Morphosys – A Biotech Rule Breaker

Morphosys (MOR.DE) is one of the most unusual biotech companies, as it breaks three basic rules that apply to drug development companies:

Rule No. 1: Development-stage companies burn cash and therefore must constantly raise capital and dilute existing shareholders.

Rule No. 2: Development-stage companies are risky and volatile because they rely on a limited number of binary events.

Rule No. 3: Investing in cutting edge, growing segments of the pharmaceutical industry is associated with a high level of risk.

Morphosys is the only company I am familiar with that systematically breaks each and every one of these rules. It does not have any drugs on the market and is not expected to have any in the foreseeable future, yet it is profitable. It is involved in drug discovery which is associated with a high attrition rate, yet statistically, there is a very high chance that it will have commercial revenues at some point in the future. It is involved in one the fastest growing segments in the industry, but can be regarded as a conservative holding since it will never be dependent on a limited number of binary events. And finally, it has no need to raise cash in the coming decade in order to support its activities, as its costs are covered by other companies.

Morphosys has developed a unique technology for discovering and producing monoclonal antibodies. The technology, called HuCAL (Human Combinatorial Antibody Library) basically mimics the immune system, as it scans a vast repertoire of antibodies and identifies the ideal ones for a given target. This approach represents a shift from the traditional approach of developing antibodies, because it does not involve animal immunization.

The classic way of developing antibodies involves immunizing an animal (typically a mouse) with the target of choice and utilizing the animal’s capability to produce antibodies against the specific target. Morphosys’ solution bypasses the need of immunization, as the entire process of screening and selecting the antibodies takes place on the scientist’s bench. Although most of the antibodies on the market were developed through animal immunization, the “artificial” approach is well accepted and going forward, the industry will probably see plenty of drugs based on both approaches. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the ability to generate an antibody and get it approved, which can be achieved by both avenues, and in some cases, screening technologies have a clear advantage over the immunization. Morphosys’ technology is not the only screening technology out there, but it is certainly considered one of the best, if not the industry’s leading screening system, as underscored by this long list of collaborators.

Morphosys’ platform is the basis for three business segments, each representing a different risk profile and market potential: (i) Research and diagnostics, (ii) partnered pipeline and (iii) Proprietary Pipeline. It is the combination of these segments which makes Morphosys such a unique investment opportunity.

Research and diagnostics

The research and diagnostics division was built primarily by acquisitions and is currently serving research labs and diagnostic companies around the world. Of the three divisions, this one can be seen as the most “traditional”, as it has a relatively low growth rate and commercial potential. On the other hand, the research and diagnostics division is considered very safe, as it is independent of clinical results. In 2008, after several years of losses, the division finally became profitable, despite a sequential decrease in revenues, down 7% to $18.2M. The company expects the unit to grow 10% in 2009 and to maintain a modest level of profitability in the near future.

Morphosys is trying to reshape this division by focusing more on antibodies for diagnostics. The market of diagnostics, albeit much smaller than that of drugs, is expected to experience strong growth in the coming decades as part of the trend towards personalized medicine. Antibodies have an important role in the field and are well entrenched in the market, due to their high specificity and ease of use. Morphosys is addressing the market for antibodies for diagnostics, estimated at several billions of dollars annually, by licensing its platform to diagnostic companies. It is currently involved in over 20 projects, some of which are expected to mature into commercial products. Last year, Morphosys announced that Sweden based Phadia would use an antibody developed by Morphosys in one of its tests for auto-immune diseases. The financial potential of such projects is relatively small, but unlike therapeutics, diagnostic products represent a fast route to market and limited regulatory risk. Without a doubt, the big potential for Morphosys lies in its partnered therapeutic pipeline.

