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I used to run a limited partnership, boutique hedge fund in the 90s. Retired in 2000 and moved from New York City to Toronto, Canada, got married, raised a family and basically settled down. After a few years in Toronto, my wife got tired of the city’s 8 months of cold weather and insisted that... More
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  • ZIOP: Oh, What A Reversal!

    With the futures up BIG this morning and expecting a bullish start to my week, I woke up all happy and jazzed but immediately got a rude wake up: Analyst Jim Birchenough of BMO Capital, ZIOP's biggest bull, who just last week reiterated his Market Outperform rating and his $15 price target had a freak accident: He apparently had fallen out of bed, suffered a severe concussion resulting in complete amnesia...Forgetting the bullish call he made only last week, Jim, in his infinite wisdom, or lack thereof, promptly changed his mind, downgraded ZIOP one notch to Market Perform and slashed his price target by 33% to $10, which, interestingly was more than $2 below ZIOP's last traded price on Friday...

    How could any analyst give a stock a Market Perform rating and set a price target $2 below its most recent price? If Jim was expecting ZIOP to go down in a bull market, then he should have rated the stock a "SELL" and not Market Perform!?! This should be Investment Banking 101...He must have flunked that basic course...

    But really, I should not be so harsh on Jim, especially after he suffers a concussion... ;)

    Ok, enough kidding around! Enough, Jim Birchenough!

    The fact is that there are approximately 30 million shares short in ZIOP and the short sellers needed a ruse, any ruse, to kill the stock's recent strong upward momentum and force its price down in order for them to close their untenable position...so they went and found Jim Birchenough, who clearly was more than willing to sell his reputation to help the shorts out...Whether or not there was a tacit agreement between Jim and the shorts, a quid pro quo of sorts, I don't know, but there certainly was a big stink emanating out of his sudden about face, and the market instinctively smelled a dirty rat in his bogus call, thanked its lucky star and pounced all over the stock...Even though ZIOP opened the trading session down more than a $1, but more importantly, it closed the day up and in strong volume and in the process broke a formidable, double top resistance on its Point and Figure chart, its second in less than a week...(In a recent post ZIOP: Connecting the Dots, I had stated the following: "The upcoming move should be just as ferocious as the recent downward move was grinding..." )

    Looks like ZIOP is following that script...

    (click to enlarge)

    In my 20+ years playing the markets, I personally do not recall a more bizarre analyst call that publicly and humiliatingly boomerangs, slaps the analyst in the face and leaves his reputation in tatters...

    To be honest, I am personally chagrined because just a few months back, on this very blog, I had quoted from a Jim Birchenough report on ZIOP and noted that he was a "highly respected" analyst...After the shenanigan he tried to pull today, I, just like the market, have changed my mind and now stand corrected!

    As can be seen on ZIOP's Pnf chart, clearly there was resistance @ the $12 mark...With today's early morning downgrade and a hefty shaving off of the target price, initially there was a lot of downward pressure on the stock, with weak hands throwing in the proverbial towel(s) on very heavy volume: more than 1.8 million shares changing hands...and all through the trading day, volume continued to be heavy...but clearly there were lots of buyers eager to take advantage of Birchenough's bad call...However, in my opinion, most of today's buying was not mom and pop retail, but instead had the hallmarks of institutional interest...

    Perfect segue to my next point...

    One of the nations largest and most respected biotech and healthcare funds is Orbimed Advisors LLC...As of its most recent 13-F filing for quarter ended March 31st, 2015, (funds are required to file form 13-F at the end of every quarter, detailing its ownership stake in companies), Orbimed had positions in 125 publicly traded companies with more than $11.7 Billion invested...

    I found it remarkable, not to mention surprising, that in the white hot space of CAR-T immuno-oncology, Orbimed only had one pure-play investment...that's right, only one!

    And it was not in any of the usual suspects: JUNO or KITE...

