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Genentech: How It Got Its Groove Back

CNBC.com

I always prefer it when pharmaceutical/biotech execs and analysts can break out of their scientific/financial jargon and give good soundbites or quotes.

So, among the flurry of research notes I've received over the weekend and this morning on the Genentech Avastin newsthe award goes to Rodman & Renshaw's Mike King who writes, "The biotech leader has its groove back." So much so, that King is upgrading DNA shares to Market Outperform. He'd been at Market Perform since last April. He and many others are also raising their price targets on the stock. R & R would like to bank Genentech.

Miller-Tabak's healthcare analyst Les Funtleyder thinks the surprising decision is bigger than Avastin. He writes in a research note to clients this morning, "With respect to stocks, we think this sets a new benchmark for what a more conservative FDA is looking for in a fatal disease."

FBR's Jim Reddoch is trying to temper DNA investor enthusiasm by telling clients that one of the Avastin studies in breast cancer could show that less is more, similar to what was shown in lung cancer. Essentially half the dose of the drug worked just as well and with fewer toxic side effects. That, of course, could affect sales. FBR would also like to do investment banking for Genentech.

And even though the FDA maintains that it makes its decisions based solely on the science, Leerink Swann's Bill Tanner writes, "...a consultant with regulatory experience believes the decision may have been influenced by prevailing political conditions and public sentiment and is not likely an indication that the FDA has relaxed standards as it relates to clinical trial expectations."

I've received some emails from Dendreon investors and/or Provenge proponents who are scratching their heads about why the agency would overrule a negative recommendation on Avastin based on a perceived lower threshold and yet overrule a positive panel recommendation on Provenge based on data the emailers argue met that criteria. I can't answer that question.

This morning we did a First on CNBC interview on "Squawk Box" with Genentech's President of Product Development, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann. Dr. Hellmann is a former practicing oncologist who specialized in breast cancer treatment. While she is almost always accessible and a good interview, I still wish the company would make its outspoken CEO Art Levinson available for a TV interview. He's never done one as far as I'm aware.

Maybe--just maybe--it'll happen at Genentech's upcoming analyst meeting in New York on March 14th. Although I think the company's new director of corporate communications may still be angry with me over my coverage of the Avastin-Lucentis controversy. If I got that "get," then Genentech and I would have our groove back.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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