Partnered Pipeline

The partnered pipeline segment is Morphosys’ cash cow, responsible for the vast majority of revenue and profit. The capability to discover and screen antibodies is now very common in the industry and in research labs, but only a small number of companies mastered this technique and created an efficient platform that can feed a vast number of projects. Morphosys is considered one of the four horsemen of antibody discovery, along with Medarex (MEDX), Cambridge Antibody Technology, now part of AstraZeneca (AZN), and Abgenix, which is now part of Amgen (AMGN). Medarex and Abgenix have developed immunization-based platforms whereas CAT and Morphosys have developed screening platforms that do not require animal immunization.

The universal and highly adaptable nature of the HuCAL platform enables Morphosys to be actively involved in tens of projects every year. Typically, Morphosys licenses its technology to pharmaceutical companies and develops anywhere between several to tens of development programs, each program revolves around a single target. The typical deal structure entails an initial licensing fee, full cost reimbursement by the partner, milestone payments of $12-16 million per program and mid single digit royalties on sales. Each program by itself may be modest in size, but considering the fact that Morphosys currently has 55 partnered programs, three of which already in clinical testing, the overall value is obvious.

Morphosys has agreements with a large number of partners, including some of the largest pharma companies, but in 2007, the company decided to focus most of its research activity on one collaboration by inking a transformative deal with Novartis (NVS). The deal, one of largest ever deals in the pharmaceutical industry was a ten year collaboration which includes more than a hundred new programs. In return to full, but not exclusive access to Morphosys’ technology, Novartis committed to pay $600 million over the course of ten years on top of the standard milestone and royalties on future sales. Although Morphosys is not limited with respect to partnering with other companies, Morphosys does not intend to sign additional broad discovery deals. Therefore, going forward, the Novartis collaboration will account for the vast majority of Morphosys’ activity, and will unofficially turn it into Novartis’ antibody division.

In 2009, the company expects 20 new programs to commence, primarily with Novartis, as well as the advancement of 4 antibodies to clinical testing by its partners. Looking ahead to the coming decade, Morphosys believes it will be involved in a “triple digit number” of programs. Based on present collaborations, Morphosys could cumulatively be involved in as much as 180 programs, an exceptional number by any standard. Most of the programs will not be financed by Morphosys, which will carry the cost only for programs it pursues independently or co-develops with partners.

Suffice it to say, the vast majority of these programs will fail to reach the market. In drug development only a minority of drugs prove both effective and safe, with approval rates traditionally in the single digit range, depending on the indication. Luckily for Morphosys, antibodies are thought to have better success rates due to their excellent safety profile and the ability to identify patients who would derive benefit from the treatment. According to several retrospective analyses, antibodies have a ~3 fold higher approval rates in indications such as oncology and autoimmune diseases, making Morphosys’ prospects even better.

The company tried to illustrate this in one of its presentations last year (see figure), by applying its internal statistics and historical approval rates for antibodies in order to predict the number of programs that will get approved. According to its analysis, which should be regarded as an extreme form of forward looking statement, the company will eventually see more than 17 (!) drug approvals. Investors would gladly settle for half of that number. Assuming average peak sales of $500 million per antibody per year, ten years of peak sales and a royalty rate of 5%, the cumulative value of Morphosys partnered pipeline could reach $4.25B, spread over fifteen years. This figure excludes any revenues from Morphosys’ wholly owned pipeline.


Three partnered antibodies that were developed by Morphosys are currently in clinical trials, in the hands of Roche, Novartis and Centocor. To date, none of them generated proof of concept data, however, that might change during 2009.

Gantenerumab (Roche)

Roche is developing gantenerumab, an antibody for the treatment Alzheimer’s disease. The antibody is similar, in concept, to Elan’s (ELN) and Wyeth’s (WYE) bapineuzumab (bapi) as both antibodies target Amyloid beta, a protein which is one of the hallmarks of the disease. Roche advanced gantenerumab to phase I in 2006 and since then completed the accrual of 30 patients. This trial is somewhat atypical for a phase I study because it is a randomized, double blind comparative trial, so there could be signs of efficacy in the data. The market potential for Alzheimer disease is estimated at over $10 billion, however, to date, no drug proved successful in changing the course of the disease. Until recently, antibodies against Amyloid beta were considered a very promising target, however, following disappointing data for bapi, investors’ excitement towards this approach waned. Roche is expected to publish data from the phase I trial during the course of 2009.

