Have Shorts CONQUERED Dendreon’s Stock?

Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN) chief executive John Johnson has talked of the possibility of the company seeking a marketing partner in Europe for its Provenge cancer therapy in an effort to boost sales. Shareholders have been unhappy about the biotechnology company’s falling fortunes, with the stock tumbling as much as 82 percent in the past year.

Johnson, who took over the troubled company in February, told shareholders at the annual meeting that his immediate priorities were increasing sales of Provenge and reducing its manufacturing costs. “The long-term future for Provenge is bright,” he said. Johnson added that the company had 100 salespeople promoting the treatment to oncologists and urologists, with encouraging responses.

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A year ago, former chief executive Mitch Gold had projected that Provenge would beat $350 million in 2011 sales. Dendreon was even branded a top stock pick by JPMorgan. However, by August the company had only seen sales of $80 million. It also announced layoffs for about a quarter of its workforce and brought in Johnson. Sales for 2011 finally came in at only $213 million and Dendreon’s shares have now plunged from a mid-2011 high above $40 to around $7.

Johnson, who was handed down the troubles, has stayed positive. He even downplayed the latest setback for Dendreon as rival drugs to Provenge — Zytiga from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Medivation’s (NASDAQ:MDVN) MDV3100 — saw positive clinical trial results. Johnson told shareholders he saw those drugs as complementary and not threats because “physicians will layer on therapies.”

Analysts have disagrees, downgrading their outlook for Dendreon even further on the news. Wedbush analyst David Nierengarten said physicians and patients were likely to favor drugs like Zytiga and MDV3100 over Provenge, mainly for their price tag. Provenge comes at a price of $93,000, while Zytiga only costs about $5,500 a month. Nierengarten estimated the Food and Drug Administration to approve MDV3100 by the end of 2012. He maintained an Underperform rating on Dendreon shares and cut his price target to $4 per share from $5.

Shares of Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN) closed up 6.19% at $7.55 per share on Thursday.