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ImmunoGen: Steadfast Determination to Conquer Cancer

Prohost Biotech - Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Program Committee of the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) taking place in Orlando, FL designated ImmunoGen’s (IMGN) cancer drug IMGN853 poster presentation “Highly Rated.”

It is always refreshing and heartening when top oncology researchers of prestigious associations grant a high rating of the excellent work of a small biotech firm. This news assured us of the appropriateness of our optimistic opinion on ImmunoGen’s Targeted Antibody Payload (TAP) cancer drugs’ outcome and our conviction that these products will generate billions of dollars in revenues. The news has also motivated us to dig deeper into ImmunoGen’s abstracts to find out more about its two new oncology drugs – the focus of ImmunoGen (IMGN) presentation, but not the only information provided in it.

ImmunoGen made nine presentations at the AACR meeting, one oral and eight poster presentations. Six were related to two new compounds, IMGN529 and IMGN853, and the improvements the firm made on them. As a matter of fact, improvement was the center of the presentations, which tackled many aspects the firm has improved, from its drug development portfolio, to research strategy, target selection, therapeutic antibody strategy, factors affecting product efficacy, and the firm’s plans to expand its cancer product pipeline. The changes have, indeed, led to upgrading the therapeutics’ structures of the new drugs and increasing by far their efficacy without compromising safety. The presentations described unique advantageous features of each of the two new drugs. The following explanation of the basic concepts will help provide an understanding of the technological improvements brought about by Immunogen:

Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are not just simple molecules. They are three-component drugs: 1. A cancer-cell killing agent (CKA); 2. A linker. 3. A monoclonal antibody for a specific target. Thanks to the linker, which holds the toxic load to the antibody until it is delivered inside the cancer cells. Antibody-drug conjugates are capable of delivering a hundred to a thousand times cytotoxic agent to cancer cells than chemotherapy without causing toxicity. This toxic power has been oncologists’ dream that has never materialized because of dose-limiting toxicity. As elegant as the concept of the ADC drugs sounds, the drugs are far from easy to develop. Many firms have failed in their attempts. ImmunoGen is among a few that managed to survive the long trials and errors, the financial squeeze and investors’ skepticism. After years of struggling, ImmunoGen managed to fill its pipeline with state-of-the-art drugs.

At the AACR meeting, ImmunoGen presented two new advanced drugs These are:

IMGN853 selectively targets and kills cancer cells expressing folate receptor 1 (FOLR1). This target is over-expressed on most cases of ovarian cancer and other carcinomas including types of non-small cell lung cancers. The drug has proven to have a pronounced anticancer activity.

IMGN529 targets B cell tumors, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The novelty in this drug is in its new dual-action linker. In addition to its usual role connecting the toxic load to the antibody, the new linker  helps  combat multidrug resistance. We learned that these two drugs are on track for IND filing within the coming twelve months.

ImmunoGen’ presentations, which enjoyed the spotlight at the AACR meeting, may have increased this firm’s visibility and lowered old investors’ skepticism towards the firm’s success. The abstracts elaborated on the firm's meticulous selection of the therapeutic targets and the antibodies. The oral presentation elaborated on the preclinical data from IMGN529 an anti-CD37-maytansinoid conjugate developed for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Later in the schedule, a poster section is planned to discuss the multiple mechanisms of action of the drug. . A final poster will be about a novel humanized anti-HER3 antibody that inhibits some kind of tumor cells’ proliferation.

Bottom Line, ImmunoGen’s presentation at the AACR has offered more evidence-based facts about its technology and products than analysts would need to fairly evaluate this firm. Adding this insight to the clinical results of its lead HER2 breast cancer drug T-DM1, which is in final phase trials and, which wowed Genentech following unveiling Phase II trial results, the margin of error in evaluating this firm’s value should tremendously shrink. Its current market cap, which is $624 million reflects less than  20% of expected revenues in the next five years  ImmunoGen has eight drugs in clinical trials + two in preclinical + the two new drugs that were highlighted in the AACR meeting in the past few days.

We really believe ImmunoGen is steadfast in its determination to conquer cancer and its market cap should currently be over $1Billion. The upside is huge and the reward by far outweigh the risk.

We long this firm.

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