BHQ880 (Novartis)

Novartis is developing BHQ880, an antibody against DKK-1, a protein that inhibits bone growth and has been shown to be involved in bone related conditions. By neutralizing DKK-1 with an antibody, it may be possible to stimulate bone formation. The potential market for BHQ880, providing it proves effective, is very large, spanning from osteoporosis to multiple types of cancer.

The concept of preventing breakdown of bones with an antibody has already been validated by Amgen’s denosumab (Dmab), currently evaluated in a battery of phase III studies. Last year, Amgen published very positive results from a study in post-menopausal women with osteoporosis, in which the antibody led to a meaningful improvement in fracture incidence and bone density. Additional trials showed that Dmab decreases bone loss in breast and prostate cancer patients who received hormonal therapy. A third potential use might be prevention or shrinkage of bone metastases in cancer patients, with data expected in the 2009-2010 timeframe. Dmab is expected to hit the market next year, and instantly become a blockbuster, due to the large addressable market (~5 million people in the US are receiving treatment for osteoporosis) and the substantial cost to society as a result of osteoporosis complications, such as fractures.

Novartis will probably pursue BHQ880 in the same indications Amgen’s Dmab is being evaluated, but the two antibodies should not necessarily be considered as competitors. Not only does each of the two antibodies binds a different target, they are involved in distinct biological signals. Dmab is thought to inhibit bone destruction whereas BHQ880 is expected to stimulate bone formation, so the two may even be synergistic. But first, Novartis will have to show BHQ880 is effective on its own and bring it to market. In order to do so, it picked a relatively small indication – multiple myeloma.

In February of 2009, Novartis started a phase I/II study in multiple myeloma, a blood cancer in which tumors colonize in the bone and degrade it. The vast majority of patients will develop bone lesions at some stage of their disease, resulting in bone loss, pain and increased likelihood of fractures. By stimulating bone formation, BHQ880 may decrease or even prevent bone loss that seems essential for the creation of bone lesions. This, in turn, may lead to not only better quality of life but also reduced tumor burden.

The concept of targeting DKK-1 is based on a growing body of evidence which shows that DKK-1 has an important role in multiple myeloma. For example, a study published in 2003 showed that multiple myeloma cells can create bone lesions by secreting proteins which lead to bone loss, and that one of the proteins they secrete is DKK-1. In addition, the investigators examined cancer cells from patients and found that cancer cells in bone lesions secrete high levels of DKK-1 whereas cancer cells from the blood of patients without bone lesions do not produce the protein.

The decision to start from a small indication like multiple myeloma as opposed to larger indications such as osteoporosis or even prostate cancer has its merits. Despite the significant progress with drugs such as Celgene’s (CELG) Revlimid and Takeda’s Velcade, no drug has been able to cure multiple myeloma, so new treatments are in high demand. In addition, multiple myeloma is not nearly as prevalent as osteoporosis, making it an ideal fast track indication, with a short time to market and a relatively low cost. A typical registration study in multiple myeloma requires less than a thousand patients, while in order to file for approval in osteoporosis, Amgen had to accrue 7800 patients.

Novartis is evaluating BHQ880 in a fairly large study (267 patients) with a placebo arm, which could make potential positive results more credible and serve as a proof of concept for the drug’s activity. This demonstrates again the advantage of having a large partner behind the wheel, as a company like Morphosys would never start such a large and costly trial at such an early stage. Novartis will probably initiate clinical trials with BHQ880 in additional indications in the near future.

Undisclosed antibody (Centocor)

Centocor, a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), signed a licensing deal with Morphosys in late 2000. In the summer of 2007, Centocor promoted one of its programs to phase I trial in solid tumors. Five months ago, it started another trial in an autoimmune indication, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) with the same antibody. Although Centocor did not disclose the identity of the antibody and its target, it seems that the mysterious antibody is CNTO-888, an antibody targeting a protein called MCP-1. Similarly to the two other partnered programs, CNTO-888’s trials are relatively large with 54 and 120 patients planned for accrual in the cancer phase I and IPF phase II, respectively. The phase II is a placebo controlled study.

