How Will Small-Cap Biotech Fare in 2016?

The Life Sciences Report  |

This may prove a challenging year for small-cap biotechs, but the five analysts who selected companies for inclusion on The Life Sciences Report's 2016 Small-Cap Biotech Watchlist believe these companies have a good shot at producing innovative products in a variety of indications and producing value for investors. Discovery, it turns out, is not just about finding the cure for a particular disease; it's also about finding the companies best poised to reach that goal.

The panelists who selected the 2016 Small-Cap Biotech Watchlist are George Zavoico of JonesTrading International Services, Mara Goldstein of Cantor Fitzgerald, Reni Benjamin of Raymond James, Raghuram (Ram) Selvaraju of Rodman and Renshaw, and Mike King of JMP Securities. They discussed their selections, as well as some of the forces they expect will drive the biotech and pharma markets in the new year, at the 2016 Biotech Showcase in San Francisco.

The Big Picture

Reflecting on how biotech will shape up in 2016, most of the analysts were cautiously optimistic. The long-running biotech bull has shown some vulnerability, especially to macroeconomic forces that present headwinds to investment markets as a whole. But the sector's fundamentals, the analysts maintain, remain solid.

Though Benjamin believes "we're seeing what could be the beginnings of a sector rotation," he observed that, "the science is better than ever. The capital flow has been really good. The clinical trials and the regulatory environment are the best that we've ever seen. . .[but] that's only one part of the equation. The other part is, of course, sentiment."

One of the biggest issues affecting sentiment in 2016, the panelists agreed, will be drug pricing. After all, the issue of consumer shock and election year rhetoric with regard to the costs of drugs—think Gilead's Sovaldi for hepatitis C and the Turing Pharmaceuticals price-hike debacle—"led to significant volatility last year," Benjamin said.

"We're all aware of drug pricing issues. We've heard the candidates talk about this issue," Zavoico observed. That "headline risk" is what affects sentiment, and that, in turn, produces volatility and pressure on biotech and pharma valuations. It also "begs the question: What is the upper limit for drug prices? And how are insurance companies going to deal with reimbursing huge sums all at once? Will they come up with creative alternatives?"

Zavoico also underscored that this year, "nobody knows what's going to happen. Who knows what else Donald Trump is going to say? Who knows what issues will come up with Hillary Clinton? There is more uncertainty this election year than usual. . .To keep the industry going forward, I think all the candidates need to understand that incentives for innovation should be retained," Zavoico said.

The bigger issue for investors, as Goldstein put it, is "if we are in an environment where macro issues outweigh fundamentals for the sector, then all information, in our view, is treated similarly. That means bad news, such as an unsuccessful clinical trial, is treated as bad news, and good news, while positive, gives investors an opportunity to take profits and/or minimize losses rather than build positions. This has occurred in the past, and it makes for a very challenging environment for biotech investors."

For his part, King is "sick and tired of hearing about the pricing issue. People ignore or forget about the whole good that this industry does." The analyst believes the industry needs to do a better job letting the public know the benefits of what Zavoico calls "lifesaving drugs" like Sovaldi.

"I don't know if that makes things go away in 2016, but at least we have a very strong counterargument," King said.

Positive themes for 2016 include mergers and acquisitions, which the analysts forecast will continue to be a driver. The regulatory environment remains favorable as well, and was also cited as a positive. In addition, King noted a number of "high quality" private companies are poised for initial public offerings in the new year.

The experts also expect 2016 to bring a number of "big Phase 3 trial outcomes," both for bigger biotechs like Incyte Corp. (INCY:NASDAQ), Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VRTX:NASDAQ) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (REGN:NASDAQ), as well as for small-cap companies. "This is the grist for the mill for biotech," Benjamin observed. "The binary nature of clinical trials is a huge driver, both positive and negative, in our space."

Selvaraju elaborated on that theme. "Investors are very much sensitized to the risks attendant upon deficiencies in clinical trial design and in statistical powering assumptions," he observed. "We are in an environment today where having a successful clinical trial and even getting regulatory approval is not a guarantee of success. We've seen several companies that went through the clinical trial development process successfully, then went through the approval process successfully, reach the market and fall flat on their faces. . .this new concept that companies can actually get to the finish line and still not be in a safe zone [weighs] on investors' minds tremendously these days."

