Stem Cells Coming Back From Brink of Funding Bans (GERN, STEM, ASTM, CYTX, NBS, ISCO, BTIM)

September 9, 2010 · Filed Under Financial, stem cells · Comment 

The Department of Justice, the White House, and many other activists have been steadily trading to get the ban lifted on the stem cell funding that surprised the entire biotech, drug, and stem cell research community.  Now it seems that a U.S. District Court has suspended that ban on state-funded embryonic stem cell research.

Geron Corporation (NASDAQ: GERN) is now up 9% at $5.34 versus a 52-week trading range of $4.37 to $7.51.  Geron recently received an FDA lifting of a clinical trial hold involving spinal cord injuries.

StemCells Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) is up 7% at $0.83 versus a 52-week range of $0.75 to $1.79.  This one recently had positive paralysis study data and our indications were that much or all of the operations here were not really going to be hurt or hit from the funding bans.

Aastrom Biosciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: ASTM) is up 2.7% at $1.52 versus a 52-week range of $1.32 to $4.16.

Cytori Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CYTX) is up 4.8% at $4.86 and the 52-week range is $2.93 to $9.50.

Neostem, Inc. (AMEX: NBS) is up 2.3% at $1.77 versus a 52-week trading range of $1.26 to $3.50.  As we have outlined before, NeoStem is actually tied to adult stem cells rather than embryonic stem cells.

International Stem Cell Corporation (ISCO.OB) is one that had a pending funding of $10 million back in July.

BioTime, Inc. (NASDAQ: BTIM) is down 5.2% at $4.56 versus a 52-week range of $3.02 to $8.42.  BioTime recently noted that a peer reviewed Regenerative Medicine publication showed that the aging of human cells can be reversed.

JON C. OGG

Stem Cells Show More Paralysis Reversal Hope (STEM)

August 19, 2010 · Filed Under stem cells · Comment 

StemCells, Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) is the talk of the town this morning after it showed published reports of a mice study using human neural stem cells reverse paralysis.

The publication of new preclinical data showed that the company’s proprietary human neural stem cells restored lost motor function in mice with chronic spinal cord injury. This is the first published study to show that human neural stem cells can restore mobility even when administered at time points beyond the acute phase of trauma.

The company suggests that the prospect of treating a much broader population of injured patients is now more than previously demonstrated. The paper was published yesterday in the international peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, and is available online at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0012272.

“Human Neural Stem Cells Differentiate and Promote Locomotor Recovery in an Early Chronic Spinal Cord Injury NOD-scid  Mouse Model” was the name of the study and was led by Dr. Aileen Anderson of the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine.

StemCells’ human neural stem cells were transplanted into mice 30 days after a spinal cord injury that results in hind limb paralysis. The transplanted mice demonstrated a significant and persistent recovery of walking ability in two separate tests of motor function when compared to control groups.

The company further noted that these results are particularly significant because it is the first time that human neural stem cells have been shown to promote functional recovery in a chronic spinal cord injury setting, which is characterized as a point in time after injury in which inflammation has stabilized and behavioral recovery has reached a plateau. In humans, the chronic phase typically does not set in until several weeks or months following the injury.

In the pre-market trading at 8:00 AM EST, shares are up 18.5% at $1.03 versus a 52-week trading range of $0.84 to $1.79.

JON C. OGG

Positive Stem Cells Safety Profile (STEM, GERN, NBS, OPXA)

May 3, 2010 · Filed Under fda, R&D, stem cells · 1 Comment 

StemCells, Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) has created some interest in the stem cell sector again on some important safety news.  While today’s news is best for StemCells, Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) as a company, this will only act to highlight others involved in stem cell research.  We are also seeing moves in Geron Corporation (NASDAQ: GERN), Neostem, Inc. (AMEX: NBS), and Opexa Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: OPXA).

