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Sarepta Should Shut Up About Ebola, Focus on Job No. 1

By: Adam Feuerstein | 08/06/14 - 12:07 PM EDT

Stocks in this article: SRPTTKMRHEBNLNK

Sarepta Therapeutics (SRPT) disappoints me.

By publicizing its outreach to the U.S. government about an experimental ebola treatment, Sarepta comes off looking like just another opportunistic, self-promoting drug developer. Sarepta isn't wrong to remind the U.S. government about the drug in its freezer which might be effective against the ebola virus, but why talk to the media about it?

If Sarepta's ebola contract with the government is revived, issue a press release on the material news. Until then, the company should emulate the respectable low-key approach taken by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (TKMR) and not the crass, stock-pumping antics of Hemispherx Biopharma (HEB) or NewLink Genetics (NLNK)

Ebola is big news today, but Sarepta has one job right now: Finishing the eteplirsen regulatory package and delivering it to the FDA for review before the end of the year. Nothing else is more important to Sarepta, shareholders or Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients and their families. Talking up ebola sounds like a distraction from Sarepta's priority. It sounds like the company is losing focus.

When a DMD parent frustrated by Sarepta inability to make enough eteplirsen for a compassionate use program reads a sentence like the one below, it's a slap in the face:

Sarepta Therapeutics says it has enough doses of its injectible drug - AVI-7537 - to treat about two dozen patients within a week and could ramp up a supply for another 100 patients within a few months.

Sarepta is trying to recover from a dicey few weeks in which its chief scientific officer was fired for trying to unseat CEO Chris Garabedian. Sarepta's board of directors reportedly took power away from Garabedian and then gave it back, resulting in the replacement of the company's chairman. From the outside, Sarepta looks adrift. Supporters (and yes, I'm one of them) have lost some confidence in the company's ability to get the No. 1 job done.

It's not too late for Sarepta to turn things around, but doing so requires less talking and more doing. My free advice to Garabedian: Shut up about ebola and don't make appearances on CNBC's Fast Money. Instead, deliver the eteplirsen FDA filing on time and start dosing DMD kids with eteplirsen in the confirmatory phase III study. Prepare for the next year's inevitable FDA advisory committee meeting. Ramp up eteplirsen manufacturing to make sure you can meet demand. 

No more promises. Start delivering. 


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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