Monday, April 23, 2012

HGSI in play, an era comes to a close

It's been a long, long, long road for Human Genome Sciences, but congratulations are due for their $2.6B buyout offer from GSK at a roughly 50% premium to their previous trading price of $7 per share. HGSI rejected the offer, but it is widely expected that HGSI and GSK close a deal at a slightly higher price ($3B?), though it would be fun to see GSK hold firm on the pricing of their offer - I don't think HGSI is likely to attract higher bids from any other companies.

By way of comparison, over its' history, HGSI raised ~$3.8B in capital.

The buyout is driven by HGSI-developed Benlysta (for Lupus, partnered with GSK) and it's near term pipeline which includes a pretty exciting atherosclerosis drug. Once again, we see big pharma buying a partner who has been substantially de-risked, something to consider as Vertex, Onyx, and others approach this stage.

But HGSI will forever be to me a lesson in buzzword-investing.

Rewind to very late 1999-2000 - the peak of the internet investing bubble and the dawn of the genomic age. Tech investor fervor and the news of the success of the Human Genome Project ran up the stock prices of all things genomic. HGSI peaked at a split-adjusted price of 103 in 2000. (Reminder: GSK's current offer is ~$13 per share.) Here's a crazy chart of HGSI's stock price over the last 13 years:

But genomics shares (including Celera, Incyte, etc.) cratered quickly once the hot money cooled and once the realization hit that genomics products seriously lagged, for a variety of reasons. What followed was a lonely decade for genomics stocks, and I can't help but wonder if the 2000-era fervor was a net negative for genomics. (Did the investing bubble distract management from building a successful long term tech platform? Did the unreasonable expectations of the market poison the well for future genomics companies?)

The genomics bubble was nothing new - remember the gene therapy bubble or the angiogenesis bubble before that? Since the genomics bubble we've seen a stem cell bubble and an RNAi bubble, so clearly the investment community hasn't learned the lesson to ignore or at least devalue hype, but HGSI's sale to GSK shows that post-hype, post-bubble companies can still generate value. 

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