Biotechs underperformed the broader markets on Wednesday as a theme of death haunted the sector.

The big mover Wednesday,

Cell Genesys

( CEGE), took a beating after the company said it ended a late stage trial because more patients taking its prostate cancer vaccine, GVAX, had died than those who were in the study's control arm. An independent data monitoring committee recommended the company stop the trial after a routine check showed that of 114 deaths there were 67 deaths in patients taking GVAX and chemotherapy, versus 47 in those taking the control of chemotherapy plus prednisone.

The company has requested the IDMC also review its other late stage trial on GVAX, the ongoing VITAL-1 study. It expects the results of that futility analysis in roughly a month. Shares were down $2.05, or 73.1%, to 76 cents.

Amylin

( AMLN) shed more than 26% Wednesday. The company and partner

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

hosted a conference call Tuesday to address the recent Food and Drug Administration advisory on diabetes drug Byetta.

The companies announced four deaths in patients who were taking Byetta and had pancreatitis in addition to the two deaths of the six cases the FDA discussed last week. However, executives said the deaths weren't because of pancreatitis. They reiterated that it's ultimately unknown if Byetta played a role in the rare cases of pancreatitis, and said they continue to believe the drug has a positive risk-benefit profile for patients with type II diabetes.

Amylin fell shares fell $7.16 to $20.08, while Lilly's shares edged down just 12 cents, or 0.3%, to $46.90.

Cell Genesys and Amylin did little for the Nasdaq biotechnology index, which was down 10, or 1.1%, at 880.58. Amylin also weighed on the Amex biotechnology index, which gave up 2.1% by midday.

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

and

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

said Tuesday that an early evaluation of results from a late stage study on apixaban, a prospective preventive of blood clots in patients undergoing total knee replacement, indicates that the study failed.

The companies said the trial, dubbed Advance-1, compared apixiban to the standard of care. The company said the efficacy was similar but didn't meet prespecified statistical criteria for non-inferiority. Full results will be presented at a conference in December.

Shares of Bristol-Myers fell 61 cents, or 2.7%, to $21.37, and Pfizer's shares were off by 22 cents, or 1.1%, at $19.06.

Also of note, Citi initiated coverage on

Rigel

(RIGL) - Get Report

and

Incyte

(INCY) - Get Report

with buy ratings. Rigel and Incyte traded up 2.8% and 3.4%, respectively.

Also subject to a few analyst actions,

Sequenom

(SQNM)

gave up 86 cents, or 3.8%, to $21.75. Caris and Co. initiated coverage on the stock with a below average rating and a price target of $11.50, while Lazard Capital, which has a buy rating on the stock, upped its price target to $34 from $26.