But clinical trials that work are a boon to the industry, individual companies and, of course, patients and physicians. "I feel like we're in an era where the hard stuff is really working," King said, citing the new drugs that cure hepatitis C and the rapidly developing field of immuno-oncology. "I feel that's part of what's pushed up valuations. . .You can actually make a bet on some of these better companies, and the bet will go your way."

"There is no more efficient way to address chronic and debilitating conditions than to target them with drugs. There is a lot of leeway still in the pricing of drugs as long as they provide significant and tangible, clinically meaningful benefit," Selvaraju added.

The 2016 Biotech Watchlist Companies Explained

[Editor's note: The five analysts submitted commentary on some of their Watchlist companies earlier. For more, read Panelists Select 19 Companies for the 2016 Small-Cap Biotech Watchlist]

Mara Goldstein's selections include Ignyta Inc. (RXDX:NASDAQ), a targeted oncology company.

"Ignyta is focused on in-licensing clinical assets that target specific oncogenic drivers, using its proprietary next-generation sequencing infrastructure to aid in both the selection of assets as well as selection of patients in clinical trials," Goldstein said. "Ignyta is moving forward in a Phase 2 trial with a big basket design, which we think is a smart approach to developing drugs that have implications in a variety of indications. The basket trial, called STARTRK-2, is enrolling patients, and the company should be able to evaluate signs of activity as the arms are enrolling, and continue to enroll or discontinue an arm if a signal is not observed. We think this trial makes a lot of sense, and believe it can create efficiency and expediency around oncology trials."

The company has a "very prolific business development effort, bringing in candidates from Teva and Lilly, along with equity investments from these companies, which I think diversifies the risk profile," Goldstein continued. "The company has a captive next-generation diagnostic arm that helps it identify patients with particular alterations or rearrangements that are thought to be responsible for their disease. For us, we like that Ignyta checks some of the boxes around derisking clinical trials and diversity of portfolio, and has a good cash runway at this point in time."

Goldstein also likes gene therapy company Applied Genetic Technologies Corp. (AGTC:NASDAQ), which is focused on monogenic eye diseases. "What we like about AGTC is it's somewhat under the radar with strong technology underpinnings. AGTC has honed its development strategy to focus on monogenic eye diseases that are largely stable. We expect some data from the lead program, for X-linked retinoschisis (XLRS), in 2016, which could inform the clinical development program and focus investors on the company. We really like the meticulous way in which the company has built out its clinical program, its transformative deal with Biogen, and its long cash runway."

Next among Goldstein's picks is Array BioPharma Inc. (ARRY:NASDAQ), "where expectations are low for its MEK inhibitor program for binimetinib." However, the analyst noted, "clinical risk is low and the company has a differentiating feature, having just announced a positive result in a pivotal study for NRAS melanoma. If approved, binimetinib will be the only MEK inhibitor for both BRAF and NRAS melanomas."

Goldstein's last company of interest is FlexPharma (FLKS:NASDAQ), which she said "is unique among development companies because of its pursuit of both consumer and pharmaceutical applications."

The company's consumer product will begin to roll out this year "in a very targeted fashion to the athletic endurance market for exercise-induced muscle cramps," Goldstein said. Because Flex plans "such a small rollout, expectations are appropriately modest." On the pharmaceutical side, "the company has translated its extract-based liquid to a chemically synthesized molecule, and will be exploring muscle cramping and spasticity as indications. The original formulation, which is an extract-based liquid, is currently in a nocturnal leg cramp study, which is a sizable and underestimated market on its own, in our view."

Mike King's selections begin with Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc. (KPTI:NASDAQ), whose stock has taken a beating. "The market cap now is in the high $200s, and the company holds a bit over $200M in cash. So you're looking at a technology value of about $50–75M, which I think is incredibly inexpensive. The two factors I particularly favor are a) the management team, and b) the drugs in development. The CEO, Michael Kauffman, was one of the members of the team that developed Velcade (bortezomib). He was also largely responsible for the successful development of Kyprolis (carfilzomib). Michael is an estimable drug developer and a real bulldog.

