The Annual Therapeutic Area Partnerships (TAP) is the industry's "most efficient partnering meeting for biopharmaceutical companies and executives seeking to understand the strategic outlook for new products in development, alliance opportunities, and current industry pipeline needs and future projections." It is considered a meeting for the sharpest minds in biopharma. The companies and projects chosen are hand-picked by a panel of independent experts who screen hundreds of compounds and weigh their potential as future products.
The criteria to be included at TAP are companies that have: A large market with increasing opportunity; strong science; diversity of indications; potential for new opportunities beyond the initial indications; and multi-level partnering opportunities, (e.g. biotech to biotech as well as pharma to biotech).
TAP gives companies greater exposure to key players in the investment and pharmaceutical community. Many presenting companies in previous years have gone on to establish major partnerships. These include Trius Therapeutics, Inc. (TSRX), QRxPharma Limited (OTC:QRXPY), Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc. (OPTR), and several others.
Three companies that have been selected this year are all worthy of investors' attention.
Under TAP's category of Oncology for this year's meeting is Geron Corporation (GERN). Geron is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing a novel, first-in-class telomerase inhibitor, imetelstat, for the potential treatment of hematologic myeloid malignancies. The company's stock recently experienced an increase after it had published some promising results for its potentially promising myelofibrosis treatment. In a Mayo Clinic study, five of 18 patients in an abstract analysis achieved at least partial remission. The stock had more than doubled at one point, but it lost most of those gains as the initial euphoric response settled. Additionally, enrollment of two cohorts administering imetelstat at different dosing intensities has been completed, and the minimum pre-specified safety and efficacy criteria were met in both cohorts to enable expanded enrollment. Data from the study are expected by the end of 2013 and if data are positive, Geron plans to initiate a company-sponsored multi-center clinical trial in patients with myelofibrosis.
When shares of Geron jumped up a little more than 116% on the good news posted on the American Society of Hematology (ASH) website, investors were hopeful. According to the company's third quarter results, the company reported a net loss of $8.3 million, or $0.06 per share, compared to $16.0 million, or $0.13 per share, for the comparable 2012 period. Net loss for the first nine months of 2013 was $29.1 million, or $0.23 per share, compared to $53.0 million, or $0.42 per share, for the comparable 2012 period. The company ended the third quarter of 2013 with $67.0 million in cash and investments. Revenues for the third quarter of 2013 were $181,000, compared to $636,000 for the comparable 2012 period. The decrease in revenues for the three and nine month periods ending September 30, 2013, compared to the same periods in 2012, primarily reflects the recognition of a license payment from GE Healthcare UK, Limited in the third quarter of 2012 and termination of the company's license agreement with Asia Biotech Corporation in December 2012. The company's recent successful testing, as well as its addition to the TAP meeting is why I suggest this to be a company to invest in now. The stock trades at $5.40.
Another biotech company that will be presenting at the upcoming TAP meeting is Cellceutix Corporation (OTC:CTIX), a growing biopharmaceutical company that is developing innovative drugs to treat diseases primarily in the areas of cancer, psoriasis, and antibiotics. Cellceutix is mostly known for its cancer-fighting drug, Kevetrin, a small molecule compound with a structure that is distinct from other anti-cancer agents currently on the market. Kevetrin's primary mechanism of action has been shown to induce activation of p53, often referred to as the "Guardian Angel Gene" due to its crucial role in controlling cell mutations. This "Guardian Angel" is a tumor suppressor protein that is encoded by the TP53 gene in humans and has been widely regarded as possibly holding a key to the future of cancer therapies.
The company recently was able to outmaneuver bureaucratic big pharma and acquire the assets of PolyMedix. The acquisition of PolyMedix brought in the drug Brilacidin, which was chosen at TAP this year as the "key antibiotic to watch." Brilacidin, a game changer antibiotic, is designed to exploit a method of bacterial cell killing, via biophysical membrane attack, against which bacteria have not shown any development of resistance. Brilacidin achieved in a completed Phase 2a trial its objectives of meeting efficacy and safety in all evaluated doses. All regimens of Brilacidin for all patient populations and time points showed early, high, and sustained clinical responses. These clinical response rates observed in the study suggest the potential for exploration of shorter treatment regimens. This is a key factor for investors going forward as the company has the potential to have the only single-dose antibiotic on the market. Cellceutix plans to begin a Phase 2b dose optimization study trial in January 2014.
I see Cellceutix as a great buy for the long haul, not just because of its joint venture or partnership potential, but because of the ever increasing number of drug resistant bacteria and the need for more innovative antibiotics. Just recently, Reuters reported that Swiss drugmaker Roche is poised to get back into antibiotics because of a novel drug that they want to develop to tackle drug-resistant bacteria. In addition, Johnson & Johnson's Levaquin was generating $1.3 billion in sales before it came off patent so the potential is great for success. Cellceutix has the most potential of the three listed here since a phase 2a was already completed and the results were efficacious. The stock trades at $1.75.
The third biotech that is worth watching is Cytori Therapeutics, Inc. (CYTX). Cytori is a regenerative medicine company which is currently developing stem cell treatments for cardiovascular disease, wound healing, orthopedic/sports injuries and soft tissue damage. The company has a global product development strategy focused on the U.S. cardiovascular disease market where its goal is to bring cell therapy to market for treatment of chronic ischemic heart failure. Through Cytori-sponsored clinical development efforts the company plans to develop a treatment for thermal burns combined with radiation injury under a contract from BARDA, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The company made headlines recently with the announcement that Cytori had licensed its regenerative cell technology for Lorem Vascular and that Lorem will pay a premium to invest $24 million in Cytori over the next two months. Lorem will also order $7 million worth of products, and agreed to pay up to $500 million based on potential sales. Lorem wants to market Cytori's cell therapy products in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. The transaction caused the Cytori's stock price to jump 46%.
Cytori is currently has $13.6 million in cash and equivalents at the end of last quarter. However, the recent deal with Lorem and the fact that the company is presenting at this year's TAP meeting, makes Cytori attractive. The stock trades at $2.50.
Though these three companies are considered small cap their revolutionary technology is nothing but huge. Their potential is just breaking out with Geron and Cytori hitting a new high and Cellceutix's momentum building up. These companies are very exciting and I would recommend watching them for any catalysts going forward.