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Five Worst, Pandering Drug Stocks of J.P. Morgan Healthcare Confab Week

By: Adam Feuerstein | 01/17/14 - 03:52 PM EST

Stocks in this article: AGENMNOVCYTRCTICSNSS

Every biotech and drug company uses the Monday morning kick-off of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference to announce some type of corporate update or announcement. It doesn't really matter if the news is relevant or not, what's important is the stock-promoting publicity that comes from having a press release "attached" to the JPM confab.

Even better is when a company can glom onto a hot biotech trend!

Here are five absolute worst PR panders committed by drug companies this week:

Agenus (AGEN)

Agenus Announces Phase 2 Checkpoint Inhibitor Combination Trial with Prophage Cancer Vaccine for Melanoma

Oh man, kudos to the Agenus employee/stock tout who managed to get "checkpoint inhibitor" into the press release headline.

The lead 'graph is just as manipulative...er... I mean great...

Agenus Inc., a biotechnology company developing novel immune system activating treatments for cancers and infectious diseases, today announced initiation of a randomized Phase 2 trial with Prophage for melanoma, and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Yervoy (ipilimumab) for the treatment of Stage III and IV metastatic melanoma. The combination has the potential to trigger a more effective immune response against the tumor than Yervoy alone.

Wow! Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) -- the hot-shit cancer-immunotherapy company -- is partnering with tiny Agenus??!?!

Um... no, Bristol is not doing any such thing, which we learn in the third paragraph of Agenus' press release:

The Phase 2, randomized, open label, single-center, investigator-sponsored trial is designed to evaluate the safety, feasibility and immunogenicity of the combination of Prophage vaccine and Yervoy with or without low dose cyclophosphamide (a chemotherapy agent used in this study as an immunomodulator of regulatory cells) in 25 patients with unresectable Stage III or IV metastatic melanoma. The trial will be conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and led by clinical investigator Jorge Quesada, M.D.

An investigator-sponsored clinical trial. Oh... never mind.

MediciNova (MNOV):

MediciNova Announces Positive Results in NASH Mouse Model With MN-001 and Prepares to Initiate Phase 2 Trial in the U.S.

NASH. Check. "Positive Results." Check. Mice? Shut the f--k up.

CytRx (CYTR):

CytRx Corporation Doses First Patient in Phase 2 Clinical Trial with Aldoxorubucin for the Treatment of Unresectable Glioblastoma Multiforme.

Wait. This "news" doesn't seem so newsy. Didn't I read about the start of this brain cancer study previously? Let me check...

Yes! On November 20, 2013:

CytRx Initiates Phase 2 Clinical Trial with Aldoxorubicin in Patients with Unresectable Glioblastom Multiforme

For an added laugh, check out the quote from CytRx CEO Steve Kriegsman in this week's do-over press release, claiming that a aldoxorubicin i.e. me-too doxorubicin could qualify for FDA "breakthrough therapy" designation.

Cell Therapeutics (CTIC):

Cell Therapeutics Reaches Agreement to Reacquire Rights to Two Anti-Cancer Compounds 

Jim Bianco: Reversion to the mean.

How does one go about re-acquiring rights to cancer drugs that never left your possession in the first place?

I have a source at the NSA who provided me with a transcript of the call between Cell Therapeutics and Novartis (NVS). Here's how it went:

Cell Therapeutics: Hi Novartis! How are you?
Novartis: Who is this?
Cell Therapeutics: It's Cell Therapeutics, your partner on Pixuvri and Opaxio. We're wondering if we could get our drugs back.
Novartis: Pixuvri? Opaxio? I'm sorry, who is this again?
Cell Therapeutics: Never mind. Have an excellent day!

Sunesis Pharmaceuticals (SNSS)

Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Expands Hematology Franchise With Global Licenses to Two Kinase Inhibitor Programs

I suspect Sunesis and Cell Therapeutics were in cahoots prior to the start of the JPM conference. Their respective bullshit PRs are remarkably similar.

In this cases, Sunesis "expands" its pipeline when Biogen Idec and Takeda decide to return two cancer drugs to the company.

Sunesis gets extra credit for actually holding a conference call to discuss it's non-deal deal.


-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.  

Follow Adam Feuerstein on Twitter.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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