Health indices were flat as few stocks peppered an overall dull hump day with a range of announcements. Geron ( GERN) said Wednesday that it would receive a $4 million milestone payment as Merck ( MRK) filed an investigational new-drug application for a cancer vaccine candidate. Under a 2005 license agreement between the companies, Geron is eligible for development milestones and royalties on worldwide product sales of vaccines targeting the enzyme telomerase. Geron shares nudged up 19 cents, or 2.9%, to $6.75. Merck was down 0.5% at $60.08. Meanwhile another winner emerged after JMP analyst Charles Duncan upgraded Acadia Pharmaceuticals ( ACAD) to strong buy from market outperform. The analyst was recently impressed with midstage data on its schizophrenia drug candidate pimavanserin. The company's shares jumped $1.28, or 11.4%, to $12.48. The stock is a component of the Nasdaq biotechnology index, which was hovering just north of the flat line at 852.10. On the regulatory side, Lannett ( LCI) received Food and Drug Administration-approval for the additional indication of the 30-mg dose of its phentermine hydrochloride capsules, the generic equivalent of Teva's ( TEVA) Adipex, for short-term management of obesity. The company expects to begin marketing the product immediately. Lannett shares added 20 cents, or 6%, to $3.55. Elsewhere, Neurocrine ( NBIX) is awaiting the FDA's decision on sleep aid indiplon, which is designed to be used as needed to help a person fall back asleep once he or she wakes up in the middle of the night. The FDA rejected the extended-release form last year but granted conditional approval to the immediate-release formula if the company analyzed old data and conducted a test on how the drug was absorbed and excreted by the body and how it reacts with certain foods. Ahead of the FDA's decision, shares were down 18 cents, or 1.7%, to $10.20.
In earnings, Tuesday after close contact-lens maker Cooper Companies ( COO) reported a loss of $24.2 million, or 54 cents a share, for the quarter, vs. a profit of $13.6 million, or 30 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Before items, the company reported adjusted earnings of 54 cents a share, vs. 68 cents a share in comparable year-ago session. Revenue increased 17% to $253.8 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were expecting 68 cents a share, on revenue of $248.8 million. For fiscal 2008, Cooper guided with earnings of $1.30 to $1.80 a share (or $2.40 to $2.65 a share excluding share-based compensation expense), and revenue of $1.04 billion to $1.09 billion. The Thomson Financial consensus was for $2.85 a share on revenue of $1.04 billion. Shares fell $3.51, or 8.3%, to $39.