Geron Corporation (GERN) Spikes on Upgrade

Joel Anderson |

Shares in biopharmaceutical company Geron Corporation (GERN) spiked Monday, jumping more than 35 percent on heavy volume in early trading. The primary reason for Geron’s move appears to be that banking firm MLV & Co. initiated coverage of the stock at Buy with a price target of $6.50, however the stock also appears to be benefiting from broad market optimism over what appears to be a debt deal in congress.

Analyst Recommendations Positive in Recent Months

News of Geron’s new buy rating from MLV & Co. comes on the heels of an upgrade from Thomas Reuters/Versus on Monday from Hold to Buy, and an upgrade from Piper Jaffray (PJC) from Neutral to Overweight on August 9 that set a price target of $4, a level it passed today.

Shares of Geron have been bouncing back since the company completed its divestment from a stem cell trial on October 1. The reason cited for end the trial, which halted in November of 2011, was a lack of available capital, despite widespread controversy over the stem cell issue. Geron helped fund the initial research that resulted in the initial extraction of embryonic stem cells at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1990s, giving them fundamental patent rights in the field. However, after a long battle with the FDA to get research approved in 2010, the company failed to find adequate backing for the research. The deal that closed at the start of the month with BioTime, Inc. (BTX) and Asterias Biotherapeutics (a BioTime subsidiary) completed Geron’s divestment from the research and includes 6.5 million shares of common stock from Asterias and royalties on the sale of any commercialized products for Geron.

Since reaching a 52-week low in mid-April, the stock’s shot up, with the value of shares more than quadrupling over that period.

New Call Options Show Positive Outlook for Traders

Analysts aren’t the only one buying this surge from Geron. Options traders were buying up call options on Geron, with over 20,000 sold on Wednesday. Given that typical volume on such options for Geron is about 2,400, that represents a jump in volume of over 750 percent.

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