3 Things to Watch With Human Genome Sciences

Human Genome Sciences (Nasdaq: HGSI  ) is a biopharmaceutical company whose two primary products are Benlysta for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus and raxibacumab for inhalation anthrax.

Today, let's look at three things investors should be watching regarding Human Genome Sciences, as they will provide us better insight into the company.

1. Takeover chatter
The first thing shareholders of HGS need to keep their eyes peeled for is updated information regarding GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE: GSK  ) attempted takeover of the company. In late April, Glaxo made a $2.6 billion bid ($13/share) for HGS, which HGS quickly rejected, calling the offer too low. In mid-May, HGS adopted a poison pill that would dilute the holdings of any shareholder who attempted to gain hold of more than 15% of outstanding shares. Glaxo is hoping to take its offer to shareholders directly while both management and Wall Street are counting on a sweetened deal.

Don't get me wrong, a deal would completely make sense because Glaxo and HGS co-developed lupus drug Benlysta. In addition, as the Fool's health-care guru Brian Orelli pointed out in April, two of HGS' phase 3 drugs are under license to Glaxo, which would mean the best an outside suitor could hope for is royalty or milestone payments. Whether HGS realizes it or not, this is really Glaxo's bid to lose; now it's just a matter of will the bid move higher? It took Sanofi (NYSE: SNY  ) nine months last year to win over Genzyme, so don't throw in the towel after just two months of back-and-forth bickering between the companies.

2. Benlysta marketing and pricing
If there was any lesson biotech investors took away from the sector last year, it was that getting a drug approved is only half the battle. Sales of Benlysta, the first lupus drug approved in 50 years, should have taken off, but instead limped out of the gate. HGS has claimed this has more to do with the ebb-and-flow nature of the disease, but I'd say it has more to do with a poor marketing effort and the fact that the drug will cost patients about $35,000 annually.

We saw a similar failure to launch from Dendreon's (Nasdaq: DNDN  ) prostate cancer treatment, Provenge, whose $93,000 price tag scared patients and physicians alike back under their rocks.

It's quite possible that despite having revolutionary and unique drugs, both HGS and Dendreon may need to consider lowering their price in order to boost sales. HGS may also need to seriously consider bringing in a more experienced sales team to drive Benlysta sales since revenue only increased 21% sequentially over the fourth quarter.

3. The non-Benlysta pipeline
This should go without saying, but there's more to HGS than just Benlysta.

Raxibacumab, used to treat inhalation anthrax, received two orders from the U.S. government totaling 65,000 vaccines in 2009. Although it hasn't received formal FDA approval, HGS continues to work with the FDA on making that a reality. What should be noted is that HGS doesn't have the only inhalation anthrax hopeful as Emergent BioSolutions (NYSE: EBS  ) has four anthrax-focused drugs in development and recently signed a multiyear contract to supply BioThrax vaccines to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Perhaps even more important than raxibacumab are HGS' phase 3 clinical trials for abliglutide and darapladib that are being co-developed with Glaxo. Albiglutide is a type-2 diabetes drug that, if approved, would be entering a very crowded market. I find darapladib the more interesting of the two as it inhibits the biological activity of an enzyme that could reduce the adverse risk of a heart attack or stroke in patients with coronary heart disease or acute coronary syndrome. As a potential atherosclerosis drug, the market is huge, however, it should also be noted that darapladib failed to impress in mid-stage studies so an approval could be a long shot.

Foolish roundup
Now that you know what to watch for, it should be easier to analyze Human Genome Sciences' successes and pitfalls in the future and hopefully give you a competitive investing edge.

If you're still craving even more info on Human Genome Sciences, I would recommend adding the stock to your free and personalized watchlist so you can keep up on all of the latest news with the company.

Human Genome Sciences isn't the only health-care company crafting a revolutionary product. Our team of analysts at Motley Fool Rule Breakers thinks it may have just found the next breakthrough technology in medicine. Find out the identity of this potential multibagger for free by clicking here to get your copy of this special report.

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on Motley Fool CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Dendreon. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Emergent BioSolutions. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that's up to date on all of its shots.


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