Xoma Waffles on Timing of Drug Partnership: BioBuzz

An expected deal for its diabetes drug may not happen until next year.
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BERKELEY, Calif. (

TheStreet

) --

Xoma

(XOMA) - Get Report

management backed away Monday from its previously stated promise of a Big Pharma partnership for its diabetes drug XOMA 052 by year's end.

The company now says that potential partners may need extra time to review new preclinical data of XOMA 052 in cardiovascular disease, which could significantly increase the value of the drug beyond diabetes.

Um, okay, but I bet if Xoma polled its shareholders today, most would be more than happy to see the company make good on its initial promise and bring home a diabetes partnership for '052 this year.

What we're getting instead looks suspiciously like stalling tactics, even with the dangled promise of a bigger deal that could encompass diabetes and cardiovascular indications.

At best, Xoma is sending investors mixed signals. On the one hand, the company says it has all the '052 data necessary to land a partnership today. But why, then, is the company also starting new studies in diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which it says partners may want to look at?

Xoma says it is speaking to many interested partners and those who wait for the next slug of '052 diabetes data expected in the third quarter 2010 may risk losing out to a competitor. But if there's already multi-party interest in '052, why can't Xoma management get a contract signed sooner rather than later?

Xoma's stock price clearly reflects a skepticism over '052 and the company's ability to pull off a significant partnership. Monday's conference call did nothing to dispel those doubts.

Ariad Upgraded, Xenoport Drug Delayed

(At 7:51 AM ET)

Shares of

Ariad Pharmaceuticals

(ARIA)

may see some action Monday after a JPMorgan analyst upgraded the stock to overweight from neutral

Cory Kasimov boosted his Ariad rating Monday morning based on two upcoming catalysts from the company's drug pipeline: 1) Results from a phase I, proof of concept study of AP24534 chronic myeloid leukemia expected at the American Society of Hematology meeting in early December; and 2) the second interim analysis from a pivotal phase III study of ridaforolimus in sarcoma in the first quarter of next year.

"All in, we believe ARIA shares are attractive given an enterprise value of

less than $200 million despite having an oncology asset (partnered with Merck) in a pivotal program, and a second wholly owned asset with exciting, albeit early, data that is poised to move into pivotal development in 2010," writes Kasimov. He has a $6 price target on the stock.

Aria shares closed Friday at $2.17.

FDA Delays Approval Decision on Xenoport Drug

The Food and Drug Administration has delayed by three months an approval decision on XP'512 for restless leg syndrome.

GlaxoSmithKline

(GSK) - Get Report

and

Xenoport

(XNPT)

are the drug's developers.

In a statement late Friday, the two companies says FDA is taking another three months to review a risk management plan for XP'512, which will push back the approval decision date to Feb. 9, 2010 from today.

-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston

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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