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Amylin & Biogen Idec Activists, ASCO & ADA

Thursday, 21 May 2009 | 12:49 PM ET
Amylin
CNBC.com
Amylin

It's going to be a crazy busy, stressful couple of weeks. A shareholder meeting, a medical meeting, then another shareholder meeting and finally another medical meeting.

Next Wednesday is the Amylin Pharmaceuticalsannual shareholder get together. And it promises to be a barnburner. Major activist investors Carl Icahn and Eastbourne Capitalare trying to take over the Board of Directors at the biopharma company that makes the diabetes drug Byetta. Their intentions beyond that are the subject of heated debate between the company and the challengers. At the center of the fight is the fate of the once-a-week version of Byetta, which AMLN and its partners Eli Lillyand Alkermes recently submitted for FDA approval. The war of words is escalating day by day.

The following Monday we'll be live at the ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) meeting in Orlando. This is arguably the most closely watched medical meeting by Wall Street. It's not a banner year for breakthroughs and big, potentially stock-moving data. But there will still be newsworthy stuff happening there for biopharma.

Two days later is the Biogen Idecshareholder meeting in Cambridge. Icahn is giving it another go after he triedand failed to get the company to sell itself. BIIB makes the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri, which it shares with Ireland's Elan. And it owns part of the lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis drug Rituxan with Roche/Genentech. They just filed for FDA approval of Rituxan for leukemia.

And then the Monday after that is the American Diabetes Associationmeeting in New Orleans. There we'll come full circle with Amylin which will be fresh off the proxy fight and gearing up for another fight with Novo Nordisk. NVO is waiting for an FDA decision on its new one-a-day diabetes injection that's similar to AMLN's once-a-week Byetta shot.

Shareholder meetings often don't live up to the media buildup. But in this case, it's the widely followed billionaire Carl Icahn and it's a back-to-back bellwether test of his influence. The outcomes of both meetings could also have an impact on deals. And even though the news at the two scientific conferences may be relatively incremental this year, we're going because cancer and diabetes are two of the biggest areas of unmet medical need. (Not to mention that after several years of protest and complaints, ASCO is letting us broadcast live from inside the convention hall for the first time.)

If biopharma companies can develop more drugs to treat the diseases the markets for both are expected to explode over the next several years. Of course, everyone wants a cure. I have never bought into the conspiracy theories that the drug industry is deliberately avoiding finding cures because it would rather make money off of chronic therapies. That just makes no sense. I mean, imagine the market for a vaccine for HIV or a cure for cancer or whatever. The cure word incorrectly gets thrown around a lot when study results come out this time of year, especially in teases (verbal enticements to stay tuned) before or during a local TV newscast.

The only cure I'll be talking about is the one for my medical/shareholder meeting hangover come the second week of June.

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Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman

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