Review of New Patent on Lupus (IMMU, HGSI)
Immunomedics, Inc. (NASDAQ: IMMU) has made an announcement that may need to be reviewed by Human Genome Sciences, inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI) investors. This is not a deal-killer or anything like that, but this could be at least get a glance from investors based upon the headline. Immunomedics issued a press release today titled “Potential Lupus Drug Gains U.S. Patent”…. Keep in mind that the company’s investor presentation lists some 141 US patents and 302 worldwide patents.
The company said that its patent for “Immunotherapy of autoimmune disorders using antibodies which target B-cells” has been issued. The USPTO assigned U.S. patent number 7,641,901 covering the use of monoclonal antibodies “that bind to the CD22 antigen on B-lymphocytes for treating autoimmune disorders.”
This covers the use of epratuzumab, Immunomedics’s proprietary humanized anti-CD22 monoclonal antibody, and other anti-CD22 antibodies, alone and in combination with other therapeutics. These other therapeutics are listed as antibodies, cytokines, or drugs, for the treatment of a wide range of autoimmune diseases that include systemic lupus erythematosus. Also noted though, above and beyond lupus, were rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, diabetes mellitus, and ulcerative colitis.
The company also noted that its partner, UCB, has recently reported encouraging top-line results from their Phase IIb study of epratuzumab in lupus and is planning to initiate a Phase III program for 2010.
The issue here is that this is still moving from Phase II to Phase III rather than already being in Phase III studies. Human Genome Sciences is up for FDA approval and that decision for or against approval will likely come long before this lupus candidate could even come to market. It is also implausible that the FDA will consider patent issues in its decision.
This morning came an analyst downgrade from Goldman Sachs, cutting Human Genome Sciences to a Neutral from Buy. The downgrade was before the open and not tied to this patent allowance for potentially another lupus drug down the road. It was merely a valuation call now that Human Genome Sciences had become worth more than $5 billion in market cap.
Immunomedics Inc. (IMMU) does not fit the same bill as the other quest for 10-baggers or 1,000% gainers in biotech entirely. Its $290 million market cap is larger than most stocks which suddenly run on strong volume of about 1.5 million shares as of 10:28 AM EST, but even after a rapid 18% pop-up the share price is still only $3.86. The 52-week trading range is $0.84 to $7.17 and average daily trading volume is 823,000 shares.
JON C. OGG