"The lead program is called Selinexor. It blocks a unique cellular target called XPO1. Basically, the drug will put fingers in the dike of the cell's nucleus to prevent the oncogenes—the genes that suppress cancer—from getting out of the nucleus. When the genes are trapped back in the nucleus, the cell undergoes the appropriate cell death pattern, rather than continuing to advance as would an out-of-control cancer cell. The company will have data readouts this year in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and multiple myeloma. Toward the end of this year/early next year, it will have readouts in diffuse lung T-cell lymphoma and something called Richter's transformation. It will have updates on data at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting for solid tumors. I think this company is tracking exceptionally well.

King also discussed WAVE Life Sciences Ltd. (WVE:NASDAQ). "I refer to the company as a mash-up between Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. (ALNY:NASDAQ), which is a leader in RNA interference, and Isis, now Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc. (IONS:NASDAQ), which is a leader in antisense," he said.

The science required a bit of explanation. "Briefly, molecules can assume different conformations—a right-handed molecule and a left-handed molecule. Depending on how your molecule is synthesized and manufactured, you can have mixtures or you can have pure versions of these isomers. Wave has brought similar chemistry to the problem of oligonucleotides. When you string together bases to create a, let's say, 19 or 20-mer oligonucleotide, they can have different conformations, so your mixture of molecules can range in the hundreds of thousands. The example the company likes to use is Ionis' mipomersen, which has 500,000+ different molecules in the mixture.

"What WAVE can do is synthesize a single pure isomer. That enables a business strategy that allows it to either be first in class or best in class in terms of a fast follower. It won't be doing very much this year, but toward the end of 2016/early 2017, the company will have its first investigational new drug applications (IND) for programs like Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Huntington's disease and a rare skin autoimmune condition.

Finally, King brought Pieris Pharmaceuticals Inc. (PIRS:NASDAQ) to the table. Pieris "has a ~$100M market cap and ~$50M in cash. Its major technology is based on the understanding of human proteins called lipocalins, which are used as carrier proteins for other things. Pieris has been able to take these lipocalins and engineer them to give them druglike properties." The product is known as "anticalins."

Pieris "has developed a number of clinical programs in hematology, directed against hepcidin in anemia, and in asthma," King continued. "The one compound that's burgeoning is in the immuno-oncology space with a target known as CD137. Pieris is trying to engineer an agonist for the T cell with a targeted agent like Herceptin to bring together the properties of inhibiting growth of a tumor cell plus activating the immune system.

"With this kind of valuation, you could lose all your money in this name, but some of the companies developing platforms with drug-like properties can be very successful—tenbagger types of winners. That's what I'm looking for from Pieris."

King added two other companies to the Watchlist. Akebia Therapeutics Inc.'s (AKBA:NASDAQ) key asset is vadadustat, a stabilizer of the hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) family member HIF-2 alpha for the treatment of anemia associated with chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Milestones in 2016 include a possible partnership for marketing vadadustat in Europe, and initiation of Phase 3 trials for the treatment of ESRD. Agenus Inc. (AGEN:NASDAQ) "has a broad portfolio of immune checkpoint modulators, a great scientific platform, and partnerships for several of its clinical and preclinical therapies. Heat shock protein vaccines for glioblastoma multiforme and use in combination therapies are in Phase 2, and "investors can expect one or more clinical candidates to be declared in 2016," King said.

King is also a fan of FlexPharma, noting that the company's "proprietary sports beverage. . .could be Gatorade- or Red Bull-like in its market potential."

George Zavoico's contributions begin with Abeona Therapeutics Inc. (ABEO:NASDAQ), with a market cap of ~$95M.

"This is a gene therapy company focused on ultraorphan diseases. It has an adeno-associated virus vector carrying the normal gene that crosses the blood-brain barrier and is targeting Sanfilippo syndrome type IIIA and type IIIB. Kids are diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome at a very early age, and it's pretty much fatal before they've reached 20 years of age. The company will probably start clinical trials in this quarter."