    Sure, they have placed a decent size bet on BLUE, but then, I don't consider BLUE to be a pure-play in CAR-T, though they do play in this space as well...

    One of the nations most respected biotech and healthcare funds had decided to bet on only one horse: ZIOP!

    And per their last reporting period ending March, 31st 2015, their ZIOP bet was actually a brand new wager and clearly was made after ZIOP, along with XON, signed its landmark partnership deal with MD Anderson! Even though JUNO and KITE were considered much further along in the CAR-T space back in the first quarter, Orbimed decided to place its bet on the new kid on the block...not sure about you guys, but I found that to be pretty shocking, albeit, pleasantly shocking! :)

    www.nasdaq.com/quotes/institutional-port...

    Best~

    karim

    DISCLAIMER: All postings made here are strictly for my personal record keeping and in no way, shape or form, am I even remotely suggesting others to follow my pronouncements / prognostications. However, if, in spite of all my exhortations, should you decide to do so, be advised that you, and ONLY YOU will be responsible for any losses that you may suffer...In other words, the onus is strictly on you. On the other hand, if the move(s) result in a profit for you, I am open to discussing a split. ;-)

    Tags: XON, ZIOP, Biotech
    Jun 23 2:52 AM | Link | 11 Comments
  • The Nasdaq Nirvana & Yet Another Prediction!

    We made it to the Promised Land!

    In spite of all the doom and gloom spewed by Bears of every stripe and color, I, for almost 2 years have been repeating, ad nauseum, the mantra that this bull market cannot die because the NASDAQ needs to make a new all-time high...(hey, it rhymes pretty well too!)

    Well, guess what? It eventually happened.

    PHEW!

    It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r, but the blessed day finally came...and today(!), after 15 years, 3 months and 8 days, the NASDAQ did exactly what I had been insisting on my blog for 2 years: It took out its previous all-time high of 5,132.52 set intraday on March 10, 2000. To keep things interesting and cute, the Nasdaq closed today's session at 5,132.95, just 0.43 point higher from its previous intra-day high.

    A few weeks ago, William, who goes by the very cool screen name, Volatilis, and is a regular reader of my blog, was kind enough to congratulate me on my prediction when the NASDAQ closed its regular session at a new all-time closing high...I purposely did not acknowledge his congrats because I did not feel that I was deserving of it then...for me, true Nirvana was only going to be achieved when the new all-time high milestone was reached...

    Well, since the NASDAQ has finally passed my target today, I can now accept William's gracious congratulations and want to sincerely thank him for his acknowledgement.

    :)

    One of the reasons I never watch CNBC is because I don't want to drown in a sea of noise and negativity...most of the folks who come on that station are either charlatans, or they have some kind of an agenda: either they want to sell their service(s), and a few, of the more unscrupulous variety, are hoping to manipulate the market in one of the stock(s) they hold a position in...

    Here on my blog, I have no agenda...this is my little corner in Cyberspace where I'm able to share my knowledge and experience with others; and make predictions on market direction and share my stock picks, good, bad or outright ugly....I have made some good calls and a few real horrible ones...but all in all, my overall record, I believe, has been pretty decent...

    Of my good calls, I am most proud of i) my Nasdaq prediction, ii) calling the bottom on Apple two weeks before Carl Icahn made his now famous announcement of taking a large stake in the company, iii) taking my cue from billionaire fund manager and perennial bull, David Tepper's much publicized bearish market call on CNBC and taking a contrarian position and correctly calling the end of the NASDAQ correction and the start of a new uptrend on May 26th, 2014, iv) of course my completely transparent experiment of taking $10,000 and turning it into $1,074,475.06, a 10,000% gain, in exactly 6 months by only playing the options game and posting here on my blog, each and every trade in real-time and more importantly, publicly announcing my intention(s) before executing the trade, and v) before I started this blog, I, under the moniker, SafeList.com, literally went into a bear's den here on Seeking Alpha in 2010, metaphorically speaking of course, and, with the DOW tumbling below 10,000 made a pretty gutsy prediction, bullish of course, and then, about 6 months later, went back to that same bear's den and to the consternation of the resident bears made an even bolder prediction: tinyurl.com/ot69k6w

