OncoGenex testing prostate cancer drugs

The company is one of several racing to get treatments approved.

By Jim J. Jubak Mar 14, 2012 2:55PM

Image: Senior man in wheelchair looking out window (© Tetra Images/Getty Images)Short of a market meltdown that sends every investor screaming out of anything with a bit of risk, biotechnology stocks tend to march to their own drummer, going up on the progress of drug trials and corporate partnerships independent of what the market does.

OncoGenex (OGXI) scores highly on both those metrics. Which is why I'm adding it to my Jubak's Picks portfolio Wednesday.

The company has two prostate-cancer drugs in Phase II and Phase III trials. Prostate cancer is a big disease with 200,000 to 220,000 new cases a year. (There are roughly 2 million men in the U.S. now dealing with prostate cancer. Europe and Japan combined have twice that number.)

Unlike many cancers, it is very treatable with a 100% five-year survival rate if the cancer is diagnosed early. The problem is that 30,000 men die of the cancer in the U.S. every year because they weren't diagnosed early enough.

The race among drug companies is to find an effective treatment for those men who aren't diagnosed early. The current standard of treatment is taxol, which is an expensive and highly toxic drug, which provides only about 2.4 months of survival after treatment on average.

OncoGenex Custirsen (OGX-011), now in Phase 3 trials, is an anti-sense molecule that, when administered with other cancer drugs, decreases resistance to the drug treatment. OncoGenex has just signed a partnership with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA) that includes a $60 million upfront payment and $370 million in potential milestones. OncoGenex anticipates finishing recruitment for its Phase III trial in 2012 with data in 2013. (This sets up a very interesting marketing angle, since a therapy could combine generic taxol from Teva with OGX-011.)

The company's second drug, OGX-427, uses a second antisense pathway to also reduce resistance to drug therapies used against prostate cancer.

The company finished 2011 with $64.9 million in cash. Operating expenses in 2011 came to $27.8 million.

The stock was nearly at its March 1 high of $16.20 Wednesday. I'm adding this stock to Jubak's Picks today with a February 2013 target of $22.

At the time of this writing, Jim Jubak didn't own shares of any companies mentioned in this post in personal portfolios. The mutual fund he manages, Jubak Global Equity Fund (JUBAX), may or may not own positions in any stock mentioned. The fund did not own shares of OncoGenex as of the end of December. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of the most recent quarter, see the fund's portfolio here.
Mar 14, 2012 11:23PM


Yes, and this is the weirdest investment strategy I've ever followed in biotech.


Follow the patents.  Sell out 3 to 4 years before patent expiration.


Or, as they say in Texas Hold 'Em:  "Who's got the nuts?"



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