The company (StemCells) announced that Nathan Selden (M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.A.P.) is presenting a feature presentation today at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons 2010 Annual Meeting.  This is said to be one of the leading forums for neurosurgeons from around the world to present and discuss cutting-edge research in the field.

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StemCells Scores New Stem Cell Patent (STEM)

March 17, 2010 · Filed Under stem cells · Comment 

StemCells, Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) has a new stem cell patent.  For rats, issued in the United Kingdom.  The company issued a release showing that the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office granted patent number GB2451523.

The patent has broad claims covering true rat stem cells and genetically engineered rats derived from these cells, which is expected to have significant utility to academic and pharmaceutical industry researchers by enabling them to create novel rat models for the study of human diseases.

The company noted that both mice and rats are used by scientists to model various human diseases, but also noted that rat models are more frequently used by pharmaceutical companies because the physiological characteristics of rats make them better suited for assessing drug efficacy and toxicity.

StemCells Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) now holds an exclusive license to commercialize this technology and is globally prosecuting the patent family that claims it. The company further noted that this is the first patent granted anywhere in the world that protects the derivation and use of pluripotent rat stem cells and the creation of genetically engineered rats.  It also noted that this is the missing link to create rat models for a wider range of human diseases.

The patent details composition of matter claims to pluripotent stem cells of the rat, which includes both embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells; and it also covers genetically engineered rat models derived from such cells.

Because of the stem cell news yesterday, there seems to be a higher interest than on normal stem cell patent announcements.  Right before the open we have shares up almost 5% at $1.27 on 340,000 shares.  Average volume is 2.1 million shares and the 52-week trading range is $1.02 to $1.94.

JON C. OGG

NIH Brings Back Stem Cell Interest (STEM, GERN, ASTM, NBS, KOOL, OSIR, CYTX)

December 2, 2009 · Filed Under Financial, R&D, stem cells · Comments Off 

The National Institutes of Health has just today announced the approval of the first 13 human embryonic stem cell lines for use in NIH-funded research under the NIH Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research adopted in July 2009.  Children’s Hospital Boston developed 11 of the approved lines and Rockefeller University in New York City developed two of the approved lines.  While those are private and non-public, this has some excitement around the other embryonic stem cell line companies because the NIH said that an additional 96 lines have been submitted to NIH for either internal administrative review or consideration, including more than 20 that will be considered on December 4, 2009.  We are seeing strength as follows:

  • StemCells Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) up 5.5% at $1.14; 52-week range $0.89 to $3.07; market cap $135 million
  • Geron Corporation (NASDAQ: GERN) up 4.8% at $5.70; 52-week range $3.00 to $9.24; market cap $522 million
  • Aastrom Biosciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: ASTM) up 5.5% at $0.288; 52-week range $0.24 to $0.78; market cap $50 million

Neostem, Inc. (AMEX: NBS) is actually in adult stem cells, and shares are down 2.3% at $1.68; 52-week trading range is $0.41 to $2.72; market cap $61.3 million.  ThermoGenesis Corp. (NASDAQ: KOOL) is also tied to adult stem cell lines but in products targeting stem cell companies; shares are up 3.4% at $0.61, its market cap is $34 million, and the 52-week range is $0.31 to $0.89.

Elsewhere in companies tied to stem cells…  Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: OSIR) is up 0.4% at $6.89; 52-week range $5.35 to $21.65; market cap $225 million.  Cytori Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CYTX) is down 2.2% at $5.75, its market cap is $222 million, and the 52-week range is $1.42 to $6.04.

For a full data and explanation from the NIH website on what was approved, that can be found here.

JON C. OGG
DECEMBER 2, 2009

Stem Cell Study Starts in PMD (STEM)

November 23, 2009 · Filed Under genomics, stem cells · Comments Off 

StemCells Inc (NASD: STEM) has announced this morning that it and collaborator UCSF have initiated the enrollment of patients in the first ever clinical study of neural stem cells as a potential treatment in Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease (PMD), a neurological disorder that primarily afflicts children.