    Of my most embarrassing calls that landed me in my family's dog house for extended periods of time, two that glaringly stand out include my disastrous bet on GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) which unexpectedly imploded last year after declaring bankruptcy, literally in the middle of the trading day; and my other bad call was when I made a sizable bet on Rene Solar (NYSE:SOL), believing it to be an extremely undervalued Chinese solar company, and at the end of the day, the only thing that was under-valued was the dollar size of my portfolio when the company executed horribly, its stock price went straight into the gutter along with my CALL options and forced me to eat humble pie, yet again...

    :(

    In any case, now that the NASDAQ has made a new, all-time high, where will the markets go from here?

    Prediction: If you are a bear and expecting the NASDAQ to just rollover and start rolling down then I'm afraid I have more bad news for you...But if you're a bull, then rejoice, because I believe that the Index it will continue to march higher and make numerous new all-time highs with occasional dips along the way, but the trend is still up. Heck, it took the Index more than 15 years to achieve this very elusive milestone and it aint gonna let go of its state of blissful euphoria for a number of weeks and possibly even a few months, before taking a breather...so expect multiple all-time highs between now and the end of the year...

    YEEHAW!

    :)

    Best~

    karim

    P.S. For those new to my blog, here are a few links to a number of posts over the last 2 years when I was consistently pounding the table, arguing that that there was still a lot of bull left in the market:

    seekingalpha.com/instablog/6566781-optio...

    seekingalpha.com/instablog/6566781-optio...

    seekingalpha.com/instablog/6566781-optio...

    seekingalpha.com/instablog/6566781-optio...

    seekingalpha.com/instablog/6566781-optio...

    Jun 19 1:29 AM | Link | 2 Comments
  • XON / ZIOP Jump Ahead Of JUNO, KITE & Novartis With Next-Generation CAR-T Technology!

    In a recent blog post titled, ZIOP: Let's Connect the Dots..., I had highlighted 2 quotes: one from Dr. Laurence Cooper from earlier in the year when still at MD Anderson, he said he was "salivating" when he saw XON / ZIOP technology; and the other by Mr. Randal Kirk, CEO of Intrexon at the company's most recent earnings conference call when he said that in the field of health, "we're totally smokin' hot."

    This weekend, I came across an eye-opening article by Chris Morrison in the publication, Nature Biotechnology, that helps explain the reason behind Cooper and Kirk's over-the-top enthusiasm...

    This article on the very exciting field of immuno-oncology and published earlier this week, quotes top executives from a number of companies in this space including Novartis, Juno, Kite and Merck-Serono...I will share a few excerpts from this well researched article and highlight a couple of quotes that should help ZIOP shareholders get just as excited as Cooper and Kirk:

    CAR-T Field Booms as Next-Generation Platforms Attract Big Players

    by Chris Morrison and published online on May 9th, 2015

    "Over the past few months, large biopharmas Amgen and Merck Serono have joined industry pioneer Novartis and others in striking licensing deals to access chimeric antigen receptor (NASDAQ:CAR)-based cellular immunotherapies. Merck Serono of Darmstadt, Germany, in late March paid $115 million upfront and paired up with Intrexon of Germantown, Maryland, to buttress its growing immuno-oncology efforts with Intrexon's next-generation CAR T-cell platform. In January, Amgen struck a broad strategic alliance with Kite Pharma, which will see each company develop CAR T-cell therapies based on Kite's platform and Amgen's oncology target expertise. Although many see these therapies as a new order of medicine-Celgene in Summit, New Jersey, Pfizer in New York, and GlaxoSmithKline in London, have inked alliances to enter the field over the past couple of years-until recently, many large pharmas have been unwilling to commit, possibly holding out for next-generation therapies."

