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Six Things to Watch at Biotech CEO Conference


Chief executives from Gilead, Onyx, and Eli Lilly are among those featured at the industry event in New York. A number of fund managers are scouting the conference.

Dozens of fund managers will be sizing up biotech executives over the next couple of days in New York. More than 100 public companies are scheduled to speak at the Bio CEO & Investor Conference, which got underway Monday morning.

Despite Friday's storm, conference organizers say almost all the companies will still present at the meeting. Here are some companies and themes to watch for at the event, which is sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization. See the full schedule of presentations here.

Onyx Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ONXX) CEO Anthony Coles is scheduled to be interviewed by an analyst Tuesday morning at the conference as part of a program known as "fireside chats." Onyx recently held a secondary offering of its shares to raise more than $350 million. Proceeds will go toward covering marketing and R&D expenses for cancer drug Kyprolis. The drug was approved last year as a follow-up therapy for multiple myeloma and is being studied for wider use. The shares are down 9% over the past month but are still up almost 80% over the past year.

Coles will certainly be asked about Celgene's (NASDAQ:CELG) newly approved Pomalyst, another multiple myeloma drug that was just cleared for sale in the US. (Celgene CEO Robert Hugin spoke at the conference early Monday.)

Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) Chief Executive John Milligan is scheduled for another fireside chat later Tuesday morning. In addition to questions about the company's hepatitis C development program and HIV treatments, Milligan may be asked to explain the recent purchase of YM BioSciences, which is developing a blood cancer drug.

Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) CEO John Lechleiter should be asked Monday afternoon about his company's challenges developing new drugs. Last week, Lilly said it is halting a development program for an experimental rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Unfortunately, Lilly is one of the few companies that won't be webcasting their CEO's comments from the conference.

BioMarin Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ:BMRN) CEO Jean-Jacque Bienaime is scheduled for a fireside chat Tuesday afternoon. BioMarin, a company that specializes in drugs for inherited rare conditions, will report fourth-quarter and full-year results next week. So Bienaime may not reveal a lot at the Bio conference. Some analysts have expressed a great deal of interest in recent weeks over BMN-673, an early-stage drug for genetically defined cancers.

Shares of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:KERX) exploded in late January after the company said its experimental drug for kidney dialysis patients worked in a late-stage study. A day after announcing the news, the company said it would sell stock in a secondary offering to raise $55 million. CEO Ron Bentsur is scheduled to present at the conference Monday afternoon.

Two diet pill makers, Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARNA) and Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ:OREX), will be updating investors Tuesday afternoon. Arena has an approved diet drug, Belviq, which is still waiting for clearance from the Drug Enforcement Administration before it can be sold. Orexigen is testing the safety of its drug contrave and hopes to apply for US approval of the drug in the second half of this year. A third company, Vivus (NASDAQ:VVUS), is already selling a drug, Qsymia, but early sales have been slow.

Twitter: @brettchase

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