Reflecting on the challenges Abeona faces, Zavoico observed that "gene therapy has been very interesting, disappointing, and, sometimes, also rewarding. To mitigate that risk, and one of the aspects I like about Abeona, is that it has a second technology called salt diafiltration, for processing blood plasma to isolate plasma proteins, like factor VIII, factor IX, and alpha-1 antitrypsin, for protein replacement therapy. This process is much milder on the plasma, and the cost of goods and yield is much better than methods currently used by most plasma protein isolation companies. This is a $14 billion ($14B) market. If Abeona can get two of its products—the alpha-1 antitrypsin and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) for immune disorders—through bioequivalent studies this year, it might be able to launch them in 2017."

Abeona's key milestones this year are the start of the gene therapy trials and bioequivalence studies for the protein replacement products, both leading up to market launch sometime in the next few years."

Zavoico also likes Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc. (AST:NYSE.MKT), a $110M-market cap company.

"This is basically a cell therapy company with a gene therapy component. It is going after two indications. One is an unmet clinical need—complete cervical spinal cord injury with complete sensory and motor loss. The cells Asterias is producing are differentiated and functional oligodendrocytes, called AST-OPC1, which are injected into the spinal cord. A trial is currently underway; its first dosing cohort has been completed. The company just moved from the 2 million (2M) to the 10M-cell injection level, and with the 10M-cell level, it expects to see some benefit. It's an open-label trial, so we expect to see reports on safety and efficacy from the first cohort starting sometime in Q2/16.

"Asterias also has an autologous cell therapy product for AML, called AST-VAC1, which is further along in development. This is going through final design and process development in preparation for a Phase 2 trial projected to start in early 2017. This trial is based on surprisingly durable responses the company saw in an earlier, exploratory Phase 2 trial in AML."

Pain Therapeutics Inc. (PTIE:NASDAQ), a $77M-market cap company, makes Zavoico's list as well.

"It's going after the $2.5B OxyContin (oxycodone, extended release) franchise for chronic pain. OxyContin is a first-generation, opioid abuse-deterrent product with some deficiencies. It's still abused. Second-generation, potentially superior abuse-deterrent technologies have now emerged, and Pain Therapeutics has developed one of these into a product called Remoxy, which also contains oxycodone. It is expecting to file a new drug application (NDA) filing soon. We expect a six-month review period by the FDA, so approval is possible by year-end."

Again, given this is a small company, Zavoico said that "even if it gets a fraction of the market, it would be a pretty big deal. Downside risk is that Purdue Pharma (private), which markets OxyContin, is highly protective of its market. We'll see how that plays out when the NDA for Remoxy is filed, or if and when it is approved, after what I expect will be a six-month review; so it's likely before the end of the year. Pain Therapeutics also has a second product, a topical patch called Fenrock, which contains an opioid called fentanyl, in another abuse-deterrent formulation. That's going through final formulation studies. Once those studies are complete, the company expects to file an investigational new drug application (IND) that would enable it to begin bioequivalence studies, possibly early next year."

Finally, Zavoico named Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc. (PPHM:NASDAQ), a $215M market cap company, to the Watchlist.

"By now everyone has heard of the immune checkpoint inhibitors targeting CTLA-4 and PD-1 for treating certain cancers, and we'll probably have a PD-L1 inhibitor on the market soon as well. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as a dozen or more immune checkpoints have now been identified and targeted for drug discovery and development." Zavoico said. "While most of these are just beginning Phase 1 trials, what is little appreciated is that Peregrine Pharmaceuticals has an immune checkpoint inhibitor, called bavituximab, already in a Phase 3 trial for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

"Bavituximab targets phosphatidylserine (PS), a key cell membrane phospholipid with powerful immunosuppressive properties when expressed on the surface of tumor cells. PS has only recently been recognized as an important immune checkpoint," Zavoico continued, noting final results of the Phase 3 trial are expected by year-end, with two interim looks during the year. He also said Peregrine has commenced, or is planning to commence, Phase 2 and 2/3 trials of bavituximab in combination with other drugs, including other immune checkpoint inhibitors, in NSCLC, HER2-negative and triple negative breast cancer.

Ram Selvaraju's list begins with CorMedix Inc. (CRMD:NYSE.MKT), with a Buy rating and a price target of $6.50/share.

