BOSTON (TheStreet) -- In about six weeks, the biotech universe will once again descend on San Francisco for the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. And like every year, the start of the conference will be marked by a blizzard of press releases issued by biotech and drug companies. These corporate announcements -- some more desperate than others -- are all designed to ride the coattails of the J.P. Morgan conference and get investors to notice.
Last January, I highlighted the five absolute worst PR panders committed by drug companies during the week of the J.P. Morgan conference. Did the stock-promoting strategy work? Let's take a look at the results, 11 months later.
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The pandering press release that set me off? Agenus Announces Phase 2 Checkpoint Inhibitor Combination Trial With Prophage Cancer Vaccine for Melanoma.
Here's what I wrote last January.
Oh man, kudos to the Agenus employee/stock tout who managed to get "checkpoint inhibitor" into the press release headline.
The lead 'graph is just as manipulative... er... I mean great....
"Agenus Inc., a biotechnology company developing novel immune system activating treatments for cancers and infectious diseases, today announced initiation of a randomized Phase 2 trial with Prophage for melanoma, and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMY) Yervoy (ipilimumab) for the treatment of Stage III and IV metastatic melanoma. The combination has the potential to trigger a more effective immune response against the tumor than Yervoy alone."
Wow! Bristol-Myers Squibb -- the hot-sh-t cancer-immunotherapy company -- is partnering with tiny Agenus??!?!
Um... no, Bristol is not doing any such thing, which we learn in the third paragraph of Agenus' press release.
"The Phase 2, randomized, open label, single-center, investigator-sponsored trial is designed to evaluate the safety, feasibility and immunogenicity of the combination of Prophage vaccine and Yervoy with or without low dose cyclophosphamide (a chemotherapy agent used in this study as an immunomodulator of regulatory cells) in 25 patients with unresectable Stage III or IV metastatic melanoma. The trial will be conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and led by clinical investigator Jorge Quesada, M.D."
An investigator-sponsored clinical trial. Oh... never mind.
What's happened since?
Nothing. This phase II study of Prophage and Yervoy in melanoma was never started. Agenus is also developing its own cancer immunotherapies, but so is every other small cancer-focused biotech and drug company. None of Agenus' cancer immunotherapy candidates have entered human clinical trials.
Agenus' stock performance since the press release was issued: -1%.