Still Profitless in Seattle Genetics

Seattle Genetics reported "record" sales in the second quarter for its only drug, Adcetris.

But "record" is all relative, as the sales in the U.S. and Canada only amounted to $55 million. With the solid but far from blockbuster sales, management raised guidance by $10 million on either end of the range and now expects Adcetris sales for the year to come in the range of $210 million to $220 million.

Royalties from Takeda's sales of Adcetris outside the U.S. and Canada added another $7.6 million and Seattle Genetics booked another $14 million in revenue from collaboration and licensing agreements. Added together the $77 million in revenue couldn't even cover Seattle Genetics' research and development bill of $85 million. All told Seattle Genetics lost $47.5 million in the second quarter.

Using sales from a first approved drug to offset some of a biotech's expenses as it ramps up sales is par for the course, but after having Adcetris on the market for nearly four years, it's clearly time for Seattle Genetics to accelerate sales.

Fortunately, that opportunity is right around the corner in the form of an expanded label for Adcetris. By Aug. 18, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to rule on the use of Adcetris as a posttransplant consolidation treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma patients at high risk of relapse or progression.

If the FDA agrees, and that seems likely given the data, Adcetris will be used right after an autologous stem cell transplant if the doctor feels the patient is at high risk of the lymphoma coming back. Adcetris is currently only approved for Hodgkin lymphoma patients after they fail an autologous stem cell transplant or if a transplant isn't possible (and then they have to fail two other cocktail treatments). Getting to the patients earlier in their disease progression should increase sales.

Expanding furtherSeattle Genetics is testing Adcetris as early as it can go in front-lineHodgkin's lymphoma in a phase 3 trial called Echelon-1 that is set to complete enrollment this year. The trial will test Adcetris against the standard of care, a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs calledABVD. The patients that get Adcetris will also get a related cocktail called AVD because the B, which stands forbleomycin, can cause lung toxicitywhen combined with Adcetris. If the Adcetris cocktail works better than the ABVD, doctors certainly won't miss bleomycin, since it's fairly toxic on its own.

This year, the biotech is also looking to complete enrollment in a second phase 3 trial, dubbed Alcanza, which is testing Adcetris against a chemotherapy in patients withCD30-positive mature t-cell lymphomas.

Expanding sales of Adcetris is a good move as it gives Seattle Geneticslots of shots on goalwith a drug that's already shown clinical activity. In addition to the Echelon-1 and Alcanza trials, Seattle Genetics is testing the drug in four other settings that are further behind and has plans to start trials in three other settings.

But eventually Seattle Genetics is going to have to develop another drug on its own. The closest one to market isSGN-CD19A, which Seattle Genetics plans to test in a phase 2 trial in second-linediffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Hopefully by the timeSGN-CD19A makes it to market, enough of the Adcetris trials will be positive that sales will have expanded enough to get Seattle Genetics to profitability.

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Brian Orelli has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Seattle Genetics. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.

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