Biotech Showcase Conference: Notes from the Floor, Day Three

A panel of analyst experts and a couple presenting companies completed our coverage from the show floor

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The Investing News Network (INN) began the last day of the Biotech Showcase Conference on Wednesday (January 10), by attending a panel focused on the investor perspective for biotech in 2018.

If you missed the show, don’t worry–our recap highlights some of the best moments of the day for investor consideration.

The panel, moderated by Mark Simon, managing director of Torreya showcased analyst voices from Cantor Fitzgerald, WBB Securities and B. Riley Financial.

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One of the topics discussed during the panel was the role of immuno oncology as a driver of biotech moving forward. Mara Goldstein, analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald, told the audience one of the things she’s looking forward to the most is the data coming out of trials in combination therapy with immuno oncology (I/O).

“We’re going to get some of those first really registration type readouts in combination trials with I/O and that really has big impatience for a lot of companies working in this space of alternative checkpoint inhibitors, costimulatory molecules… I think that’s going to be a very big theme this year for oncology in general,” Goldstein said.

She also added the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would provide a “hot topic” for investors since the agency has updated some policies and placed new areas of focus at the forefront following the appointment of its new commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, last year.

Another theme she pointed to for the upcoming year in biotech was the refining process that could take place for immuno oncology trials and the mergers and acquisitions in play in 2018. “For the last few years I think we have all said, ‘M&A it’s coming,’and it’s coming. The question is, does that really drive broader investment in the [United] States? Does that really bring the generalists into the biotech space? Which is where you really begin to see more sustainable performance for some period of time,” she said.

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Presenting companies on day 3 of the BIotech Showcase Conference

Immune Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IMNP) was one of the first presenting companies on the last day. Its president and CEO Elliot Maza told the audience that  the company completed a round of financing in Q4 of 2017 that will allow the company to complete its goals this year. Maza said Immune is evaluating its lead candidate program under several indications, so investors should be excited about the potential with the expansion of its pipeline.

Another interesting aspect of the company for investors to follow is the split on Immune Pharmaceuticals’ oncology division into its own company. This move came as the board of directors wanted to hone into their established business and let go of the I/O work being done. By its own account, Immune Pharmaceuticals has a long way to go to become profitable, but its path to get there seems well set by the company.

Next up was Acasti Pharma (NASDAQ:ACST; TSXV:ACST). This company is working on a candidate set to fill in the gaps from the alternatives provided by the competition. CaPre, its candidate, is a phase 3 program set to treat hypertriglyceridemia (HTG). The company revealed that its candidate has “Best in Class” potential, as it doesn’t have the same residuals its competition have on patients.

The company is confident in its program, even establishing a relationship with a Chinese pharmaceutical partner that could bring them $8 million immediately. President and CEO Jan D’Alvise told the audience the details are still being worked out for this partnership. Acasti will be enrolling patients for their phase 3 trial this year and plans s to present results later once the  trial will be more efficient, reducing cost and time.

D’Alvise said the company’s direct candidates have secondary effects that their candidate avoids, one of the main ones is a fish taste left in patients after the drug is taken. She told the room its  market research has shown physicians would be willing to move 70 to 83 percent of their patients to CaPre. D’Alvise also recognized the market has generic competitors already, but the data she showed said the difference in price isn’t as great as in other medical cases. Therefore allowing their new candidate to enter and disrupt this area of the field.

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Investor takeaway

Overall there was a strong presence for biotech companies throughout the conference. There was bustling activity all over the show floor. Companies were prepared to present their vision and there was a positive coat on all companies and analysts. There is potential for the I/O market to elevate even more and open new gates for the biotech market, at the same time analysts warned for the a fallout from I/O if the data doesn’t back up the potential.

Similarly there was excitement for smaller companies driving up the market and with tax reform changed in the U.S. the potential for large cap players targeting more and more merger and acquisition activity.

While 2018 may see a general uptrend for biotech, the inclusion of novel gene therapy research moving forward alongside solid results from the current studies being conducted could be the active catalyst that will send more and more companies above the threshold and into the eyes of generalist investors in future years.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_LifeScience for real-time news updates.

Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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