Genentech – the world’s second biggest biotechnology company – impressed investors yesterday with a 61% hike in first quarter net income to $284 million dollars versus the first three months of 2004 [[08/04/04a]], on the back of a 55% surge in total product sales to almost $1.2 billion. Earnings per share for the period soared 69% to $0.27, compared to $0.16 in the corresponding quarter last year.

As a result, the firm is upping its full-year 2005 expectations to year-on-year earnings per share growth in excess of 30%. The company had previously forecast at least a 20% rise in earnings for the 2003 to 2005 period [[17/03/03f]]. “Earnings per share continued to increase, moving us toward exceeding our 5x5 EPS growth goal,” said Arthur Levinson, Genentech’s chairman and chief executive.

Genentech’s growth was driven by increasing demand for its oncology portfolio, and in particular Avastin (bevacizumab), which generated sales of some $203 million, compared to $38 million in the first quarter of 2004. The drug was first launched in the US in February last year [[27/02/04a]], and brought in US sales of just under $676 million in its first full year on the market. Tarceva (erlotinib) for non-small cell lung cancer brought in $48 million in its first full quarter following its US launch in November last year [[22/11/04d]], while the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma therapy, Rituxan (rituximab), rose 22% to $441 million. The breast cancer therapy, Herceptin (trastuzumab), increased 19% to $130 million during the quarter.

On the non-cancer front, US sales of the asthma drug, Xolair (omalizumab), rocketed 119% to $65 million, versus the $30 million recorded in the first quarter of 2004, whilst sales of the psoriasis drug, Rapitva (efalizumab), reached $17 million in the quarter – up 163%.