Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

The Jury's Out On Dendreon


It's my turn. As fate would have it, on the day of Dendreon's first analyst/investor meeting in years, I have to report for jury duty this Thursday in Newark, NJ.

But apparently it wouldn't have mattered if I were available anyway or wanted to send a surrogate.

Two spokespeople for the company say the media are not invited to the event.

I don't know if it has anything to do with the fact that at the last meeting I happened to sit next to someone from a hedge fund who leaned over and whispered, "It (Dendreon's experimental prostate cancer treatment Provenge) doesn't work."

If the company is concerned about stuff like that, it could have done what most companies do - create a chaperoned "reporters' row" inside the meeting room or corral us in a media room with a telecast of the presentation piped in. Dendreon is going to webcast the meeting, so anyone, including reporters, can still monitor it. Even though that kind of coverage has become more commonplace, you miss a lot of the color. How big is the crowd? What's the buzz in the hallway? Who's there? And who isn't?

And unless I am let off the hook for jury duty by the clerk's office at the next-to-the-last minute, I can only object to this next nugget on principle. Dendreon has invited a reporter from a financial website to cover the meeting in person. I don't know what they're thinking, but to me, it's all or none.

In the meantime, DNDN shares have been on a tear ahead of the meeting. Today they're hitting another new high of more than 30 bucks after Leerink Swann started covering the stock with the equivalent of a "Buy" rating. Analyst Howard Liang is putting a $40 12-month price target on DNDN telling clients in a research note, "We believe Provenge's benefit is real and Dendreon's unique immunotherapeutic platform could potentially be leveraged into other disease settings." Immunotherapy refers to using the body's own immune system to fight cancer. And for those who are expecting Dendreon to make a splash at Thursday's meeting with news of a Provenge corporate partnership deal or something else Liang adds, "We are not anticipating a major corporate announcement during the analyst day...."

But that's never stopped Dendreonians from spreading rumors and fanning the flames.

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