The company noted that the nature of this study is important on its own, but equally important is the fact that the findings from this trial may help also lead to potential stem cell treatments of other myelination disorders including multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

The two have begun patient recruitment for a Phase I clinical trial designed to test the safety and preliminary efficacy of its HuCNS-SC® purified human neural stem cells.  Also noted was that the study is being conducted at the University of California, San Francisco Children’s Hospital.

PMD results from a defective gene and is characterized by a lack of myelin, a substance that surrounds and insulates nerve cells’ communications fibers, which then makes the body unable to properly transmit nerve impulses.  This leads to the loss of neurological function and eventually death in the most severe forms of PMD, and there are currently no effective treatment options for patients with PMD.

So far there is still a lukewarm reception.  Shares are up 1%, but this is only a $1.00 stock.  Starting trials is still a far cry from having positive trial results.

JON C. OGG
NOVEMBER 23, 2009

StemCells & PMD, Enters Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease Study (STEM)

September 10, 2009 · Filed Under R&D, stem cells · Comments Off 

StemCells, Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) is trading higher this morning on a new study initiation.  The stem cell player has announced that it will soon begin a study with the University of California, San Francisco Children’s Hospital.  This will be in a Phase I clinical trial, and the goal will be to evaluate the therapeutic potential of StemCells’ proprietary HuCNS-SC® product candidate of purified human neural stem cells as a possible treatment for Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease (PMD).

PMD is a myelination disorder that primarily affects infants and young children.  Myelin is the substance which surrounds and insulates nerve fibers and enables nerve cells to communicate with one another.  Patients suffering from PMD have insufficient myelination of nerve cells in the brain, which leads to loss of neurological function and eventually death in the most severe forms of the disease.
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Geron Delay Dulls Stem Cell Sector (GERN, ASTM, CYTX, NBS, STEM, KOOL, OSIR, LIFE, CCEL)

August 18, 2009 · Filed Under fda, stem cells · Comments Off 

Geron Corporation (NASDAQ: GERN) has some bad news in the land of stem cell investors.  The stem cell leader has announced that its Investigational New Drug application for a cell therapy for neurologically complete, subacute spinal cord injury has been placed on clinical hold by the FDA pending the agency’s review of new nonclinical animal study data submitted by the company. This is an order that the FDA issues to a sponsor to delay a proposed trial or to suspend an ongoing trial.

As a reminder, no patients have yet been treated in this study.  But this has investors spooked, even if it is just for a review of additional data.  Stem Cell stocks often move hand in hand, and these are the other issues to watch on the news:

  • Aastrom Biosciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: ASTM)
  • Cytori Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CYTX)
  • Neostem, Inc. (NYSE: NBS)
  • StemCells Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM)
  • Thermogenesis Corp. (NASDAQ: KOOL)
  • Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: OSIR)
  • Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ: LIFE)
  • Cryo-Cell International, Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: CCEL)

Geron noted that the company has been undertaking studies to enable dose escalation of its spinal cord injury product and has also been investigating application of the product to other neurodegenerative diseases.

The company has also been performing additional product characterization and conducting further animal studies and the data from this work has been submitted to the FDA. Geron said that it will work closely with the FDA to facilitate the review of the new data and to release the clinical hold.

JON C. OGG
AUGUST 18, 2009

Diabetes Drug War Heats Up (NVO, AMLN, LLY, MNKD, PFE, SPEX, VVUS, GNBT, BMY, AZN, ARNA, GERN, STEM, OREX, HDIX, PODD)

August 10, 2009 · Filed Under Cancer, Diabetes, M&A, obesity, stem cells · Comments Off 

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been quite a bit of new data in the drug war in the fight against diabetes.  New studies have been updated, earnings projections have been made, FDA dates have been telegraphed and more.  While these are still far short of ultimate cures, the war against diabetes may have many new or improved treatments out sooner rather than later.  We originally discussed one or two of the key upcoming treatments pending for the eight major diseases and conditions as “the next $170 billion opportunity” and this is a much deeper dig into that broad initiation.  We have included many of the recent developments in the potential treatments for obesity as well, considering that Type II diabetes and obesity are frequently conditions tied directly to each other.

