Genentech Sees First-Quarter Sales Flat With Fourth Quarter

Genentech the world's second-biggest biotech company known for its cancer drugs, said on Friday it expects U.S. sales for the first quarter of 2007 to be essentially flat relative to the fourth quarter of 2006.

For the full year the company said it expects earnings growth per share of about 25% to 30%, excluding one-time items, compared with 2006.

The company said it is reiterating its 2010 financial goals to achieve a compound annual earnings per share growth excluding one-time items of 25 percent and to achieve cumulative free cash flow of $12 billion by 2010.

The company, which provided investors with an update on its business outlook on Friday, said it has decided to move forward with a late-stage, or Phase III, study of the drugs Omnitarg, Herceptin and Taxotere compared with Herceptin and Taxotere for certain patients with first-line metastatic breast cancer.

Genentech rival Amgen said late Thursday it halted a clinical trial of colon cancer drug Vectibix combined with Avastin and chemotherapy decreased survival rates, according to an interim analysis of the study.

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Genentech's president of product development, said in an interview with CNBC that combo use of Avastin is the "gold standard" in first-line treatment of colon cancer and has been proven to be safe and effective.

"I have not seen the study results but in multiple other trials, Avastin in combination with other agents, including Erbitux, has not shown surprising safety signals, so we await seeing the data," said Desmond-Hellman.

ImClone Systems markets competing drug Erbitux with Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Genentech said it hopes to bring at least 20 new molecular entities into clinical development between 2006 and 2008 and 30 between 2006 and 2010.

Previously it forecast bringing 20 new entities into clinical development between 2006 and 2010.