Bull or bear market, no investment is a sure thing. Especially in the current financial environment, which remains riddled with uncertainty, finding compelling plays can be challenging for even the most seasoned market watchers. However, this is not to say that investment opportunities with stand-out growth prospects can’t be found.
Roth Capital research analyst Zegbeh Jallah pointed to the healthcare sector, in particular, as an area of the market worthy of investor attention.
“Biotech had had a strong performance during the midst of the pandemic, and we expect it to remain so, largely driven by solid fundamental catalysts. This is supported by the resumption of preclinical and clinical efforts at many companies, albeit with some new procedures in place,” Jallah noted.
Bearing this in mind, our focus turned to two penny stocks from the healthcare space backed by Roth Capital. Along with the stamp of approval, the firm believes that both of these tickers trading for less than $5 per share are primed for a massive rally.
Digging a bit deeper, we used TipRanks’ database to find out what makes both so compelling despite the risk involved.
Seelos Therapeutics (SEEL)
Primarily focused on neurological and psychiatric disorders, Seelos Therapeutics works to bring cutting-edge therapies to market. Currently going for $0.67 apiece, Roth Capital believes that its share price presents investors with an opportunity to get in on the action.
Calling SEEL “substantially undervalued,” firm analyst Jonathan Aschoff points to two of the company's pivotal programs, SLS-002 (intranasal racemic ketamine), its treatment for acute suicidal ideation and behavior (ASIB) in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), and SLS-005 (trehalose), its ALS treatment, as major upside drivers.
SLS-002 is set to enter a proof-of-concept (POC) trial, with the FDA “eager for a useful anti-suicide drug.” Aschoff noted, “We firmly believe that, although it is formally called a POC trial, achievement of two endpoints, the primary endpoint of Montgomery-Åsberg depression rating scale (MADRS) and the key secondary endpoint of Sheehan-suicidality tracking scale clinically meaningful change measure (S-STS CMCM), will be enough to allow SEEL to file for approval of a ketamine importantly differentiated by its ability to reduce suicidal ideation.”
Aschoff believes it’s likely that SEEL will have already kicked off the 120-patient randomized trial portion when it publishes data from 16 patients dosed with SLS-002. The analyst added, “We also believe that SEEL was given extremely helpful trial design guidance from the FDA due to the clearly evident observation that current national and global affairs are contributing to suicide more strongly now than perhaps ever.”
As for SLS-005, the company recently got permission from the FDA to proceed with its registrational Phase 2b/3 ALS trial. Based on data from multiple preclinical studies, treatment with the therapy resulted in the preservation of motor neurons, motor function and prolonged survival.
What’s more, SLS-005 has been granted Orphan Drug Designation (ODD) in the U.S. and E.U. for other indications such as Sanfilippo syndrome, spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3) and oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy (OPMD), as well as Fast Track designation for OPMD.
"We believe that a trial in SCA3 is more likely to come first [...] We anticipate SEEL's SCA3 trial to enroll about 150 patients and evaluate patients by SARA at six months, in which showing stability would be meaningful and showing improvement would be a home run," Aschoff wrote.
To this end, Aschoff rates SEEL a Buy along with a $12 price target. This puts the upside potential at a massive 1,715%. (To watch Aschoff’s track record, click here)
Turning now to the rest of the Street, 2 Buys and no Holds or Sells have been published in the last three months. Therefore, SEEL has a Moderate Buy consensus rating. With the average price target clocking in at $8, the upside potential lands at 1,111%. (See SEEL stock analysis on TipRanks)
Acer Therapeutics (ACER)
Developing therapies for rare and life-threatening diseases, Acer Therapeutics wants to address the unmet medical needs of patients. With several catalysts slated for the near-term, Roth Capital thinks its $2.50 share price reflects an attractive entry point.
Analyst Jonathan Aschoff, who also covers SEEL for the firm, points out that during a recent meeting with management, the “overwhelmingly focus was on emetine, ACER-001 and Edsivo, and each of these programs are capable of providing at least one meaningful near-term investment catalyst.”
Emetine, a potential COVID-19 treatment, is being developed as part of a collaboration with the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Speaking to the therapy’s potential, Aschoff notes that the candidate reactivates the cellular stress response, making it a strong antiviral with nanomolar potency about 50 times greater than remdesivir, Gilead’s COVID-19 treatment. The broad antiviral activity could also allow the drug to be used against future novel viruses, in the analyst’s opinion.
ACER is pursuing BARDA and Gates Foundation funding for the program. While Aschoff acknowledges that the company could fund part of the clinical development itself, he argues the program is more likely to progress with external funding. The capital would allow ACER to submit an IND in 1H21 and initiate a Phase 2/3 trial later that year. As a response from BARDA is set to come in Q3 2020, the analyst sees a major possible catalyst.
As for ACER-001, its fully taste-masked, immediate-release formulation of sodium phenylbutyrate (NaPB) developed using a microencapsulation process, Aschoff believes ACER is speaking to several larger pharmaceutical companies about partnership opportunities, with plenty of upside in store should an agreement be reached.
“We highly favor ACER-001's edge over the competition, given Buphenyl's awful taste and smell and Ravicti's egregious pricing of about $900,000 per year. With ACER-001's taste masking and parity pricing to Buphenyl (about $350,000 per year), ACER-001 is a no brainer, in our view...We believe that FDA buy in on the food effect without requiring addition clinical work would be a meaningful stock catalyst,” the analyst commented.
Additionally, Edsivo, ACER’s new chemical entity (NCE) designed for the treatment of vEDS, reflects a key point of strength, in Aschoff’s opinion. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a group of hereditary disorders of connective tissue. “We essentially view Edsivo as a call option, with significant share price upside if the FDA allows ACER to amend and refile its NDA after only having to include existing natural history data... Edsivo could generate meaningful U.S. revenue for ACER, about $350 million annually, if approved for vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome,” he explained.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Aschoff stayed with the bulls. To this end, he left a Buy rating and $10 price target on the stock. Investors could be pocketing a gain of 300%, should this target be met in the twelve months ahead.
Looking at the consensus breakdown, opinions are more varied. As 2 Buys and 3 Holds have been issued in the last three months, the word on the Street is that ACER is a Moderate Buy. At $10, the average price target matches Aschoff’s. (See ACER stock analysis on TipRanks)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
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