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Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Icos chief stirs up interest in Cialis at investor event

Seattle Times business reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — Icos Chief Executive Paul Clark keeps hearing the same questions: When are Cialis ads going to hit TV? How fast are prescriptions coming in for the impotence drug? How much of the market is it taking from Viagra?

Clark tried yesterday to keep expectations under control while he whipped up enthusiasm for Cialis at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, the biotech industry's biggest annual investor event.

Clark told investors that Icos and Eli Lilly sales reps were calling doctors to pitch the drug the day after it won approval from the Food and Drug Administration in November, and the drug was shipped to 80 percent of U.S. pharmacies within two weeks. The consumer-ad campaign isn't ready for prime time, but Clark said the Bothell company hopes the FDA will approve the ads to run in the first quarter.

And when they arrive, he said, the ads will have bite because, unlike those for rival Levitra, the Cialis ads will most likely describe what the drug is for, including information on benefits and side effects.

"They will (emphasize) to men and women, the freedom to choose the moment for intimacy that is right for them," Clark said.

But Clark tried to discourage investors from making quick judgments on U.S. sales because the drug just became available during the holiday season. Early sales data will be skewed by pharmacy stocking and won't be a good barometer of patient demand, Clark said.

Clark also outlined Icos' other products in development, like RTX, an experimental treatment for frequent and painful urination, and IC485, which recently started a midstage clinical trial in emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Icos' pipeline, which less than two years ago had eight drug candidates, has been trimmed to four.

The company is looking to buy partial rights to drugs from another company, Clark said.

Seattle Genetics

Seattle Genetics attracted a large crowd to its presentation. Chief Executive Clay Siegall said the company's lead experimental drug, SGN-15, is being analyzed for its ability to prolong lives for lung cancer patients when given in combination with chemotherapy.

The company said it plans to release that data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in a few months.

But before it decides whether to go to the final — and most expensive — stage of development, it is studying different dosages in a small number of patients over the next several months.

Seattle Genetics also outlined its technology for linking antibodies to small doses of chemotherapy.

The company attracted attention last month when Genentech and Protein Design Labs bought more rights to use the technology.

Dendreon

The Seattle company was still basking in the glow of data showing that its prostate-cancer treatment prolonged lives by a median of 8.4 months.

Chief Executive Mitchell Gold told investors the company has scoped the market for its drug and thinks about 3,000 urologists would prescribe it the most.

Of course, Dendreon still needs to finish its last clinical trial to prove Provenge works well enough to win FDA approval, a process expected to take two years. Once the drug is on the market, Dendreon also hopes the immune-system stimulator will catch on with patients who aren't as sick.

"Provenge has the potential to change the way we treat prostate cancer in the future," Gold said.

Corus Pharma

The Seattle drug developer, one of about 60 private companies invited to the conference, is trying to raise another round of cash — at least $40 million — to keep its trials moving, Chief Executive Bruce Montgomery said. The company expects to give investors more news soon — clinical results are due in the next two weeks on the midstage trial of an inhaled antibiotic for asthma.

Luke Timmerman: 206-515-5644 or ltimmerman@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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