I love it when a press release says one thing and the stock price says another -- as if investors are really going to be fooled. Yesterday, Dynavax Technologies
The culprit? While Heplisav continues to invoke a better immune response than Engerix-B with one less shot, the main reason for running the trial was to show that there wasn't an excessive amount of variation between manufacturing lots. In this case, the primary endpoint was consistency in the amount of antibody produced at eight weeks, which Heplisav failed to meet.
But it's a little more complicated than that -- this is biotech, after all. The lot-to-lot variation was consistent enough at 12, 18, 24, and 28 weeks. On the surface, consistency at four time points would seem to balance out an outlier in one time point, but because the primary endpoint failed, the trial wasn't a success.
Management seems to think the FDA might accept the failed experiment as good enough, citing Pfizer's
Management also implied that the FDA might accept a less stringent definition of consistency than the one Dynavax prespecified. Using the level used by Novartis's
Retrospective analysis of data is highly frowned upon by the FDA, because if you look at the data in enough different ways, you're bound to find something that will support your cause.
Dynavax will know soon enough how disapproving the FDA is about its approach. The company has already submitted the data to the agency to see whether it's good enough.
Anything could happen -- as I said, this is biotech -- but investors should plan on seeing a call for another study and then rejoice if it turns out to be unnecessary.
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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Pfizer. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.