MCP-1 plays a role in recruiting cells of the immune system by mobilizing them to specific sites, and is therefore believed to be involved in processes such as immune response and wound healing but also in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and even metabolic diseases such as type II diabetes. Although MCP-1 has never been validated as a target, many studies suggest that molecules that block the actions of MCP-1 may be useful in treating a range of diseases. According to Centocor, MCP-1 is also involved in blood vessel formation, so targeting it may be useful in solid tumors, which must build new blood vessels in order to grow and invade distant organs. By binding MCP-1, Centocor hopes that CNTO-888 will starve tumors, similarly to the mechanism of action of Genentech’s Avastin.

Centocor is the only company actively developing an antibody against MCP-1 in the clinic, but it is not the first one to try, and prior experience does not leave a lot of room for optimism. Novartis was developing its own anti-MCP-1 antibody several years ago but decided to discontinue the program shortly after it got into the clinic. In a phase I trial in RA, Novartis’ antibody did not only fail to show benefit, but also led to a worsening of disease symptoms in some patients. This casts serious doubts over the prospects of anti-MCP-1 antibodies in autoimmune diseases, but one still cannot reject the entire concept based on one antibody. Other companies are trying to inhibit MCP-1’s activity by targeting its receptor (CCR2) with a small molecule rather than an antibody. ChemoCentryx is evaluating its compound in a phase I trial in vascular restenosis, a condition caused by blood vessel blockade following a stent procedure. Incyte (INCY) also has a CCR2 inhibitor, but at the moment, the development program is on hold, due to financial constraints. BMS is currently enrolling patients in a phase II study in diabetes for BMS-741672, another small molecule inhibitor of the receptor. The most advanced antibody in the field was Millennium’s (now part of Takeda) MLN-1202, an antibody against the CCR2 receptor, but the company decided to discontinue its development after disappointing phase II results in RA.

To my knowledge, Centocor is the only one who is evaluating inhibition of the MCP-1 pathway in oncology. This could help to differentiate CNTO-888 from other drugs, but only based upon concrete data from the phase I trial, which is still ongoing. The decision to do a phase II in an autoimmune disease can be interpreted as turning way from cancer indication, but perhaps this is part of the planned development program Centocor had originally laid out. The initiation of a phase II trial implies that Centocor already reached the maximum tolerated dose, so if investigators see signs of activity in the phase I, the data should be available this year.

Proprietary Pipeline

Morphosys’ proprietary pipeline is the third and most recent initiative of the company. The basic idea is simple: Using the tens of millions that flow into Morphosys’ bank account every year to build a small, early stage clinical pipeline. Therefore, Morphosys does not expect to burn cash in the foreseeable future, even as it anticipates having a handful of antibodies in clinical testing. These wholly owned programs are the only chance the company has to generate additional meaningful revenues in the near term future through licensing deals.

Morphosys does not intend to independently commercialize its wholly owned products, but to out license them after proof of concept data. This strategy is similar to Isis’ (ISIS) strategy, which alongside Morphosys, is one of the few companies that are developing drugs without burning cash. There is, however, one critical difference between the two companies – the fields in which they operate. Isis’ antisense platform has the potential of revolutionizing the pharmaceutical industry by creating a completely new class of drugs, but to date, antisense drugs have not been fully validated. In contrast, monoclonal antibodies are a highly validated class of drugs, with over 20 approved agents to date, some of which have achieved blockbuster sales. Isis will have its first opportunity to prove that antisense drugs work with its high profile agent, mipomersen, a lipid lowering drug currently in several phase III studies.

