So I see here that Genentech (NYSE:DNA) delivered better than 40% growth in revenue and better than 60% growth in earnings for the fourth quarter. Ho-hum. Nothing to see here. Let's move on to the next story.

Or maybe not. Although Genentech isn't a cheap stock by any stretch of the sane imagination, it is a compelling force to be reckoned with in the biotech world. While its sales are still below the level of smaller pharmaceutical companies such as Lilly (NYSE:LLY) and Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP), its market cap exceeds industry graybeards such as Merck (NYSE:MRK) and Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT).

How good the fourth-quarter results look depends a lot on your perspective. I think 44% revenue growth and 64% net income growth (under generally accepted accounting principles) is pretty good, but I'm sure some will be disappointed that the company didn't blow away the estimate by double-digit percentages, as they had for the past three quarters.

Likewise, I'm sure there will be some concerns expressed about the slower-than-expected adoption of Avastin in off-label usage. This will be old hat to biotech/pharmaceutical veterans, but allow me to explain briefly. Once the Food and Drug Administration approves a drug for an indication, any indication, a doctor can generally prescribe it however he or she sees fit.

In other words, although Avastin is approved for colorectal cancer, an oncologist can prescribe it for kidney, breast, or other types of cancer. Given the time that it takes to complete clinical studies on other applications for approved drugs, many companies come to count on off-label usage as a meaningful part of their drug sales. And given that Avastin sales apparently came in about $20 million or short of the estimate, it seems that this off-label usage wasn't quite as extensive as hoped.

A few pennies here or there in earnings per share don't worry me much; this is a great company by any reasonable standard. And while I'm sure some might pay attention to Fortune naming Genentech the top company to work for, I'm more impressed by Science picking it as the most admired company in the sector. After all, recruiting talented scientists is the real pipeline for these companies.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).