    "CAR T- cell treatments are a kind of adoptive cell therapy that comprises the ex vivo modification of T cells to direct a response to a tumor antigen. Early-stage results in CD19-positive blood cancers were striking, leading to frothy valuations for the field's technological trailblazers, including Kite of Santa Monica, California, and Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics, as well as pharma giant Novartis, which was the first company to invest heavily in the space. (Under the terms of a recently settled patent infringement case, Novartis will pay Juno milestones and royalties on net sales of products incorporating a certain CAR component.)"

    "Among large pharmas, Basel-based Novartis is still the exception. Since its August 2012 deal with CAR T-cell leaders at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the large pharma has 'doubled down in the area,' in particular, investing in the complex manufacturing processes necessary to make cell therapies a reality, says Usman Azam, global head of Novartis's cell and gene therapies unit. The Swiss pharma purchased a Morris Plains, New Jersey, immunotherapy manufacturing facility from Seattle-based Dendreon in December 2012 for $43 million. That facility, where Dendreon had previously manufactured the first US Food and Drug Administration-approved autologous cell therapy Provenge (sipuleucel-T), will help Novartis scale up production."

    "It was seminal results from UPenn researchers that catalyzed Novartis's interest in the CAR T-cell field. 'The proof-of-concept data in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia were compelling; you wait a lifetime in medicine to see that kind of potentially curative data, and we hope we'll see equally compelling results elsewhere,' says Azam. These were early-stage results but Novartis recognized their potential. 'This kind of cellular therapy will flourish in the next decade, but now is when you have to build the fundamental capabilities.' "

    "Those early data caught more than just Novartis's attention. Though Merck Serono, through its Intrexon deal, won't compete with first-generation CAR T-cell technologies currently in the clinic, according to Joern-Peter Halle, head of external innovation at Merck Serono, it was data from front-runners in the field that 'gave us the confidence that CAR T-cell therapy was real and that we could improve on the technology.' (Intrexon is developing its CAR T-cell technology with Boston-based ZIOPHARM Oncology and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.)"

    " 'With the exception of Novartis, most big pharmas are taking a cautious approach to CAR-T, and looking for more proof-of-concept evidence in different targets.' "

    "What intrigued Merck Serono about the Intrexon technology was its ability to regulate gene expression with its RheoSwitch platform, which uses a small-molecule activator ligand to regulate infused cells' therapeutic activity. 'In the CAR-T area the ability to regulate the response after you've infused the T cells back into the patients is an important element and may overcome some of the challenges we see with the current generation of CAR-T now in the clinic,' says Halle. Other companies developing technologies that can fine tune the T-cell response include Unum Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Bellicum Pharmaceuticals in Houston."

    "The other big area for improvement is the complexity of the procedure itself, says Halle, and Merck Serono will work with Intrexon on allogenic, 'universal' T cells and other approaches 'that are reliable and effective on one hand, and commercially viable on the other. We're committed to innovating in the space for the long run.' In addition to the upfront payment, Merck Serono could pay an additional $826 million in milestones to Intrexon and its partners for the first two programs it can select under the deal's terms as they progress through clinical development. Intrexon has the option to explore targets independently, and Merck Serono has opt-in rights during clinical development, says Halle."

    "The field's leaders suggest that watchful waiting may leave skeptics behind. 'With the exception of Novartis, most big pharma are taking a cautious approach to CAR-T, and looking for more proof-of-concept evidence in different targets,' says Kite's Chang. Companies are trying to get a foot in the door but not fully committing, 'and it's not surprising,' he says. 'Only two or three years ago, was anyone talking about engineered cell therapies? No. It's a rapidly advancing field and the conservatism by some of the large companies in embracing new technologies will result in lost opportunities.' "

    www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v33/n6/full/n...

    End of article.

    (Linkedin profile of Joern-Peter Halle, Merck Serono's Head Strategy Realization, Operational Excellence and President's Office: www.linkedin.com/pub/joern-peter-halle/0...)