Morphosys’ decision to build its own pipeline raises two principle issues. The first issue is the availability of good targets, as identifying the right target is the first and probably most important step of developing antibody-based drugs. Morphosys technology licensing deals usually revolve around specific targets, where the partner gets exclusivity for the target. In other words, Morphosys cannot license the same target twice or independently develop antibodies against an already licensed target. With more than 50 partnered programs ongoing and over a hundred future programs, the pool from which Morphosys can choose is rather limited. When I asked Morphosys’ CEO, Simon Moroney, how he views this issue, he admitted that a lot of targets are indeed taken, but claimed that on top of the substantial amount of available targets, there is a constant increase in the form of new targets every year. In addition, he added, the knowledge and experience gained through so many partnered programs compensates for the loss of potential targets.

The second issue is Morphosys’ ability to create and develop a clinical program from scratch, as this task requires a different set of skills on top the scientific know how. It is still too early to evaluate the company’s performance in this area, however, judging by the first clinical program, Morphosys’ management team know a thing or two about picking the right candidates.

Morphosys has several wholly owned development programs, only one of which, MOR103, is in the clinic. The company expects to promote a second antibody, MOR202, to the clinic in 2010. In addition, Morphosys expects to have several co-development programs in the clinic going forward, as part of the Novartis deal.


MOR103 is an antibody targeted at GM-CSF, a protein traditionally known for its ability to stimulate the production of certain blood cells in the bone marrow. GM-CSF is used as a drug to stimulate the generation of new blood cells in cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy and following bone marrow transplantation. Although it was discovered over 30 years ago, GM-CSF’s role in inflammatory diseases is still being elucidated.

The past years saw the accumulation of data that implicate GM-CSF in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. High levels of GM-CSF were found in joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients, and in animal models, targeting GM-CSF with an antibody led to a decrease in symptoms in several disease models. But perhaps the most convincing evidence comes from anecdotal cases in a 1990 clinical trial. In the trial, ovarian cancer patients were treated with chemotherapy followed by GM-CSF. Some of the patients on the trial also had rheumatoid arthritis and investigators noticed that the administration of GM-CSF led to deterioration of the disease in these patients. This finding implies that GM-CSF has a causative effect in RA and that disease control might be achieved by neutralizing it.

MOR103 entered a phase I study in the first quarter of 2008 in healthy volunteers. The study was expanded to evaluate higher doses than originally planned after no safety issues were observed in the original cohorts. During the second quarter of 2009, the company expects to publish data that will include both safety results as well as biomarker data, but obviously, no efficacy data can be generated in healthy patients. MOR103 will probably enter phase Ib/IIa in RA patients later in 2009, with potential proof of concept towards the end of 2010.

As part of the development program, last year Morphosys acquired exclusive rights to a patent which covers the use of antibodies against GM-CSF for therapeutic use. The patent, which is valid only in the US, may block other companies from selling anti-GM-CSF antibodies in the American market, but it still remains to be seen how this patent holds up in court. If MOR103 becomes approved, this step may turn out to be brilliant, considering the fact that the US accounts for more than half of the worldwide RA market. Of note, there are additional companies that are developing antibodies against GM-CSF, including Nycomed with its partner Micromet (MITI). The two companies plan to start a phase I study with their antibody this year and do not seem too excited about Morphosys’ patent. Furthermore, Morphosys’ patent does not cover antibodies against GM-CSF receptor, such as Medimmune’s CAM-3001, which could compete with MOR103 if both get approved.


MOR202 is an antibody against CD38, a protein expressed by multiply myeloma cells. According to the company, it will start a phase I trial in 2010. By that time, two more anti-CD38 antibodies are expected to be in the clinic. The first is Genmab’s HUMAX-CD38 which entered the clinic early last year. In addition, Sanofi-Aventis is expected to advance its antibody to the clinic in 2009. Antibodies for multiple myeloma are one of the most active areas in the industry, following Rituxan’s (another antibody) success in various forms of blood cancers. Unfortunately, Rituxan is not effective in multiple myeloma, so developers are looking for the “Rituxan of multiple myeloma” by targeting additional targets such as CD38. Companies developing antibodies for multiple myeloma also include Genentech and Bristol-Myers Squibb, but to date, no antibody has demonstrated clinical proof of concept in the disease. The value of MOR202 as a preclinical agent is low, but if Genmab or Sanofi validate CD38 as a target, Morphosys might be able to license its antibody without any clinical data. At that point, the company may still choose to wait until MOR202 generates clinical data, probably in late 2011.


