Archive for October 8th, 2008

America’s Newest Export

October 8th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Wall Street Journal

Early in the economic crisis, US exports grew because the dollar was weak, and that propped up our economy enough to fend off a (unmentionable R-word).

More recently the Pound and Euro have weakened, and US exports will surely decrease as a result. Oh well, now that European banks are experiencing the same troubles as their US counterparts at least we can say America still exports something.

Germany, Belgium and Italy, welcome to your very own credit crisis!

The events in Europe the last several days have been stunning. On Sunday, Germany announced it was guaranteeing all consumer bank deposits. It then bailed out Hypo Real Estate Holding AG, a huge property lender that nearly collapsed after private lenders pulled out of a $48 billion loan last week.

Later that same day, sacre bleu, Luxembourg and Belgium allowed the French bank BNP Paribas to acquire Fortis NV, the banking and insurance colossus for $22 billion. The hastily arranged take-over came days after customers began pulling big money out of Fortis and the Netherlands nationalized its branch of the company.

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Facebook Loses Peach Fuzz

October 8th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Information Week, Wall Street Journal

Last week, co-founder and head engineer Dustin Moskovitz left Facebook to start a new software company. Joining him in the venture will be Facebook engineer Justin Rosenstein.

Their departure follows by a few months the exit of Facebook’s chief technology officer and a former chief operating officer.

As its early employees move on, Facebook has added grizzled vets from Google, Yahoo and other established tech companies. With the seasoning have come things like new performance review systems, formal training programs and recruiting processes.

Moskovitz founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 while they were roommates at Harvard.  Zuckerberg indicated he will continue to seek advice from Moskovitz as they move forward separately.

Facebook has never been more popular. It now has 100 million users and a staff of 700. It has increased advertising revenue to $350 million, although much of that comes from a single display-ad agreement with Microsoft which took a small ownership position in Facebook when the deal was consummated.

Meanwhile, a lot of Facebook employees have November 1 circled on their calendars. That’s the day the company starts permitting employees to sell some shares in Facebook at its internally determined valuation of $4 billion.

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Prostate Cancer Vaccine

October 8th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Wall Street Journal

Just about everybody is getting shelled in the market these days, but Dendreon Corporation shareholders just hit a gusher. Dendreon’s stock soared 36% Monday on positive news from an interim analysis of its prostate cancer immune therapy drug, Provenge.

Two years after randomization, the trial shows that the vaccine-treated group had 22% fewer deaths than the placebo group. In addition, safety concerns have not surfaced. Although favorable, these results did not compel scientists to halt the trial and trigger an amended FDA filing.

The study should conclude in mid 2009. From that point, the FDA has 6 months to review the results.

These interim findings are similar to those observed in a previous trial of Provenge which prompted an FDA advisory panel to report that Provenge had proven to be safe and effective. Rather than accepting the panel’s recommendation, the FDA ordered another study.

Many analysts doubt the positive interim findings will stand up.  Bank of America analyst William Ho for example, said “considering the totality of the data available, we are skeptical of a positive outcome of the final analysis of the…trial.”

Dendreon wants Provenge approved for asymptomatic men with advanced prostate cancer that is no longer responsive to hormone therapy.

Provenge is the first immune therapy drug to achieve positive results so late in the approval process. Other cancer vaccine companies are IDM Pharma, Progenics Pharmaceuticals and Antigenics.

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