    For those too short-sighted to see the light, I will parse a few of the highlighted excerpts from the article and directly related to Merck Serono, Intrexon and Ziopharm to help drive home the point to all the skeptics who have been incessantly bashing ZIOP the past few months as the stock consolidates and digests its almost 500% gain in less than 6 months, that XON / ZIOP are the leaders in the field of CAR-T immunotherapy and not JUNO, KITE or NVS...

    "Those early data caught more than just Novartis's attention. Though Merck Serono, through its Intrexon deal, won't compete with first-generation CAR T-cell technologies currently in the clinic, according to Joern-Peter Halle, head of external innovation at Merck Serono, it was data from front-runners in the field that 'gave us the confidence that CAR T-cell therapy was real and that we could improve on the technology.' "

    The above clearly points out that Merck Serono considers XON / ZIOP technology as 2nd Generation, whereas JUNO, KITE and Novartis' technologies currently in the clinic are 1st Generation...

    And there is more...

    "What intrigued Merck Serono about the Intrexon technology was its ability to regulate gene expression with its RheoSwitch platform, which uses a small-molecule activator ligand to regulate infused cells' therapeutic activity. 'In the CAR-T area the ability to regulate the response after you've infused the T cells back into the patients is an important element and may overcome some of the challenges we see with the current generation of CAR-T now in the clinic,' says Halle. "

    It is quite clear that Merck Serono considers XON / ZIOP CAR-T technology, next generation!

    And finally...

    "The other big area for improvement is the complexity of the procedure itself, says Halle, and Merck Serono will work with Intrexon on allogeneic, 'universal' T cells and other approaches 'that are reliable and effective on one hand, and commercially viable on the other. We're committed to innovating in the space for the long run.' "

    There you have!

    It should now be clear as daylight to even the most vociferous Intrexon and Ziopharm skeptic that these two companies have taken the lead away from JUNO and KITE in the white-hot field of immuno-oncology and CAR-T technology space...

    And just how hot is this relatively new field?

    In a recent Reuters article, Citigroup's analyst, David Baum presents a very bullish forecast. According to Baum, oncology immunotherapies--such as vaccines and therapeutic antibodies--will generate sales of up to $35 billion a year within the next decade, making it the biggest drug class in history. To reach these heights, oncology vaccines and other immunotherapies must progress from being niche treatments today, to dominating oncology by 2023. Baum goes on to predict that immunotherapies will rise from today's 3% of oncology treatment plans to 60% within the next 8 years.

    www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/22/cance...

    WoW! And to know that our much maligned and shorted ZIOP, along with its partner, Intrexon are at the forefront of this white-hot field that's projected to generate over $35 billion in sales (per year) in less than 10 years(!!!), should give tremendous satisfaction to ZIOP shareholders...

    According to Merck Serono, a unit of Merck KGaA, the world's oldest pharmaceutical company with over $12 billion in sales, it's partners, Intrexon and Ziopharm are leading their competition and that got them so jazzed up that it bet almost $1 billion on their technology...No wonder Randal Kirk said that "we're totally smokin' hot!"

    Investors in ZIOP should be equally jazzed because their company even though it leads its competition in technology, it's lagging them in market valuation. With JUNO valued @ $5+ billion and KITE @ $2.4 billion, it should not take the market too long to see the light and correct this anomaly in valuation...and in order for the market to do so, ZIOP and Intrexon share prices will have to go up...way up!

    Like I have said before, something BIG is coming down the pike and it should be relatively soon...Don't let the naysayers scare you out of your ZIOP shares...We're going higher...

    "To the moon, Alice!"

    kp

    P.S. One final note..This past Wednesday, in the last half hour of trading, ZIOP had an impressive spike in both price and volume...The above quoted article in Nature Biotechnology was posted online on Thursday, June 9th...I am willing to bet that the contents of this article had been leaked and the spike that we saw was a result of that leak...

    Jun 14 9:10 PM | Link | 4 Comments
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