Why Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc. Shares Surged

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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals , a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapies to treat cancer, surged higher by as much as 39% after reporting its third-quarter results and providing a pipeline update.

So what: For the quarter, Merrimack reported collaboration revenue of $6.9 million (it's still a wholly clinical-stage company) compared to $11.3 million collaborative revenue in the previous year. Net loss widened to $39.8 million from $23.3 million as well, or $0.39 in adjusted EPS. Wall Street had been looking for Merrimack to deliver $15.5 million in collaborative revenue with a smaller loss of $0.31 per share.

However, it isn't this earnings miss that's striking a chord with investors so much as the company's update on MM-398, its advanced pancreatic cancer drug. According to Merrimack's press release, it had been planning to release top-line data from its late-stage cancer study in the fourth quarter of 2013 or first quarter of 2014, but the blinded assessment of overall survival is happening later than anticipated. What this could portend, without seeing any of the data, is that overall survival for those on MM-398 is much greater than Merrimack had forecast.

Now what: It's certainly been a topsy-turvy year for Merrimack, so days like today are most welcome for shareholders. It's a bit early to probably get too excited because the delay in reporting its top-line results on MM-398 may just as well wind up showing a non-significant increase in overall survival. We really won't know anything until we get our hands on that data in the second quarter. The good news that I would take away here, aside from Merrimack noting that it plans to move forward with additional trials on MM-121 based on select biomarkers, is that it feels comfortable that even if MM-398 were to produce unfavorable results, it could make up the revenue lost with additional collaborative ventures. Investors really just need to keep their eyes focused on the second quarter of 2014, as that'll be a telling event for Merrimack's future.

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The article Why Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc. Shares Surged originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor  Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle  @TMFUltraLong . Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools don't 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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