The bulk of Abilify's $2 billion-plus in sales in 2008 were for schizophrenia, but a Needham analyst estimates that $500 million in Abilify sales this year will come from the add-on anti-depressant market.

I spoke with Targacept CEO Don DeBethizy last night from Chicago. "The data are pretty amazing. I think people expected the TC-5214 data to be good, but we were careful not to hype it in advance. One thing I've learned with age is to recognize that you don't need to do that when the data are that good."

Targacept has been sharing these data with potential Big Pharma partners since July under confidentiality agreements, said DeBethizy, with the intent of signing a co-development deal for the drug soon.

The company would like to get a deal done then move on to start phase III studies of TC-5214 as add-on therapy for depression, he says.

"Two-thirds of depressed people do not achieve relief from an SSRI alone -- that's more than 9 million people," says DeBethizy, referring to the most common class of anti-depressants. "We believe that a well-tolerated drug like TC-5214 as add-on therapy will be a major breakthrough for these patients"

Targacept shares closed Thursday at $20.09 in advance of the TC-5214 presentation last night at 6 p.m. EDT.

-- 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; click here to send him an email.

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