Editor's Note: This column marks Adam Feuerstein's return to TheStreet.com. Feuerstein is an award-winning reporter who worked at TheStreet.com before a two-year stint covering biotech at a New York-based investment firm. We're thrilled to welcome him back.

The annual JPMorgan Chase health care conference, which rolls into San Francisco next week, is always a bit of a madhouse -- companies big and small selling their newly minted 2007 investment stories to an overflowing crowd.

This granddaddy of biotech investment confabs (you're a veteran if you remember when it was run by Hambrecht & Quist) is like the Detroit auto show of life sciences, minus the scantily clad booth babes.

But for all its occasional bluster and hassle, the JPMorgan conference is a good show because it sets the stage for biotech investing for the next 12 months. I don't necessarily find it the best forum for deep research, but I usually walk away with a good overview of the sector and a bunch of interesting investment ideas in my notebook.

I'll be there, as will my colleague Marc Lichtenfeld, so check back here for in-depth coverage. With the conference as a backdrop, here are some (but not all) of the 2007 biotech story lines making waves on my radar screen:

Gilead Sciences ( GILD) has earned its status on the biotech sector A team because of its strong, market-leading HIV drug franchise. Last year's successful launch of Atripla, the first-ever single-pill, once-daily treatment for HIV, cemented that reputation.

But in 2007, investors are looking beyond Gilead's core business (which is still growing at a very healthy clip, by the way) and focusing more on how the company aims to digest last year's $2.5 billion acquisition of Myogen. When the deal was announced in October, some on Wall Street were a bit uneasy with Gilead's decision to shift from its strength in infectious diseases into pulmonary disease. The hefty price tag on the Myogen deal also raised some eyebrows.

Gilead will talk about its Myogen plans at JP Morgan but will not give 2007 financial guidance until its fourth-quarter earnings conference call on Jan. 31. On that call, investors will be paying special attention to expense guidance.

Early 2007 also should deliver new clinical data on two important drugs in Gilead's pipeline: GS9132, a new drug aimed at hepatitis C that is being developed in partnership with Achillion Pharmaceuticals ( ACHN); and GS9137, a new and highly potent HIV drug.

This also will be a busy year for Dendreon ( DNDN), as the Food and Drug Administration begins its review of the company's experimental prostate cancer vaccine, Provenge. On or about Jan. 12, Dendreon should hear whether the Provenge application was accepted and whether it will be granted a priority (six-month) review.

If so, the next big event likely will be an FDA advisory panel meeting to discuss the Provenge clinical data. You might see such a panel scheduled in March or April.

To date, investors -- and many prostate cancer doctors -- have been skeptical about Provenge's chances for FDA approval. The biggest hang-up: While efficacy data suggest that Provenge can prolong survival of men with advanced, hormone-refractory prostate cancer, the clinical data generated so far is a bit sparse. Still, there is ample room for debate over this issue, which should make the advisory panel a certain highlight for biotech investors this year.

Myriad Genetics ( MYGN) and Neurochem ( NRMX) will both reveal phase III clinical data on their respective Alzheimer's disease drugs in 2007. (Phase III is the stage of trials conducted just before a drug is submitted for Food and Drug Administration review.) These data will be some of the first to test the validity of the so-called "beta amyloid hypothesis," which holds that Alzheimer's is caused by the presence of plaques and tangles (made up of a protein fragments called beta amyloid) in the nerve cells of the brain.

Elan ( ELN) is also betting much of its future on Alzheimer's research. In 2007, look for the Irish drugmaker, along with partner Wyeth ( WYE), to make a go/no-go decision on pushing its experimental drug AAB-001 into phase III clinical trials.

As Alzheimer's researchers -- not to mention investors -- look for new breakthrough treatments, the same can be said for hepatitis C. Here, investors will be focused on Vertex Pharmaceuticals ( VRTX) and its novel hepatitis C drug telaprevir (also known as VX-950.)

In December, Vertex released the first slug of data from a highly anticipated phase II study of telaprevir in hepatitis C patients. It was decidedly mixed: Efficacy looked good, but a high patient-dropout rate and worse-than-expected side-effect profile were concerns for investors, who anticipated more due to the hype generated by the drug in the past 18 months. There will be much more data coming from telaprevir in the next year, so this is a story still being written.

Another hepatitis C drug getting a lot of attention, despite the lack of any human clinical data to date, is ITMN-191 from InterMune ( ITMN).

In October, InterMune partnered the drug to Roche, and data from the first clinical trials in patients should be ready this year.

Lastly, you want to see why some investors love biotech? Take a look at the chart for Advanced Magnetics ( AMAG):

Quite a Move
Advanced Magnetics has surged
Source: Bigcharts.com

Practically unheard of a year ago, the one-time $11 stock trades near $60 today. Whether the company can maintain this momentum into 2007 will depend on the outcome of three more phase III clinical trials for its IV iron drug ferumoxytol.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for RealMoney.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; click here to send him an email.

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