"This company is currently trading at an enterprise value below $50M, but has a Phase 3 program with a next-generation drug candidate aimed at dealing with catheter infections in the hospital setting. The active ingredient is taurolidine, which is well known to be resistance-evading in nature. This is one of the few programs that deals conclusively with multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. In the hospital, that's a significant issue. The company's Phase 3 program is currently ongoing and should reach an interim analysis point later this year."

Next up is Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc. (ORMP:NASDAQ), "which is developing an orally bioavailable form of insulin, as well as an orally bioavailable form of exenatide, which is a member of the GLP-1 agonist subclass.

"Oramed recently inked a China licensing deal with total milestones of $50M." Selvaraju explained. "It is well capitalized for at least the next two years. It will report data from a Phase 2b trial from its oral insulin product, ORMD-0801, in April or May of this year. If those data are positive, and given this is an orally bioavailable form of insulin and is risk mitigated, it should be a transformative event for the company. Positive data could spark acquisition interest from any number of large diabetes players, including the usual suspects, Sanofi SA (SNY:NYSE), Novo Nordisk (NVO:NYSE) and AstraZeneca Plc (AZN:NYSE).

Sorrento Therapeutics Inc. (SRNE:NASDAQ) is Selvaraju's call in the immuno-oncology space.

"The company has a sub-$400M market cap right now, is relatively well capitalized, and has a very diversified portfolio of technology platforms. It has a portfolio of biosimilar candidates, which it reported baseline data from earlier this week. These candidates may, in fact, be positioned as bio betters. They include a competitor to Xolair (omalizumab; for allergic asthma and chronic idiopathic urticaria), a competitor to Simulect (basiliximab; an immunosuppressant used following organ transplantation) and a competitor to Remicade (infliximab; an immunosuppressant used in different types of arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases).

"In addition, in the immuno-oncology space, I believe that Sorrento has an advantage because it is focusing on the natural killer cell-focused methodology, which involves the use of a proprietary cell line that's being developed in collaboration with Patrick Soon-Shiong's company, NantKwest Inc. [NK:NASDAQ]). I believe the key to sustainable development in the immuno-oncology space is the development and emergence of allogeneic therapy versus autologous therapy."

Sorrento also has "a multitude of antibody-based platforms, including intracellular antibodies, that it is developing in collaboration with the City of Hope," Selvaraju said, adding these "are very interesting because they have activity inside the cell as well as on cell surface targets.

Finally, Selvaraju gave a "shout out" to Synergy Pharmaceuticals Inc. (SGYP:NASDAQ).

"It is a week or two away from filing its NDA on plecanatide in chronic constipation. I also anticipate Phase 3 data from two irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) trials later this year.

"The stock has been significantly beaten down. It now trades where it was trading prior to reporting the Phase 3 data in chronic constipation. The mechanism of action is shared with Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s (IRWD:NASDAQ) linaclotide, which has already topped $450M in sales for 2015. Ironwood believes that linaclotide will be a $1B drug by 2020. It's an emerging class in the gastrointestinal tract space.

Selvaraju also highlighted Evoke Pharma Inc. (EVOK:NASDAQ), an emerging specialty pharmaceuticals firm developing an intranasal formulation of metoclopramide, designated EVK-001, for the treatment of diabetic gastroparesis.

"We like Evoke's prospects relative to its extremely low market cap of only $25M, particularly given the significant unmet need in diabetic gastroparesis—a paralytic condition of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract in diabetic patients that can result in severely impaired swallowing and GI tract motility, along with nausea and regurgitation," Selvaraju said. "Evoke's lead candidate, metoclopramide, has been used to treat gastroparesis for decades, and is currently the only FDA-approved treatment for this condition. The firm's candidate is formulated for intranasal delivery, which should result in enhanced efficacy based on improved central bioavailability targeting the necessary receptors in the brain. Evoke should report data from a pivotal Phase 3 trial later this year. If positive, this should enable the company to file for approval in the U.S. via the 505(b)(2) pathway. We believe peak sales of EVK-001 could exceed $400M, given the 1.6M individuals currently living in the U.S. with diabetic gastroparesis."

Reni Benjamin's selections round out the 2016 Small-Cap Biotech Watchlist.

