3 Things to Watch With ImmunoGen

ImmunoGen (NAS: IMGN) is a cancer-focused research and development biotechnology company that uses its revolutionary Targeted Antibody Payload (TAP) technology to target specific cancer cells.

Today, let's look at three things investors should be watching regarding ImmunoGen, as they will provide us with better insight into the company.

1. ImmunoGen's unique technology
Without a doubt, the biggest draw of ImmunoGen is the unique pathway by which its treatments target cancer cells. ImmunoGen's TAP technology works by attaching a toxin to an antibody which will then release the toxin when it comes into contact with a very specific protein (i.e., a signature protein of a target cancer cell).

The technology itself has incredible implications in that all cancer treatments at the moment currently target both cancerous and healthy cells. If this technology proves both viable on a commercial scale and effective when used as a combination therapy with existing cancer-killing agents already on the market, it could revolutionize how toxins are delivered in the treatments of various cancers as well as reduce or eliminate the adverse effects felt by healthy cells.

It's also worth noting that there are very, very few biotechnology companies that possess this toxin-delivering technology. Seattle Genetics (NAS: SGEN) is the only competitor that's achieved commercialization after its lead drug Adcetris was approved last year . Furthermore, the company's antibody-drug conjugates (the name for its proprietary technology that essentially works by the same method) are currently being employed in collaborative partnerships with Pfizer (NYS: PFE) and Abbott Laboratories. Ironically enough, Pfizer attempted to bring its own antibody-delivery technology to market in 2010, Mylotarg, but it was pulled after the company noted difficulty in getting the toxin to stay attached to the antibody prior to hitting the cancer cell.

For ImmunoGen and Seattle Genetics, these delivery pathways could be a monster licensing and royalty revenue generator for decades to come if their numerous collaborations bear fruit.

2. ImmunoGen's pipeline and partnerships
Having unique technology is great, but having a partner with deep pockets and utilizing that technology into a successful drug is far more important for ImmunoGen.

At the moment, the company claims partnerships with Roche (OTC: RHHBY), Sanofi (NYS: SNY) , Amgen, Bayer, and Biotest Pharmaceuticals. I don't want to dismiss any of these as "less important," but its current collaborations with Roche and Sanofi are the most important to current shareholders.

ImmunoGen and Roche's collaboration on metastatic breast cancer drug trastuzumab emtansine (previously known as T-DM1), is by far the company's closest drug to commercialization. As the Fool's resident biotech junkie, Brian Orelli, reported in late March, the drug was pitted against various competing drugs, and it met the initial endpoint of extending patients' lives beyond the existing treatments currently available. Earlier this week, Roche released its final late-stage results, which demonstrated the drug significantly improved survival times among patients. Subsequently, Roche submitted trastuzumab emtansime for a biological license application with the FDA and is expected to submit a marketing application in Europe before 2012 is over.

ImmunoGen also has a collaborative partnership with Sanofi in developing SAR3419, a drug targeting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and other B-cell malignancies. The treatment is only through phase 1 trials at the moment, but the results have been statistically encouraging enough to warrant a phase 2 clinical trial.

3. ImmunoGen's cash
As you can imagine, a biotechnology company that has no FDA-approved drugs and is receiving only erratic development milestone payments from its partners is bound to burn through a considerable amount of its cash on hand. Therefore, it's important to keep an eye on ImmunoGen's cash burn rate as it could factor into the health of the stock.

Currently, there's not much to worry about. In mid-July, ImmunoGen priced a secondary offering of 6.25 million shares at $16 on order to raise cash to fund its research. At the end of its fiscal fourth quarter, ImmunoGen reported $160.9 million in cash, not including the $94 million it raised from the secondary. That $255 million in cash, when combined with no debt, should give ImmunoGen enough cash to comfortably operate through 2015 by my best estimates.

However, keep in mind the flipside to this cash safety net is that shareholders continue to be diluted to death. In just the past four years, ImmunoGen's outstanding share count has risen by more than 75%.

Foolish roundup
Now that you know what to watch for, it should be easier to analyze ImmunoGen's successes and pitfalls in the future and hopefully give you a competitive investing edge.

If you're still craving even more info on ImmunoGen, I would recommend adding the stock to your free and personalized watchlist so you can keep up on all of the latest news with the company.

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The article 3 Things to Watch With ImmunoGen 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 Motley Fool 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.The Motley Fool owns shares of Abbott Laboratories. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of ImmunoGen. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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