Earlier this month, Morphosys celebrated a decade as a publicly traded company, a decade which was mostly comprised of research and pre-clinical activities. The next decade will be characterized by intensive clinical activity for Morphosys’ proprietary pipeline as well as for its partnered pipeline. While the company expects dozens of programs to reach the clinic in the course of the next decade, the biggest value creating events for the partnered pipeline will arrive only in 7-10 years time, with the potential approval of some of the antibodies.

Although the company is not involved in any late stage clinical programs, Morphosys still looks like it has plenty of upside potential for the coming years. First and foremost, Morphosys is looking at several inflection points with respect to its proprietary pipeline, the first of which is expected next year. According to the company’s CEO, they are actively looking at acquiring products from other companies, which could instantly enhance the company’s pipeline. In addition, Morphosys’ value will definitely be derived from the size and quality of its partnered pipeline, which is expected to grow by several candidates every year. Even a single agent that demonstrates good activity in phase II can be translated into substantial stock price appreciation. Immunogen, for example, derives most of its valuation from a single drug with good phase II results: T-DM1. Similarly to Morphosys’ licensing agreements, Immunogen is eligible for royalties of ~5% on T-DM1 future sales, but due to the impressive phase II data and the clear blockbuster potential, Immunogen’s market cap is now $357M, slightly higher than that of Morphosys. Lastly, from a financial standpoint, Morphosys is a solid investment with positive cash flow and almost half of its market cap in cash, so it will remain independent of the capital markets in the coming years.

The main disadvantage stemming from the company’s business model is its dependence on Novartis. Morphosys decided not to start new broad collaborations, so in several years time, projects with Novartis will capture most of the company’s bandwidth, turning it into an unlikely acquisition target for anyone but the Swiss giant. Therefore, Morphosys is not a likely acquisition target, despite its valuable assets, and even if Novartis decides to buy it down the road, most chances that it would not encounter competition from other big pharmas, who would not want to have such a commitment to one of their competitors. Some may view this situation as an advantage because it will allow Morphosys to stay independent in the coming years and build value for its shareholders.

In summary, Morphosys can be viewed as a blend of pharma and biotech. On the one hand it has the innovation and upside potential of a small biotech, and on the other, it enjoys the diversification and risk mitigation of a large pharma. Morphosys still operates in the drug development field, where failures vastly outnumber successes, but unlike most of its peers Morphosys has statistics on its side. Does it mean that Morphosys is a risk free investment? Absolutely not, but for investors who would like to get exposure to the growing biotech field but with limited risk, Morphosys is as good as it gets.

Portfolio update

Since its inception almost 6 months ago, the biotech portfolio, co managed by Ran Nussbaum and myself, generated a return of 21.6%, versus a decline of 6.1% and 10.3% for the NASDAQ and S&P, respectively. In addition, the portfolio outperformed the leading Life Sciences indices and ETFs, including the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (^NBI), represented in the figure below by the iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology (IBB) ETF.


We decided to sell one of our two positions in Immunogen for a gain of 104% following the sharp climb the stock had experienced, as well as our position in Allergan (AGN) for a modest gain of 17%. On a less positive note, we are also selling our position in Synta (SNTA) at a loss of 70%, after its lead drug failed in a phase III in metastatic melanoma, one of the toughest indications in the industry.

On our buying list this time are Morphosys, which, unfortunately is not traded in the US, Cephalon (CEPH) and Array Biopharma (ARRY). In addition, we are also buying more of Morphosys’ neighbor in Munich, Micromet. Micromet has been suffering from negative sentiment following Medimmune’s decision to cease development collaboration for Micromet’s leading product, blinatumumab (MT-103). When a large company decides to abandon a drug, its decision is usually regarded as a red flag to investors. In this case, however, Medimmune’s decision seems to be based more on strategic issues rather than the quality of blinatumumab. After a long call with Christian Itin, Micromet’s CEO, we believe that the Micromet story remains intact and there is no change in the potential (as well as risk) of the company’s platform. More on Micromet in the next article.

