Teva Pharmaceuticals (NYSE:TEVA) is one of the behemoths in the pharmaceutical industry with a strategic commitment to the growing acceptance of immunotherapy as one line of treatment to combat cancer.
Immunotherapy is not unknown. In fact, it's widely accepted in oncology research that the human body may hold its own key to combating cancerous tumors should the right mechanism facilitate an anti-cancer response. It's also recognized that current treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy, while employed to target cancerous cells, also weaken the human body's immune response.
In the last decade, there is a theorem that if a medicinal variable could super-charge the human body's immune response prior to radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery, the life expectancy of patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer could be significantly improved.
Apparently, Teva has embraced this immunotherapy theorem as a viable counter-cancer strategy at Israeli clinical testing sites where previous research has demonstrated impressive results. I have studied these results ranging across pre-clinical, Phase I, and Phase II clinical research and my long-held conclusion has been that: (1) following immunotherapy treatment, visual reduction in tumor size in head and neck cancers is well-documented; (2) a good portion of this research has been conducted within Israel (not exclusively) suggesting why Teva's presence remains front and center; (3) the high definition scans of tumors treated with a medicinal immunotherapy prior to chemotherapy and radiation resulted in highly defined cancer-edges that then offered a keen advantage to the surgical knife. While the overall life expectancy response won't be answered until a Phase III clinical trial renders results, the ongoing study supported by Teva not only remains on track, but it has now passed a major safety hurdle and total testing sites are being increased from 36 to 50 testing centers.
The problem to curious investors is that the biotech firm behind this immunotherapy treatment has had a tumultuous relationship with Wall Street. However, there is a basic principle to biotech investing: Do the odds favor or not favor clinical success irrespective of blood-thirsty hedge funds, opportunist lawyers, and/or the general biotech climate that is as risky as they come?
Here is where I part company with the general nay-sayers who compare their manhood on chat boards because while Teva's biotech partner's CEO, Geert Kersten, may be as tenacious and calculated as they come, the bottom line is: Will Multikine extend the lives of head and neck cancer patients in the Phase III clinical trial? Because if so, Teva's investment in Cel-Sci (NYSEMKT:CVM) will be brilliant and so will investors who waited patiently through "thick and thin" for the good news. Of course, I cannot guarantee that it will be good news, but I do intend to offer my opinion.
Specifically, when it comes to evaluating the strengths or weaknesses of a clinical trial, my analysis focuses on the science of the drug candidate including the trial design. Meaning, it doesn't matter to me what the company's reputation is or isn't, especially when I have invested hours and hours of private study to draw my own conclusion. The key is to cut through the Wall Street noise that just wants to fleece people of their money.
In the case of Teva's Multikine investment, I've concluded it's a better-than-average gamble of being successful. As an investor, I've long waited for the share price to drop to current levels because even a minor 10,000 share position isn't much of a gamble, at least for me. From an investor's viewpoint, I could lose $2,900 if the drug trial fails or the company folds up shop, but I could also walk away with $100,000 minus my $2,900 initial investment should success yield $10/share. As an oncology drug, $30-$50 per share is more likely, so at the risk of losing $2,900, I could earn $300-500,000 minus my $2,900 original investment. I like those odds.
I expect the angst and rumblings around Teva's investment to continue, but I also like Teva's risk for other reasons. Teva's biotech partner does have a certified production facility (which truly is a rarity among microcap biotechs) and its patent estate offers years of protected revenue across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Middle East. But I also think the Phase III clinical trial will be successfully halted sooner rather than later for the following reasons: (1) the death-rate of patients not treated with Multikine will conclude the clinical trial in advance of full enrollment, and (2) the repeated finding of regressed cancerous tumors will convince the FDA to render an early decision. However, if none of this happens, this relatively small price gamble will probably render results within the next few years.
Recently Teva's partner reported that it had passed a major safety hurdle, yet Wall Street seemed to yawn. I didn't. Multikine's odds of success significantly improved and I have spent hours studying the earlier clinical trial results. I know all the ups and downs and the bantering that surrounds the company and its management. But at the end of the day, if you invest in high risk biotechs knowing their enormous volatility at the current price range I think Teva's investment is a strategic buy for that savvy investor who has done their homework on Multikine's tumor shrinking history. Yes, in my opinion, the clinical research also reported in scientific literature supports that contention -- that Multikine triggers an immuno-anti-cancer response when it is given per the directions of its inventors.
Investors who follow me know that I am a contrarian biotech investor. I am "long" until I sell though I never "short" stocks. The current case here seems almost too easy for me because the risk of overall loss ($2,900) is a drop in the bucket should Multikine be successful since I could earn six figures. Nevertheless, weigh the risk and seek the advice of a licensed market professional. In my view, Teva is the savvy investor because buying its biotech partner is a no-brainer. Quite frankly, most oncology stocks at this point in a Phase III clinical trial are being sold for $3-5/share.
Disclosure: I am long CVM. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article. I executed a position in Cel-Sci (12/5/12) when the stock dropped to $0.29 for the reasons explained in the above article. I may add or sell CVM shares at any time. Be warned that you buy and/or sell at your own risk and you are duly warned to seek the advice of a market professional. For me "long" is until I sell, but I do not "short" stocks. This article is for entertainment purposes only and should not be interpreted as offering individual investor advice.