NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For the last six weeks or so, Keryx Pharmaceuticals (KERX) has been weighed down by concerns that its promising phosphate binder Zerenex suffers from weak intellectual property protection and may be ineligible for full market exclusivity. Keryx CEO Ron Bentsur has used presentation slots at various investor conferences to rebut these concerns, but the company's stock price hasn't fully recovered.
On Tuesday, Bentsur devoted a big chunk of time on Keryx's quarterly conference call to a point-by-point explanation of Zerenex's intellectual property position, which he believes is strong today, getting stronger tomorrow, and will not adversely affect the drug's commercial potential at all. Keryx shares closed Tuesday down 3% to $7.13.
Not everyone agrees with Bentsur. Listening to Tuesday's call was an institutional investor who is shorting Keryx shares because he believes Zerenex's patent protection is weak. He also believes previous FDA approvals of drugs with identical active ingredients as Zerenex will block Keryx's attempt at gaining key patent extensions or New Chemical Entity (NCE) status. Without strong patents and five-plus years of U.S. market exclusivity, Keryx won't be able to land a marketing partner for Zerenex, the Keryx short-seller says. Without a marketing partner, Keryx will be forced to sell Zerenex on its own -- a task the company will not do successfully. Keryx is very much the Amarin (AMRN) story repeating itself, this investor believes.
What follows is a virtual "debate" between Bentsur and the aforementioned investor shorting Keryx.
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