"My Top Pick is ADMA Biologics Inc. (ADMA:NASDAQ) in the IVIG space. This is arguably a crowded space, but this company has a differentiated product. We already have the data in hand—the data look solid—to get approval. That approval should come in Q3/16 with a potential for sales beginning at the end of Q4/16. While there's no guarantee that an approval will result in an increase in the share price, we believe the stock has been beaten down and that, at current levels, there is significant upside.

"The end story for this name is not for the company to stay as a sole entity." Benjamin added. "In this space, there are big names like Grifols S.A. (GRFS:NASDAQ) and CSL Behring Ltd. (CSL:ASX; CMXHY:OTCPK) looking for differentiated products. If we're right, ADMA is likely a takeout candidate sometime in 2016-2017, especially if the product gets approval."

Benjamin also selected a company that conforms to the "fallen angels" theme.

"We always hear the adage of buy low, sell high, but we tend to, as investors, do the exact opposite. In the biotech space in 2015, there were several big-time failures. Verastem Inc. (VSTM:NASDAQ) saw one of those failures. The stock is trading now well below cash. If it liquidated today, Verastem would be worth more than where the stock is trading. When we see names like that, we see a runway that can last several years, and we see buying opportunities—suddenly the M&A model becomes that much better. It's not just big pharma acquiring smaller biotechs, but other biotechs merging and acquiring technologies. We think cash is a good bet in the long term, and believe we'll see significant shareholder value increase, so Verastem is our fallen angel pick."

Galena Biopharma Inc. (GALE:NASDAQ), which Benjamin noted "has had a rough start to the year," also makes the cut. "That said," the analyst went on, "the company did shore up its balance sheet and is on track to report interim results from the ongoing, >700-patient Phase 3 PRESENT trial in Q2/16. With over $50M in the bank, the company is poised to report whether the Phase 3 trial should continue or stop due to futility. We expect the continuation of the trial to be a meaningful event for the company and shareholders, especially from current levels."

Finally, in the cell therapy space, Benjamin's top small-cap company is Fate Therapeutics Inc. (FATE:NASDAQ).

"This company is making small molecules that can modulate cell therapies—can essentially help them express certain molecules, either increasing or decreasing the expression of checkpoint inhibitors. Fate is working both with partners in the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell space, as well as in the autoimmune disease space," Benjamin said.

The Approval Process in Action Infographic

Dr. Reni Benjamin is a senior biotechnology analyst at Raymond James. His expertise focuses on companies in the oncology and stem cell sectors. Benjamin has been ranked among the top analysts for recommendation performance and earnings accuracy by StarMine, has been cited in a variety of sources including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Financial Times and Smart Money, and has made appearances on Bloomberg television/radio and CNBC. He authored a chapter in "The Delivery of Regenerative Medicines and Their Impact on Healthcare," has presented at various regional and international conferences, and has been published in peer-reviewed journals. He is a past member of the UAB School of Health Professions' Deans Advisory Board. Prior to joining Raymond James, Benjamin was a managing director and senior biotechnology analyst at H.C. Wainwright, Burrill Securities and Rodman & Renshaw. He was also an associate analyst at Needham and Company. Benjamin earned his doctorate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in biochemistry and molecular genetics by discovering and characterizing a novel gene implicated in germ cell development. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Allegheny College.

Mara Goldstein joined Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. from Thomson Reuters, where she served as director of research for Reuters Insight. Goldstein was initially responsible for the firm's healthcare research practice, and later assumed responsibility for all research activities and sectors. Prior to that, Goldstein was an executive director and senior pharmaceutical analyst at CIBC World Markets. At Cantor, Goldstein covers the biotechnology sector. Goldstein also worked at Alex Brown & Sons and CS First Boston. She holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Purdue University.

Michael G. King Jr. is a managing director and senior biotechnology analyst at JMP Securities. King comes to JMP from Rodman & Renshaw LLC, where he was managing director and senior biotechnology analyst. He has more than 17 years of experience as a leading biotechnology equity research analyst, consistently ranking at the top of Institutional Investor magazine's annual sellside research survey, in addition to being named that publication's "Home Run Hitter" in 2000. King also served as senior vice president of corporate development and communication at ZIOPHARM Oncology (ZIOP:NASDAQ). Prior to joining ZIOPHARM, King was a managing director and senior biotechnology analyst at Wedbush Securities. He holds a bachelor's degree in finance from Baruch College.

