Given last month's approval for its Avastin drug in breast cancer, Genentech should tighten or possibly raise its 2008 earnings guidance at its March 14 investor meeting.

On its last quarterly conference call, Genentech set 2008 earnings guidance (excluding stock option expenses) in the range of $3.30 to $3.45 a share. That equates to 12%-17% EPS growth year over year.

Avastin's approval in breast cancer wasn't necessarily baked into those estimates, so at the very least, I'd expect to hear Genentech narrow that earnings forecast to the top end of the range. Better yet if the company raises the earnings forecast, although it may be a bit early in the year to do that.

The current consensus earnings estimate for the year is $3.43 a share.

Beyond earnings and Avastin talk, there should also be plenty of discussion about Genentech's drug pipeline, which is one of the deepest in biotech, including drugs targeting the so-called hedgehog pathway and its conjugated antibody trastuzumab DM1 (which employs drug delivery technology from Immunogen ( IMGN).)

Lastly, I hope to hear more about the expanded opportunities for Rituxan in muliple sclerosis and lupus.


When I last wrote about Exact Sciences ( EXAS - Get Report), makers of a stool-based genetic test for colon cancer, I had this to say:

"I view Exact with the same lens as a company like Discovery Labs i.e., train wrecks that might, perhaps, possibly, eventually, one day turn themselves around. But there's no guarantee, and the track record certainly shouldn't give anyone confidence that the carnage can be cleaned up. It seems better to sit on the sidelines and wait for something good to happen."

Well, something good did happen last week. The American Cancer Society (ACS) issued new colon cancer screening guidelines that included, for the first time, Exact's PreGen-Plus stool DNA test.

Exact shares are up almost 70% to $3.29 since the ACS made its announcement Wednesday night.

Inclusion on the ACS list of recommended colon cancer tests was a long time coming, and should help Exact and its testing partner LabCorp ( LH - Get Report) finally start to gain some commercial traction with PreGen Plus. To date, the test has been a commercial failure, mainly because private insurance carriers and Medicare don't offer reimbursement.

But don't go all in on Exact just yet. This news needs to be followed by more progress before Exact is really on solid footing. For starters, the FDA is still requiring an FDA approval for PreGen Plus. To get that done, there are two roads Exact could travel -- one relatively easy, the other hard and long.

On a Thursday night conference call, Exact CEO Jeff Luber said meetings with the FDA so far indicate that the agency is willing to allow the company to take the easier route to approval.

If and when FDA approval is granted, Exact and LabCorp still need to convince Medicare and the private payors to reimburse for PreGen Plus. Only then, will revenue really start to roll in.

Exact has $12.5 million in the bank, enough to last through the end of 2008, says Luber. That's less than a year's worth, so don't be surprised to see the company try to raise some more, especially with the wind at its back on this positive endorsement from the ACS.


Excuse me while I step away from investable nuggets to air my two cents about last week's controversy between the American Academy of Neurology and several sell-side analysts. The AAN accused the analysts of breaking an embargo for the group's upcoming annual meeting by writing research reports discussing clinical data contained in embargoed research abstracts.

Both Reuters and CNBC reported on this brouhaha ( here and here), which included quotes from AAN officials who were steaming mad and threatened to sue the analysts.

But instead of tsk-tsking the analysts for breaking the embargo, Reuters and CNBC should have been asking AAN why they slapped an embargo on information that was open and free to anyone with a web browser.

Phooey, I say. These analysts were doing exactly what they're paid to do, which is to explain to their investor clients the reasons behind significant movements in stocks they cover.

AAN posted the research abstracts on its Web site, freely downloadable by anyone. As a result, some of the data included in the abstracts started moving stocks. In particular, one abstract discussing a link between the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri and a potentially fatal virus sent shares of Elan ( ELN) lower on Tuesday.

Natexis Bleichroeder specialty pharmaceuticals analyst Corey Davis started getting phone calls from clients wondering why Elan's stock was weak on no apparent news. Later Tuesday, Davis put out a research note discussing the AAN Tysabri abstract, putting it in context, and since Davis is bullish on Elan, defending the stock.

This is what got Davis and the other analysts in trouble with AAN, which claims that by publishing on the abstracts, the analysts violated the group's embargo policy.

If AAN posts research abstracts to its Web site and makes them available to the public, it can't stop people from talking about the abstracts -- or sharing them. So, how can the group forbid analysts or the media from writing about them?

AAN general counsel Murray Sagsveen told me that when the group wrote its embargo policy, it didn't have Wall Street in mind. I asked him if there was a difference between an analyst like Davis talking on the phone with dozens -- or even hundreds -- of his clients about the research abstracts vs. Davis writing a single research note sent to the same people.

Sagsveen conceded that there wasn't much difference, adding that AAN would likely have to rethink its embargo policy in the future.

That's a good thing. I think AAN was caught up in a situation they hadn't envisioned. It wouldn't be the first medical group to under-estimate the connection between their scientific meetings and Wall Street.

There are other medical groups that freely post online research abstracts to their scientific meetings, but they don't place restrictions or embargoes on those abstracts because frankly, it's impossible to do so once they enter the public sphere.


Biotech firms were supposed to be safe havens from the current credit crisis gripping Wall Street. Drug development is hard enough without having to worry whether companies have their cash tied up in risky, illiquid financial instruments.

Well, get ready to worry.

In the past few weeks, a handful of biotech and drug companies have announced that some of their cash is tied up in high-risk (and now illiquid) auction rate securities. The list includes Amag Pharmaceuticals ( AMAG), ImClone Systems ( IMCL), Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY - Get Report), Endo Pharmaceuticals ( ENDP - Get Report) and Tapestry Pharmaceuticals (which filed for bankruptcy, in part because of getting caught holding auction rate securities it couldn't sell.)

At this point, alarms bells aren't necessarily ringing across Biotechland, but this latest development, especially if more widespread, won't help bring investors back to the sector.

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; click here to send him an email.