                                                Portfolio holdings as of March 29th, 2009


32 thoughts on “Morphosys – A Biotech Rule Breaker

  1. It’s not as easy as US tarded stocks, but I believe it is possible with most online brokers upon demand.
    Hopefully, with the increase of interset in the US, the company will list its stock on a US stock exchange. I know they are considering it, but no decision has been made.



  2. Hello Ohad,

    Is this fund a private fund? It looks like its two of you, or do you accept investments from 3rd party investors? What are your plans about this and your blog? Can you please post something regarding this, a link on this site regarding your objectives.

    Thanks –


  3. Hi Manish

    The biotech portfolio mirrors to some extent the “nostro” account of Pontifax, where Ran serves as a managing partner.
    We are currently exploring additional opportunities with respect to this potrfolio.



  4. There was an article today from wsj taht Lilly ceo planning to make more biotech takeovers under 15 billion.
    Would you say that the most likely takevover targets in your portfolio would be sgen, imgn, exel, isis, and crx?
    Which 3 in your portfolio do you think that you wouldnt be surprised to be takenover?


  5. I guess that the usual suspect in the portfolio is CRXL.
    ISIS could become a hot acquisition target only if mipomersen gets approved, but then the acquirer would have to pay a huge premium.

    I don’t think IMGN and EXEL will be taken out soon since they don’t wholly own products and are tied with a lot of collaborations. SGEN will have a product soon, but the acquisition price will have to be very high. I think that all those companies know they can generate much more value as independent entities and none will suffer from shortage of cash.

    I would also add GENZ to the acquisition list.


  6. Hi Ohad,

    why is the share price of Morphosys under pressure? The chart looks not good. Why does the street not like this stock?



  7. I think that most of the pressure stems from the fact that there no specific agent with clinical proof of concept. The market likes to put a price tag on a specific product rather than relying on statistics for the entire portfolio. The good news is that with every project that moves into the clinic, chances are higher for clinical validation for one of Morphosys’ projects.



  8. Hi Ohad

    Is there a particular reason for why you decided to sell IMGN? In the previous post you sounded pretty excited about T-DM1.

    Thank you


  9. Nothing happened. The only reason was the fact that IMGN accounted for ~15% of the portfolio, which is not a desirable situation. In addition, you have to remember that T-DM1 is looking great, but the rest of IMGN’s pipleine is disappointing so far. Of course, with the number of candidates recently entered the clinic, this could change this year.



  10. Thoughts about RIGL, oral Rheumatoid Arthritis compound in Phase IIb. Results are expected in July/August, and their Phase IIa results looked very impressive compared to their injectable counterparts such as Enbrel and Remicade.


  11. Dear Ohad
    Regarding ARRY, i was kind of concerned about their cash position and ever widening pipeline. This looks just like EXEL. What do you think of their cash position in 2009?
    Any other company you would like to pointout with strong cash positions like Morphosys?

    Warm regards


  12. Hi Sachin

    ARRY really looks like a mini version of EXEL, but it is a couple of years behind in terms of clinical data. ARRY’s financial position is not as sound as EXEL’s but with the right cost containment measures and $80M in licensing revs the CEO has been promising, I think they’ll be ok. In addition, it has so much going on with so many data readouts expected 2009, that would hopefully create more value.

    Both ISIS and ALNY have strong cash positions, but they also operate in a highly risky segment. If you examine stocks exclusively based on cash position, the “cheapest” stock is probably CRGN, but it is also a very risky one trick pony for now.



  13. Hi Ohad
    I am thinking of taking some ARRY shares, should I wait till AACR meeting or buy it right now. What do you think about the abstract papers, would they revial any important data?


