Risk Vs. Reward Never Gets Old

Includes: CVM, DVAX, XSPA
by: Shlomo Wiesen

I have no patience for blue chip stocks. The rewards that they offer: little risk, steady dividend, relatively consistent growth, possibly recession proof-- these things don't do it for me. I can buy Kellogg (NYSE:K) right now at $52 a share, receive a solid 3.5% dividend, and expect that it won't get drowned in the next stock market crash. Essentially, it is a stock that lets me sleep well at night. Which is why I don't invest in them. The reward isn't appealing. I want a stock that can double within a week. Call me a gambler, but I enjoy the thrill of taking a high-risk stock and watching it explode, as the blue chips look on in astonishment.

Of course, the high risk stocks can pull the rug out from under me in a heartbeat. My last two investments which I profiled on SA were Vestin Reality (NASDAQ:VRTA) and Digital Domain Media Group (OTCPK:DDMGQ). VRTA netted me a 45% return, while DDMGQ went bankrupt and got a 'Q' tacked onto its ticker. High risk, high reward stocks are not for the faint of heart. Iron stomachs are needed.

There are three high risk high reward stocks that may or may not be keeping me up at night.

Cel-Sci Corporation (NYSEMKT:CVM)

Cel-Sci Corporation is a classic biotech company: A one of a kind drug, negative EPS, frequent dilution, and a talented mad scientist with debatable business acumen at the helm. Everything one needs for a wild ride in a biotech company.

The reason I like CVM right now is because its flagship drug, Multikine, seems to be nearing the end of Phase 3 testing, and positive hints have been dropped. (Note- this is pure speculation on my part, but read on to see why). Geert Kersten has been working on his Multikine Cancer Therapy drug for over 20 years, and looks to be nearing the pinnacle. In his June 27th interview with eHealth Radio, Kersten says that things look good thus far in the clinic, and discusses the virtues of the first ever non-toxic cancer therapy. The market for the drug is rather large, to say the least. Though this drug focuses on head and neck, Kersten expects it to be able to be used for most other cancers.

And more recently, on October 5th, Kersten gives a cautiously optimistically view of the progress of Multikine, and hints at a possible catalyst.

It is also fair to note that there was a small amount of insider buying on September 27th.

I am not put off by the fact that CVM has been trading under $2 a share for over 10 years. Don't forget that Amgen was a penny stock from 1984 until 1990. The recent upward trend in CVM combined with Kersten's two interviews seems to imply the potential for a catalyst of sorts.

In regard to the risk/reward ratio, if phase 3 results are positive, then CVM would immediately go up to a dollar, at the minimum. Should the results be negative or even mixed, CVM would likely drop to .15, but could soon recover, due to their promising LEAP and H1N1 drugs. The risk seems to outweigh the reward.

Additionally, CVM just released an alert that the Independent Data Monitoring Committee indicated that no safety risks were found in regard to the phase 3 testing of Multikine. Good news, but far from the catalyst that investors are hoping to hear.

A disclaimer for those hoping for a buyout: Geert (as us loyal CVM holders refer to the man) is very against buyouts. The stereotype of the scientist/academic who refuses to give up his or her life long work to the large corporations is embodied in Mr. Kersten. He loathes the idea of selling out (literally) even if it means Multikine will hit the market faster. He wants to keep Multikine in his pocket until it is ready. And if that means more dilution, then so be it. Kersten isn't trying to hit a double or even home run; he's going for the grand slam, and it's already extra innings.


Dynavax Technologies has a number of promising drugs, with HEPLISAVTM being their prize, as it treats Hepatitis B, which afflicts 350 million people worldwide. An FDA decision on their phase 3 testing is looming in February, but as with any promising phase 3 decision, the run-up begins well before then.

I also like that DVAX has about $160 million cash on hand, and if they continue spending $5 million a month, they have plenty of breathing room, assuming they aren't bought out. Even if their drug is rejected, the cash on hand allows them to continue development.

Additionally, according to Dynavax's website:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has informed the Company that its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee [VRBPAC] is scheduled to discuss HEPLISAV at its meeting on November 14-15, 2012.

This means that even if one doesn't have the patience or the iron stomach to wait and sweat out a February decision by the FDA, this November meeting could easily generate some early hype for its Hepatitis drug, allowing investors to jump out with a quick profit without risking the high risk/high reward potential FDA rejection in February.

The following two immediate causes for concern do not alarm me: The recent sale of 6 million shares by director Jeffery Kessel for $28 million might normally be off putting, but it should be noted that this was a prior planned sale through an agreement with Symphony Capital Partners. Additionally, anyone concerned with Idenix Pharmaceuticals emerging as a Hepatitis prevention powerhouse and directly competing with Dynavax need not worry. Idenix is now fully focused on Hepatitis C drugs, and is no longer receiving royalties from its original Hepatitis B drug Tyzeka, which is now controlled by Novartis.

Additionally, I believe that the recent announcement by FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg that a faster pathway toward approval will be given to testing of drugs that are for societal benefit and health. A faster approval process would help biotechs such as DVAX and CVM.

Jim Cramer did just recommend DVAX for the 2nd time in 2 months, which means DVAX is on the map, and big money will be watching their looming phase 3 results.

Vringo (VRNG)

Don't be turned off by the missed opportunity on the 52 week low, or even the recent share surge. If you are looking for a gamble, Vringo certainly represents the most intriguing high risk high reward stock in years. In short, Vringo owns the patents developed by the Lycos founders from the early days of the Internet. Vringo has accused Google of infringing on their search patents, and the trial has already started.

The initial settlement talks ordered by the judge set Vringo's stock on fire, as people realized that not only was Vringo guaranteed a trial with Google, but possibly a lucrative settlement beforehand. Additionally, for a judge to order settlement talks between this David and Goliath means one thing: Google has a weak case, and it is in no one's interest for these patents to wreak havoc on Google's entire search and business infrastructure. A trial victory could net Vringo billions upon billions of dollars, plus future percentages.

And then there's the "dilution". Two weeks ago, Vringo sold 10 million shares at $4.34 a share to institutional investors. I, like many, was initially put off by this so-called dilution in the midst of all the recent positive Vringo news. However, I understood the investment to be a positive one. For 5 major institutional investors to purchase a significant chunk of Vringo at $4.34 a share means one thing: Confidence boost. For investors to invest $40 million this late in the game means they are looking for much bigger returns, and their $4.34 per share investment sets that as the absolute minimum share price for individual investors such as I. However, once the trial began, Vringo began to sink, mainly because no settlement had been reached, and, in layman's terms, who really thinks Vringo can defeat Google in a courtroom? It is understandable for most individual investors to panic and jump out. For the high risk gamblers, this just means a cheaper entry point and an opportunity to double down.

Additionally, with a fresh $40 million in their pockets, Vringo can weather a trial and not be forced into a lowball settlement. Vringo now has enough capital to withstand any legal obstacles that Google might throw their way.

With Vringo, the trial presents the ultimate risk/reward situation. A courtroom victory could mean a 500% gain for Vringo, and a loss would likely drop them to under $2 a share. Granted, Vringo owns an attractive cachet of Nokia patents which should keep them above $4 a share, but the immediate aftermath of a courtroom loss would override Vringo's true value.

My logic in high risk high reward stocks is simple arithmetic. In VRNG's case, it is a 500% return versus a 75% loss. Granted, both of those numbers are pure conjecture, but they are numbers that would likely not be achieved with any blue chip stock in such a short period of time. For better or for worse.

Disclosure: I am long VRNG, CVM. I am in and out of VRNG, and may buy DVAX within the week. 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.