According to the Journal of Health Affairs, the figure on obesity for Americans is a whopping $147 billion per year in total medical costs. This comes to 10% of all healthcare spending. The figure from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control was some $116 billion spent domestically on treating diabetes in 2007.  As this is a lengthy bit, we have not included some of the other treatments that have been in use or that were recently flagged because of reports of higher chances of cancer rates associated by the long-term use of these.

FDA & IMMEDIATE ACTION

There is a new diabetes hopeful that is supposed to be coming sooner rather than later.  Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) reported a 21% gain in earnings in the last week and said that it expects the FDA to make a decision on its next-generation diabetes drug Victoza (liraglutide) in a matter of weeks. The company’s CFO and CEO both indicated that the Danish company does expects a positive response from the FDA and we heard a August to September expectation. Novo Nordisk has already launched Victoza in England, Germany and Denmark last month and expects to release it in other European Union countries throughout 2009 and into 2010.  The benefit is that this one doesn’t risk pushing blood glucose levels to counts which are dangerously low and it also helps users lose weight.  Novo Nordisk said it has priced Victoza competitively with Byetta from Amylin Pharmaceutical, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMLN) and Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY).  After the earnings and after shares were still close to 52-week highs, we saw analyst downgrades on Friday for Novo Nordisk by both UBS and by J.P. Morgan.

The drug still expected the next big new release with Blockbuster potential is an inhalable insulin from MannKind Corp. (NASDAQ: MNKD).  Afresa is to be its name. Despite past woes of inhalable insulin, MannKind shares were hitting 52-week highs in June and its shares are still up 20% from three months ago.  A late-stage study showed that Afresa’s performance was similar to injectable insulin.  The company recently sold a 7.4 million shares secondary offering to raise cash for this launch, and its CEO took 1 million shares of the offering.  The thought was that MannKind would secure a partner for marketing and development, but the recent stock offering gives it more internal options ahead of what is believed to be a Spring-2010 FDA approval action.  Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) has been thought of as a partner as it moved Exubera inhaled-insulin patients to MannKind’s experimental product. The two companies had been partners until Pfizer pulled Exubera from the market in 2007.

There is also a huge opportunity for the once per week dosing.  We are not yet convinced that this can be a universal next generation treatment, however this might be fine for many of the lower grade cases if you can refer to any diabetes cases as lower grade.  Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMLN), Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) and Alkermes Inc. (NASDAQ: ALKS) have had a recent New Drug Application accepted by the FDA for review. Exenatide is an investigational sustained release medication for type 2 diabetes that would be injected once per week and is the active ingredient in BYETTA.  We are not alone in this thought, but Amylin is a company which many have thought would be acquired for years now when considering the link of diabetes and obesity.

VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) has a substantial shot here with Qnexa, its  Type 2 diabetes treatment through weight loss assistance.  The stock recently came off on worries of its risk factor language that may have to be disclosed, but it showed a 9.4% weight loss or over 20 pounds observed in patients.  The DM-230 study was a 56-week study assessing the impact of Qnexa on glycemic management in 130 obese patients.  The 10-site study was comprised of 90 females and 40 males with an average age of 50 who had Type 2 diabetes, and a majority of the patients had been diagnosed with diabetes for more the five years and were taking two or more oral diabetes medications.  In the phase II and phase III clinical trials, Qnexa demonstrated glycemic control, significant weight loss, and an improvement in cardiovascular risk factors.  VIVUS is also presenting data at a brokerage firm conference this coming Thursday.  The company’s market cap is still just under $500 million and its most recent balance sheet had north of $144 million in cash and equivalents with very little long term debt.

