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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Celldex, Exelixis, Geron, NPS Pharma

Celldex is conducting a phase III study of rindo in newly diagnosed brain cancer patients, but enrollment isn't expect to finish up until the end of the year and results won't be ready until 2015.

A phase II study combining rindo with Roche's (RHHBY) Avastin in patients with recurrent brain cancer is also underway.

My sense, speaking to institutional investors, is that rindo is far from the most compelling reason to own Celldex.

"PaulW56" writes:

You haven't mentioned Exelixis (EXEL) in a long time, Adam, so I wonder if you saw the news that the COMET-1 study has reached its full enrollment criteria. What is the impact of this news, if any, and do you have a thought on the drug's potential in prostate cancer? Thanks for your time.

This two-year chart of Exelixis versus the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index is atrocious but I believe it will start to get better for the company. Exelixis has been sorta forgotten by a lot of health care investors but that's about to change. EXEL Chart EXEL data by YCharts

As Paul mentioned, Exelixis announced Thursday patient enrollment in the COMET-1 study of cabozantinib in advanced, post-chemo, prostate cancer patients has completed. Importantly, Exelixis will have results from an interim analysis of the study this year, and perhaps the final analysis, too, if necessary.

This means Exelixis CEO Michael Morrissey now gets to stand up in front of investors and tell them the release of pivotal cabozantinib data is a near-term event. He'll find investors receptive to this message this fall and especially in January at the big J.P. Morgan healthcare conference.

With Exelixis shares stuck in the $5 range, the risk-reward for the COMET-1 study looks favorable.

This is not to say there is no risk in the COMET-1 study (or the COMET-2) study. I just see the bull-bear battle over whether cabozantinib works or not in prostate cancer being waged in 2014 at a higher Exelixis stock price than where it sits today. Remember, too, the drug is already approved in medullary thyroid cancer and phase II studies in prostate cancer have yielded plenty of positive data.

If you've forgotten about Exelixis in 2013 -- and who can blame you -- it's time to take another look.

It's helpful to start with the big-picture view of Geron (GERN - Get Report). Since going public in 1990, the company has racked up an accumulated deficit of more than $875 million. No drugs approved, no drugs even close to being approved. Geron's stem cell program -- gone. Cancer vaccines -- gone. Imetelstat, Geron's telomerase inhibitor, is hanging on by a thread despite multiple clinical trial failures.
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