It's Lunchtime at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Confab. Here's What I Learned So Far

SAN FRANCISCO (TheStreet) -- Lunch break on Day One at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. Here are some random thoughts and observations from what I saw and heard this morning. Totally off the cuff.


Celgene (CELG) was very bullish on the next few years, raising long-term (2017) financial guidance. Alas, the stock is down 3% because 1) everyone expected Celgene to raise guidance; and 2) the boosted forecast was generally in line with buyside expectations.

Cue ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum:

While positive, we think the magnitude of this guidance raise is generally in-line with buy-side expectations (see our prior buy side surveys, for example). Overall, we wouldn't expect a significant stock reaction. But, remember: Jackie probably can beat even this guidance over time if she continues to manage the P&L effectively and buys back a material amount of stock over time.


Seattle Genetics  (SGEN) gave investors a new clinical catalyst to expect in the second half of the year. The company altered the design of the AETHERA study of Adcetris in Hodgkin's lymphoma to allow for a landmark analysis at 2 years instead of an event-driven analysis. The AETHERA trial compares Adcetris to placebo in the consolidation or maintenance setting for post stem cell transplant patients.

I don't know what this means, if anything, but the word "pancreatitis" was not uttered during Seattle Genetics' breakout session. 

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals  (ALNY) presented to a huge crowd right before lunch, not surprising given the expanded Genzyme-Sanofi  (SNY) partnership and the acquisition of Sirna Therapeutics both announced before the conference started. Alnylam shares are up 41% today, which wins the day in terms of conference stock performance.

Alnylam is clearly Wall Street's favorite RNA interference stock. I do find it interesting that investors give Alnylam's RNAi platform the benefit of the doubt -- and a $5 billion valuation -- while looking heaping considerable doubt on Sarepta Therapeutics'  (SRPT) exon-skipping platform. Maybe there's good reason for this divergence of opinion but it's odd. If you believe in big Pharma partnerships as validation, then Alnylam has Sarepta beat. That's true. 

As Alnylam shares surge, the valuation gap between it and the other RNAi stocks -- Arrowhead Research  (ARWR) and Tekmira  (TKMR) -- grows. Can that last for long? 

NPS Pharma  (NPSP) CEO Francois Nader told me to expect an FDA advisory panel to be held for Natpara before the October PDUFA date. If the panel is positive and the drug is approved, NPS will be ready to launch the drug before the end of the year. NPS is also gearing up to start a phase IIa study of NPSP790 in autosomal dominant hypocalcemia later this year. 

InterMune  (ITMN) got a lot of questions during the breakout session about the statistical analysis plan and patient enrollment criteria for the ASCEND phase III study of Esbriet in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. No wonder, with top-line results coming early next quarter. This is a very, very big catalyst for InterMune. Still no word from Boehringer Ingelheim on data from a phase III study of its competing IPF drug. 

A red day for biotech stocks and the overall market:

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