By Debbie Strickland
Reaping the benefit of a Sunday feature in The New York Times, EntreMed Inc.'s stock more than quadrupled in price Monday to close at $51.813, up from a $12.063 close Friday.
The stock (NASDAQ:ENMD) opened the day at $85, then slipped by mid-morning to the $50 neighborhood, where it hovered the rest of the day.
"When it comes to cancer, things are very emotionally and politically charged," said analyst David Steinberg, who covers the company as managing director for Volpe, Brown, Whelan & Co., in San Francisco. "It's likely the stock has gotten ahead of itself."
Steinberg's price target on the buy-rated stock had been $22.
EntreMed's volume Monday was 23.5 million shares, and the company has 12.3 million outstanding. Steinberg said the stock's movement was unlike anything he'd seen in biotechnology and was more reminiscent of leaps Internet stocks sometimes take.
The Times story highlighted preclinical mouse data on the Rockville, Md.-based EntreMed's anti-angiogenesis proteins, Angiostatin and Endostatin, and the resulting enthusiasm of the scientific community — particularly that of National Cancer Institute (NCI) officials and Nobel laureate James Watson, who predicted Judah Folkman, the scientist behind the products, would leave a mark on history of Darwin-sized magnitude.
Folkman is a professor of surgery at the Harvard University-affiliated Children's Hospital, in Boston, where for the better part of three decades he has been developing strategies for shutting off the body's donation of lifeblood to tumors. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 2, 1997, p. 1.)
The two anti-angiogenic proteins have been tested in mice, both alone and in combination with one another, and have succeeded in shrinking tumors. EntreMed presented seven abstracts on Angiostatin in late March at the 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in New Orleans, and preclinical Endostatin results were the cover story of the Nov. 28, 1997 issue of Nature.
Founded in 1991, EntreMed licensed Angiostatin from Children's Hospital shortly after establishing a relationship with the facility and Folkman in 1993. Endostatin joined the company's portfolio in December 1996 through an additional licensing deal with Children's Hospital.
"You have to give EntreMed credit," said Steinberg. "They licensed the compound [Angiostatin] when the big pharmaceutical companies were still skeptical."
Angiostatin and EntreMed's thalidomide analog program, also targeted at anti-angiogenesis, are partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York.
For those who follow EntreMed, "most of the news in the New York Times article was old news," noted Steinberg. "What was news to us was the timeline on clinical trials commencing, plus the head of NCI saying this was their number one priority."
Ed Gubish, EntreMed's senior vice president for research and development, said the proteins could hit the clinic in 12 to 18 months, depending on the rate of manufacturing scale-up. *