Already a swift mover and big winner for investors this year, Immunocellular Therapeutics (IMUC.OB) may still have enough short to mid term catalysts on the horizon to propel shares even higher. A financing deal announced early in the year restocked the company's war chest with cash and exposed the fact that institutional interest in the company is growing as the Phase II glioblastoma trial for ICT-107 progresses on schedule.
Up until this point it has been mainly the potential of Immuncellular's technology and pipeline that has garnered most of the news headlines for the company. By attacking cancer stem cells, Immunocellular's technology has already proven in early studies that it may be superior to the current standards of immunotherapeutic cancer care. The technology also comes with certain logistical advantages that position ICT-107 and other future Immunocellular treatments to be far less expensive than comparable treatments, as outlined in a recent company presentation.
This potential for more attractive pricing is a note not to be ignored, as it was concerns of pricing and reimbursement that led to a collapse of Dendreon's (DNDN) share price last summer. Provenge sales slumped and were hugely underwhelming, when compared to previous company and analyst estimates, but Immunocellular's processing advantages alleviate the risk of having to face such obstacles.
As these pipeline notes and advantages have been well documented, IMUC is also starting to gain some momentum from other factors.
The institutional interest that resulted from the earlier financing deal created some buzz, as Ayer Capital Management - a big player in the health care sector - took a seven percent position in IMUC. Ayer's holdings currently include (or have previously included) Teva (TEVA), Dendreon , Celgene (CELG) and Oncothyreon (ONTY). Ayer jumping into IMUC with such a significant position adds an air of credibility for the company, which certainly played a major factor in the recent push to two dollars, and could spark the confidence of investors who might have otherwise still been sitting on the sidelines waiting for the opportune time to jump in.
With the spike in price and market cap having reached nearly double from the opening prices of the new year, it's also worth discussing the possibility that a move to one of the bigger trading boards might be in the works for IMUC shares. Many investors, both private and institutional, won't touch stocks that trade on the OTC markets, and a move to the AMEX would provide another big layer of credibility for the company to those investors or funds that consider the bulletin boards too risky.
Such a move to one of the big boards will also draw interest to the fact that Immunocellular carries no debt, and - as a result of January's financing deal - has enough cash on hand to last well into 2013, far beyond the expected time frame for the initial releases of results from the ongoing Phase II. By that time Immunocellular might be flying high as a solid buyout candidate, given the fact that big players in the industry are increasingly looking to scoop up smaller companies earlier in the stages of pipeline development. The buyout speculation will grow that much more if interim results, that are due out late this year, are as encouraging as earlier results were.
As the push to breach and sustain the two dollar mark continues, look for factors outside of just the pipeline to start playing a larger role in the IMUC price movement. Growing institutional interest not only validates the Immunocellular pipeline, but it also validates the shorter term potential of the stock, as evidenced by the early-year run.
Speculation about a move to the AMEX - or another big board - also lends credibility to the growing story, and the buyout talk should also be respected, given the now-solid cash position of this company and the huge potential that its lead product could have on the open market.
Although results from the Phase II ICT-107 trial are not expected to start trickling in until later this year, there are plenty of other catalysts on the horizon that have the potential to move the IMUC share price; keep an eye out for some of those developing stories.
Disclosure: I am long IMUC.OB.