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Welcome back to the Biotech Mailbag.
Ken P. asks:
Wow. That's a scary email. I can only hope, Ken, that you're being a bit hyperbolic about risking your life savings in a company like Cell Therapeutics.
Issue No. 1: CEO Jim Bianco. There are a few ironclad rules in biotech investing, one of which says to stay far, far away from any company associated with Bianco. The only exemplary thing I can say about his tenure as CEO of Cell Therapeutics is that he has managed to remain in control of the company while consistently losing money for his shareholders. That's quite a feat, but not one I want any part of as an investor.
Issue No. 2: Zevalin. Cell Therapeutics is trying to sell the radio-immunotherapy drug where other companies, including
, have failed. It's an effective drug for non-Hodgkin lypmphoma, but not one that's been commercially successful.
Cell Therapeutics couldn't sell Zevalin on its own, so now the company has partnered with
. Spectrum isn't exactly a cancer drug-marketing powerhouse. Color me highly skeptical that this joint venture will be any more successful than previous attempts.
Issue No. 3: The comedy factor. As in Bianco flying around in private jets, Cell Therapeutics' purchase of an obscure Italian biotech company, the failed lung cancer drug that apparently only works in women, or the glossing over of patient deaths in a Cell Therapeutics study by referring to their demise as "grade 5 toxicities."
I think I'm getting my point across, right? Steer clear of Cell Therapeutics.
Brendan B. writes:
"I was wondering if you have any thoughts on Somaxon Pharmaceuticals( SOMX) and their insomnia drug called Silenor that has a PDUFA FDA approval decision date date of Feb. 28, 2009? Any feedback would be appreciated."
The FDA was supposed to issue its approval decision on Silenor on Dec. 1 but delayed the review by three months. I don't have any guess on how the FDA will ultimately rule on Silenor, but I don't think an approval will help Somaxon substantially because the company lacks the resources to launch the drug.
Somaxon has not been able to find a Big Pharma partner willing to invest the large piles of cash required to launch a new insomnia drug, especially one that doesn't really have enough to distinguish itself from the competition, which includes low-cost generics.
Somaxon trades around $1.44, down more than 70% this year. The stock isn't valued much more than the company's cash on hand, in fact. So, if Silenor is approved in February, the stock may react well, if only for a trade.
But fundamentally, I don't see a viable market for Silenor and therefore don't see any real long-term value in Somaxon.
Jeff P. read my list of
important clinical trials for the first half of 2009
and says that I forget to mention
and its drug Camvia.
Sure enough, Jeff is correct. Viropharma is running a phase III study of Camvia (also known as maribavir) as a treatment for the prevention of cytomegalovirus infection in stem-cell transplant patients, with results expected in the first quarter of 2009.
Happy New Year!
Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback;
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