Genentech has posted a 75% leap in fourth-quarter net income to $594 million and revenues of $2.71 billion (+43%) on the back of very healthy growth from its cancer portfolio and another spectacular performance from its new blindness drug Lucentis.

US product sales climbed 38% to $2.05 billion in the quarter, with Lucentis (ranibuzumab) for wet age-related macular degeneration bringing in $217 million in only its second full quarter since coming onto the market. That figure smashed analysts’ consensus estimates of around $150-$175 million and brokers are still shaking their heads at the level of the treatment’s success, considering it was only approved for marketing in the USA at the end of June.

US sales of the breast cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) climbed 29% to $322 million, while Tarceva (erlotinib) for lung and pancreatic cancers advanced 27% to $107 million.

Avastin (bevacizumab) sales in the USA shot up 36% to $490 million, helped in no small part by the Food and Drug Administration's recent approval to expand use of the treatment patients with non-small cell lung cancer. As for Genentech's other key products, arthritis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma drug Rituxan (rituximab) posted a 16% gain to $560 million, while Xolair (omalizumab) for severe asthma advanced 26% to $117 million.

Looking back on 2006, Genentech chief executive Arthur Levinson noted that the firm received eight US Food and Drug Administration approvals, added seven new molecular entities to its pipeline, signed “eight significant new strategic collaborations” and "received positive data from four Phase II clinical trials in oncology and immunology."

Overall, the results beat analyst forecasts and investors seemed to like the look of the figures as shares of Genentech rose 1.6% in trading after the bell on Wednesday evening.

Supreme Court backs MedImmune patent lawsuit

Less pleasing for the firm was the news that the US Supreme Court has voted 8-1 in favour of MedImmune and reinstated the latter's lawsuit challenging the validity of a key Genentech patent which is licensed to MedImmune in connection with its respiratory drug Synagis (palivizumab). Genentech said that “we are confident in the strength of our intellectual property and intend to defend ourselves vigorously as the case progresses in district court."