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) have recently received FDA approval for Onglyza as an adjunct to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes. This Onglyza is a once-daily dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4) inhibitor that can be used in combination with commonly prescribed anti-diabetic medications or on a standalone basis as a monotherapy to significantly reduce glycosylated hemoglobin levels.

MORE OBESITY CANDIDATES COMING

Several biotechnology companies are working on the next wave of obesity candidates, as noted above in VIVUS’s Qnexa.  Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARNA) has Lorcaserin, Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: OREX) has Contrave, and Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: AMLN) has pramlintide.  Orexigen’s Contrave has completed phase III trials and our time line for when the company will file for approval is in early 2010. The company is presenting data this Thursday at the Canaccord Adams Global Growth Conference.  VIVUS’s Qnexa is currently in two phase III programs with a new drug application expected around the middle of 2010.   Amylin’s pramlintide and metreleptin are currently in phase IIb.

We have the expectation that Arena will have a first-mover advantage with an NDA planned before the end of 2009.  Certainly, any delays or advances could change the status of the front-runner category leadership.  Arena’s near-term catalyst is the release of the phase III BLOSSOM data out in September 2009, which will be used as part of a supplemental NDA in late 2009 or into 2010.  This still leaves a year or more for final FDA action from now.  Arena shares surged in late-July after reporting that its obesity results met the three endpoints.

STEM CELLS

Stem Cell therapy offers a huge promise, but so far that looks to be years out and the promise is actually more of a hope for the time being.  Geron Corporation (NASDAQ: GERN) is in the research stage of using stem cells in evaluation of Type 1 diabetes.  The exact level of this study is not as far as along as some of its cancer and spinal studies, but this is one of the few stem cell companies that have dedicated part of their mission to diabetes.  StemCells Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) also has a Pancreatic Program concentrating its efforts on Type-I diabetes.  Its goals are to identify, isolate, and culture pancreatic stem and progenitor cells, and to test their therapeutic potential.

While we at BioHealthInvestor would love to hold hope and promise for stem cells, we would not be hoping for stem cell treatments any time in the near future.  While some positive notions have been noted in the stem cell sector, the National Institute of Health noted, “Over the past several years, doctors have attempted to cure diabetes by injecting patients with pancreatic islet cells—the cells of the pancreas that secrete insulin and other hormones. However, the requirement for steroid immunosuppressant therapy to prevent rejection of the cells increases the metabolic demand on insulin-producing cells and eventually they may exhaust their capacity to produce insulin. The deleterious effect of steroids is greater for islet cell transplants than for whole-organ transplants. As a result, less than 8 percent of islet cell transplants performed before last year had been successful.”

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Five Fast-Growing Biotechs To Watch Right Now (ALNY, FOLD, HALO, AOB, STEM)

July 6, 2009 · Filed Under Cancer, daily, fda, General, stem cells, vaccine · Comments Off 

Alnylam (Nasdaq: ALNY) leads a short list of some of the fastest-growing biotech stocks where analyst estimate revisions continue to rise.

BioHealth Investor began by analyzing 171 stocks in the biotech sector based on revenue growth over the trailing four quarters, identifying 30 stocks in the sector with better than 50 percent revenue growth over the past 12 months.

We then screened those 30 stocks to look for those very few names that have seen both strong growth in at least the past two years and positive analyst estimate revisions in recent months, in an effort to find stocks with strong trends that still have potentially improving operations going forward.

The work resulted in growth biotech stocks to watch: Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: ALNY), Amicus Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: FOLD), Halozyme Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: HALO), American Oriental Bioengineering Inc. (NYSE: AOB), and Stemcells Inc. (Nasdaq: STEM).

1) Alnylam:

With a new class of potential biotech medicines, aggressive goals for development and partnerships, cash on the books and a large addressable market, Alnylam tops our short list of biotechs with strong growth and increasing analyst estimates.

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