't work, which was clear from prior studies and a good understanding of its mechanism. Having a good knowledge of bio-statistics is helpful in biotech investing, but simpler analyses are often better than more complex models.

Prior clinical data is important. Don't ignore (especially when the data are bad.)

This should go without saying, but the scant phase II data supporting the decision to move Stimuvax into a much larger phase III lung cancer trial was pathetic. Oncothyreon bulls glossed over this red flag because the "phase III trial was taking longer than expected" or because "Merck KGaA knew something." Nope. Bad phase II data leads to phase III data. Investors who ignore this rule lose money.

Big Pharma doeesn't always know best.

Oncothyreon bulls believed in Stimuvax because they saw Merck KGaA's involvement as a big credibility booster. Stop thinking that way. Pharmaceutical companies are run by people like you and me, and they make mistakes. In fact, Big Pharma execs make a lot of mistakes. The average investment in R&D results in loss of capital to drug companies. The Stimuvax program is an embarrassment to Merck KGaA and was an awful idea. These things happen, people get fired, companies are restructured and life goes on. Don't be the victim of a large company's afterthoughts.

Shkreli has no position in Oncothyreon.

Martin Shkreli is the managing member of MSMB Capital, a New York-based hedge-fund and private-equity firm focused on health care. He is also president and founder of Retrophin, a biotechnology company that develops treatments for rare and severe diseases. Shkreli has spent his career in the hedge-fund industry, previously in roles with Intrepid Capital Management and Cramer Berkowitz & Co. Shkreli lives in New York City and received a BBA in finance from Baruch College.
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