  14. Hi Sameer

    AACR posters typically don’t involve important clinical data, and going over the Array presentations, there is only one clinical trial among the impressive list of posters: A phase I of Her1/2 inhibitor with some sort of a response, according to the abstract.
    ARRY will have plenty of clinical data from June onwards.



  15. Thanks for replying.
    My concern about ARRY is same as other readers have pointed out: their cash position. Company ended December quarter with $100m which may guide it through 2009. CEO is saying they may grab $ 80m in partnership deals, but talks are still at primary stage. ARRY may turn into another RIGL. what are other financing options available with ARRY? Array would be in the same situation where EXEL was in december. I don’t think secondary public offering is a solution in this environment.
    Please share your views, you may have talked with management…what they are saying?


  16. Some have said that provenge showed a reduction in cancer in 20 percent last fall, however, they must meet the minimum 22 percent to have the drug approved. Many are skeptical of DNDN…do you think DNDN will become another SNTA? I remember you reduced your position in SNTA before it tanked because you were skeptical of SNTA’s chances of getting their drug approved. Do you believe DNDN will become the next SNTA?


  17. Hi Sameer
    ARRY’s cash position is a major risk factor that makes ARRY more risky than EXEL, but in my opinion, at current valuation, it seems that all the risk is factored in and most of the upside potential is ignored. even if they don’t manage to get the $80 million they intend to, they can have a viable business model based solely on their discovery programs, but I honestly don’t think this scenario is likely. They can also draw another 40 mil from the loan facility with Deerfield, but I think they would rather keep it as a last option and try to monetize their proprietary pipeline prior to that. The most interesting partnering candidates are the glucokinase activator in diabetes, which could be a game changer for the company and the MEK inhibitor for RA. Personally, I also like the p38 programs.
    Although there is no single drug in ARRY’s pipeline one can point at as the “next big thing”, it is similar to Morphosys in the sense that it is too diverse to fail. In terms of discovery capabilities, ARRY looks as prolific as EXEL in terms of speed and quality of compounds, so eventually several of its drugs will reach proof of concept in man, this year or next year. People also tend to forget the relationship they have with Genentech and Celgene, which should result in multiple IND’s starting from the 2nd half of the year.


  18. Love your blog,
    Tried to interest you on DNDN and wanted to share my DD with you awhile back.
    Would love to continue exchanging ideas and thoughts about Bio-Tech in the future


  19. Hi Anthony

    Congrats on DNDN, I certainly missed that one…
    I hope actual numbers are good. If provenge gets approved it will be a historical event.
    Would love to continue to exchange ideas in the future



  20. Hi Ohad,

    after reading the management outlook from January (press release 2009 01 29), I am a bit concerned that the increased focus on MOR103 may bind too much resources. The triple business model of “proprietary”, “partner” and “diagnostics” may prove difficult to manage simultaneously.
    I am also concerned that investors may have an overemphasis on the glorious outlook of a potentially approved MOR103 and perceive the more stable partnering-part of the company less than appropriate. Such a bias may lead to heavy shakes if just minor rumours about MOR103 emerge. I fear that a too strong proprietary program leads to blurred perspective on the company. Therefore I am very pleased that you took your time for compiling this very thorough analysis on MorphoSys.

    Ciao – Osmium


  21. Hi Osmium

    I agree that running such a modular business is challenging, but on the other hand, this is Morphosys’ only chance to reach substantial value creation events in the next 12 months. MOR103 should deserve more attention as the company has 100% of the upside. In the future, one can hope that Morphosys will have so many partnered drugs in the clinic that they would serve as a buffer against bad news related to any specific agent.



  22. wow, meanwhile 15 partnered programs and 2 fully owned programs in clinical trials (phase I and II)!

    will you write an update on this company?




  23. Morphosys is definitely one of the most eventful stocks in the portfolio. Great story of a profitable biotech with so many shots on goal including some co-development programs with Novartis. I am not excited with the CD19 program though.

    There is a lot of stuff I want to right about, including Morphosys, but time constraints prevent me from doing so.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s