There was many a naysayer when the FDA approved cash-rich Millennium Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ:MLNM) Velcade in May. The rap was that approval was for "the treatment of multiple myeloma patients who have received at least two prior therapies and have demonstrated disease progression on the last therapy." "Limited market," they cried. Last quarter, sales were $23 million.

Today, Millennium and partner Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) announced that a trial was terminated early because Velcade showed significant improvement compared to patients receiving high-dose dexamethasone. Trial patients can now start purchasing Velcade.

Millennium took just four and a half years to push Velcade from first human dose to FDA approval. This latest trial's results, announced today, were not expected until 2005. On-going trials should continue to expand the growing Velcade franchise, as well as other promising drugs in the pipeline. Millennium is picking up steam.

Integrilin, a product co-promoted with Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP) is already on the market. Last quarter, it produced $47.9 million in revenue for Millennium.

As for the stock, it peaked during the genomics boom at $122.19 in July 2000. At noon today, it trades at $17.40, up 6%. Although Millennium clearly deflated along with its peers, the company continues to execute and is growing revenues.

On a pro forma basis, Millennium lost $30 million last quarter -- and net losses are expected to continue as the company spends heavily to bring new classes of drugs to market. But the company also has $919 million in cash and cash equivalents -- and total debt of $212 million.

That is the kind of financial muscle most biotechnology companies only dream about. If things do get tight, a pair of drug-development partners, Xoma (NASDAQ:XOMA) and Bayer (NYSE:BAY) should further ease the financial burden of getting new drugs to market.

Is Velcade a true blockbuster, and will it help drive Millennium back to the stratosphere? Or maybe just fuel a few years' abnormal returns. Or maybe not. Talk it over on the Millennium discussion board.

W.D. Crotty owns stock in Millennium but didn't buy when the Genome Project sent the company's stock flying. W.D can be e-mailed at