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The Biotech Mailbag is open. Our first email comes from Joe B., who asks for my thoughts on Panacos Pharmaceuticals ( PANC).

Joe's email has been sitting in the mailbag for a long while, but it's timely this week because Panacos announced that company researchers have figured out a way to identify the sub-population of HIV patients who respond favorably to its experimental drug beviramat.

Cue the angels' trumpets because this is the first bit of encouraging news from Panacos and its beleaguered, delayed and generally dismal beviramat development program in at least a year and half.

Excuse the snark, but I'm a recovering Panacostal -- I actually liked this stock when it was much, much higher and you could make the case for beviramat being a $300-million or so HIV drug without anyone laughing at you.

Today, Panacos shares could find a home on the sale rack at a 99-cent store. So you understand my bitterness.

But that's all in the past. Today, Panacos sports a miserly $11 million enterprise value, and if you believe Wednesday's announcement, beviramat might be back on track. A real HIV drug has to be worth more than $11 million, right?

Yes, sure, except...

You see, while Panacos was shuffling its feet these past two years, the HIV-treatment market was changing. A lot of really good HIV drugs are on the market today, with more on the way ahead of beviramat. There are so many really good HIV drugs out there now, in fact, that it will be hard to find a place for beviramat except as a last-ditch drug for treating the most ill HIV/AIDS patients.

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