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Wyeth and Elan Face Big Test

Wednesday, 11 Jun 2008 | 12:29 PM ET
Wyeth
AP
Wyeth

Cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease. Three of the biggest areas of unmet medical need have been or will be in focus at a series of important scientific meetings in June or July.

We just finished back-to-back coverage of the world's largest oncology and diabetes conferences. Now we get a bit of a break before shifting our attention to Alzheimer's.

Specifically, analysts say Wyeth and Elancould be out with basic results on a mid-stage test for their drug by the end of this month.

Then they're expected to present the detailed data at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Diseasein late July. Some analysts think if the drug shows promise it could become the biggest selling drug in history.

Bill Tanner at Leerink Swann writes in a research note to clients today that "investors should not expect to see significant treatment effects given the relatively small size of the trial and the heterogeneity of the patients population." (Dear Elanians: I'm just reporting what the man said, please do not flood my inbox with complaints about what you might see as his bearish analysis.)

Nonetheless, he believes there will probably be enough positive data for the companies to continue to move forward. Coincidentally, Brian McCarthy, a biotech analyst at Merriman Curhan Ford initiated coverage today of ELN with a Buy rating.

But he agrees with Tanner about the pending test results. "We believe a statistically significant response in Phase 2 (mid-stage clinical trial) is unlikely given the small number of patients," McCarthy writes.

He justifies his Buy rating by saying, "Positive Phase 2 Alzheimer's data could add approximately $7 in the near-term, or approximately $15 longer term if (the drug) succeeds for AD."

But buyer beware. Both analysts also say that ELN shares could be volatile in the coming weeks.

Leerink Swann may trade ELN shares. Typically, if a company doesn't have any disclosures on a stock I won't mention it. I only point them out if they exist. But since MCF is initiating coverage today I will say it has none to make.

An estimates five million Americans have Alzheimer's. That number is expected to multiply.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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