Raghuram "Ram" Selvaraju's professional career started at the Geneva-based biotech firm Serono in 2000, where he discovered the first novel protein candidate developed entirely within the company. He subsequently became the youngest recipient of the company's Inventorship Award for Exceptional Innovation and Creativity. Selvaraju started in the securities industry with Rodman & Renshaw as a biotechnology equity research analyst. He was the top-ranked (#1) biotech analyst in The Wall Street Journal's "Best on the Street" survey (2006) and went on to become head of healthcare equity research at Hapoalim Securities, the New York-based broker/dealer subsidiary of Bank Hapoalim B. M., Israel's largest financial services group. While at Hapoalim, Selvaraju was regularly featured in The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, BioWorld Today, and Reuters/AP. He was also a regular guest on the Bloomberg TV program "Taking Stock," appeared with Bloomberg TV's on-air correspondents Betty Liu and Gigi Stone and was a guest on CNBC's "Street Signs with Herb Greenberg."

Dr. George Zavoico, senior equity analyst at JonesTrading Institutional Services LLC, has more than 10 years of experience as a life sciences equity analyst writing research on publicly traded equities. His principal focus is on biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, specialty pharmaceutical, and molecular diagnostics companies. Previously, Zavoico was a senior equity research analyst in the healthcare sector at MLV & Co., and an equity analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald and Westport Capital Markets. Prior to becoming an equity analyst, Zavoico established his own consulting company serving the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, providing competitive intelligence and marketing research, due diligence services and guidance in regulatory affairs. Zavoico began his career as a senior research scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., moving on to management positions at Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and T Cell Sciences Inc. (now Celldex Therapeutics Inc.). Zavoico has a bachelor's degree in biology from St. Lawrence University and a Ph.D. in physiology from the University of Virginia. He held post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School/Brigham & Women's Hospital. He has published more than 30 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has coauthored four book chapters. He received The Financial Times/Starmine Award two years in a row for being among the top-ranked earnings estimators in the biotechnology sector.

Source: Staff of The Life Sciences Report

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1) Tracy Salcedo compiled this article for Streetwise Reports LLC, publisher of The Gold Report, The Energy Report and The Life Sciences Report, and provides services to Streetwise Reports as an employee. She owns, or her family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None.
2) The following companies mentioned in the interview are sponsors of Streetwise Reports: CorMedix, Asterias. The companies mentioned in this interview were not involved in any aspect of the interview preparation or post-interview editing so the expert could speak independently about the sector. Streetwise Reports does not accept stock in exchange for its services.
3) Reni Benjamin: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I personally am, or my family is, paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: Raymond James & Associates lead-managed a follow-on offering of the ADMA Biologics Inc. and Galena Biopharma Inc. shares within the past 12 months. Raymond James & Associates makes a market in shares of the ADMA Biologics Inc. and Galena Biopharma Inc. Raymond James & Associates received non-investment banking securities-related compensation from the ADMA Biologics Inc. and Galena Biopharma Inc. within the past 12 months. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
4) Mara Goldstein: The analyst certifies that all of the views expressed in this research report accurately reflect her personal views about any and all of the subject securities or issuers featured; and no part of any of the research analyst's compensation was, is, or will be, directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendations or views expressed by the research analyst in this report. For important disclosures on companies mentioned in this report, please contact the Cantor Fitzgerald Research Department at 110 East 59th Street, New York, NY 10022, or refer to this website: I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
5) Michael King: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
6) Raghuram Selvaraju: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I personally am, or my family is, paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
7) George Zavoico: I own, or my family owns, shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I personally am, or my family is, paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. My company has a financial relationship with the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this interview. Comments and opinions expressed are my own comments and opinions. I determined and had final say over which companies would be included in the interview based on my research, understanding of the sector and interview theme. I had the opportunity to review the interview for accuracy as of the date of the interview and am responsible for the content of the interview.
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