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Celgene's Success Story

One of the biggest biotech success stories is among the companies featured in the afternoon sessions here at the BioCentury/Thomson Reuters investment conference.

I'm talking about Celgene. CFO Dave Gryska is doing the presentation in the biggest room, but it's far from SRO, I suspect, because so many investors already know the CELG story. A lot of the attendees here are looking for the next Celgene--if there is a company still out there that could duplicate its success.

Steve Brozak of the boutique biotech research firm WBB Securities, one of the event sponsors, introduced Mr. Gryska. He held up a 10-year-old program from this conference that contained a profile of one of its presenting companies: a microcap called Celgene with a $120 million market value.

Today CELG is worth $31 billion! I think I started covering them when the market cap was about one-tenth that amount. In the past 10 years Brozak said CELG has been the sixth-best performing stock in the world. "And it's still a very promising story," he said.

When Brozak picked up coverage of the then little-known company a decade ago he said several clients laughed at him as he tried to pound the table on a biotech trying to bring thalidomide back to market.

Celgene not only did that, but also brought a successful new cousin of thalidomide, called Revlimid, to market for the treatment of blood cancers.

Consider the source, but the CFO Gryska told investors his company, unlike big pharma, has an embarrassment of riches. "We don't have a problem with our (drug development) pipeline. We have too many things to develop. We have a wealth of pipeline products," he said.

Next and last: Dendreon.

Update: In the breakout q and a session one long time CELG investor asked the CFO if he'd sell the company to Pfizer. Gryska gave a bit of a boilerplate answer and then some. "If there's something that makes sense that obviously maximizes shareholder value, then we're gonna look at it intensely," he said. "But we're not worried about Pfizer. Our intention is to be bigger than Pfizer." To which the questioner quipped, "You will be." They've got a long way to go.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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