This Biotech Is Up 14%, and It's Just Getting Started

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Normally if a company went up 14% on phase 1b data, I'd laugh at the investors that bought at that level. But BioSante Pharmaceuticals' (NAS: BPAX) newest data might just be worthy of the increase.

When the biotech's cancer vaccine, GVAX Pancreas, was combined with Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYS: BMY) Yervoy, the median survival time increased to 5.5 months. The survival time with Yervoy alone was just 3.3 months. Put another way, the two together increased survival time by more than 60%.

There are the usual caveats with an early-stage trial. There were only 30 patients enrolled, so matching patients to each arm is challenging and a few patients can move the curve substantially. The stage of the disease is especially important when testing immunotherapies because early stage patients tend to do better since their immune systems are more easily stimulated to attack the tumor. There may be a hint of that in the one-year survival data: 27% of patients taking Yervoy and GVAX Pancreas lived at least a year compared with just 7% that got Yervoy alone.

Yervoy isn't approved as a treatment for pancreatic cancer, so GVAX Pancreas will probably have to be compared to Eli Lilly's (NYS: LLY) Gemzar, the current standard of care, potentially in combination with Astellas and Roche's Tarceva.

And who knows what the landscape might be like by the time GVAX Pancreas would be scheduled to be approved? Clovis Oncology (NAS: CLVS) has a compound, CO-101, which is similar to Gemzar and will read out its pivotal study shortly. Threshold Pharmaceuticals' (NAS: THLD) TH-302 just read out solid phase 2 data. And Celgene is testing already-approved Abraxane in pancreatic cancer patients as well.

GVAX Pancreas is years away from an FDA approval and might never make it to market, but the company is worth more because investors should have more confidence in its potential and the platform it has built to develop cancer vaccines for other tumor types.

And, of course, you have to keep the increase in perspective. BioSante wasn't worth that much going into the announcement; a 14% increase only equates to an $11 million increase in the value of the company. At a market cap under $100 million, it's hard to call BioSante overvalued, even if there are better places to capture immediate returns.

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At the time this article was published Fool contributor Brian Orelli holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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