The Calandra Report: Missing the boat on biotech while searching for rocks

Thom Calandra
2 Comments|November 21, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- Inovio Pharmaceuticals (AMX:INO, Stock Forum), a DNA vaccine developer I sidestepped for four years, is having success with a Middle Eastern virus.
 
And INO shares are raging today.
 
Inovio's J, Joseph Kim, via a persistent biz-dev executive, Bernie Hertel, has been on me, professionally, since 2009.
 
Inovio shares have been raging during most of that span.
 
This is an INO confessional. It shows why a consuming theme (natural resources) left me in a gully when it comes to making market money.
 
Further shame: I researched, supported and profited sixfold to eightfold from stakes in two California biomedical companies; before, that is, gold, platinum and the rest possessed me. Those biomeds were San Diego-area Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN, Stock Forum) and San Francisco-area Cor Therapeutics. (Not to mention, I have a nephew who is finishing his organic chemistry doctorate at Yale University; my best and longest friend is a highly regarded Boston gastroenterologist with a research, writing and clinical pedigree; more on request.) 
 
Inovio's corporate HQ is in San Diego. Bernie Hertel hails from Vancouver, Canada. 
 
Three of Bernie Hertel's many professional missives (and phone calls) to me over the years:
 
Mr. Hertel: "As per my phone message, I thought you might be interested in the articles referenced by our key news releases of the past week about advances of DNA vaccines in general and specifically the DNA vaccine platform of Inovio Pharmaceuticals. If you scan them, you will see that the gist is strongly supportive of the unique capabilities we are advancing." -- June 2010
 
Bernie: "Hi Thom. Inovio announced stellar immune response data from our DNA vaccine against cervical dysplasias/cancer, which is great not just for that disease but for the platform as a whole. We've had a good market response in the past month and just the other day we were informed that a long-term-oriented biotech fund has started accumulating." -- September 2010
 
Bernie: "Thom, Inovio recently announced the spin-out of certain electroporation technology to deliver a chemo-therapeutic agent called bleomycin or DNA-based cytokines to treat solid tumors. There is past clinical history with both these applications and the newly formed company that has acquired these assets/rights, OncoSec Medical (OBB:ONCS, Stock Forum), will be able to come out of the gate running and initiate advanced stage clinical studies. The chairman, Avtar Dhillon, is a medical doctor and also Inovio’s executive chairman, and he structured the spin-out of this asset from Inovio. Are you interested in a call with management?" -- April 2011
 
Thom's responses? "No-can-do, Bernie, but Happy New Year." ... "Can't make it to the conference." ... "In Colombia working on a gold site."
 
Inovio's Dr. Kim and team are developing DNA vaccines: synthetic killer T-cells and antibodies that attack chronic infections, influenzas and cancers.
 
The one success unveiled today, preclinical in mice, is for that Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, which has a kill rate greater than 40 percent. Pandemic potential.
 
Inovio is moving its offices this month, but staying in San Diego, California.
 
I visit San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe on business eight to 10 times a year. Not once did I seek out Inovio's lab, its headquarters, it’s executives.
 
At this point, I am fully vaccinated from enjoying instant Inovio share profits. This is because that entire time, I bought not a single Inovio share.
 
As stated, INO shares are raging, even today.  
 
Watch Inovio's video -- one of the better web-site introductions out there in biomedical land. Learn More.
 
Inovio's flagship vaccine is a possible therapeutic agent against HPV-caused pre-cancers and cancers. It is in Phase II human trials in the USA. Other programs:  prostate, breast and lung cancers; HIV, influenza, malaria and hepatitis. 
 
Inovio sports an all-in market worth of about $500 million. 
 
As is my style, as an investor I rarely pursue these market runners. My interest now is in Inovio's progress as a crusader against the world's headline diseases. 
 
But that itty-bitty spin-off, OncoSec? Its all-in is about $50 million with a 28-cent stock price.
 
ONCS is the delivery agent. The San Diego entity is licensing the right to use electroporation -- electrical pulses -- to deposit gene-based cytokine immune agents in cell pores.
 
If successful, OncoSec's therapies could address solid tumors. It is a human trial right now for melanoma and is scheduled to deliver what OncoSec calls top-line data on that Phase II trial within the next several months.
 
OncoSec also enrolled Phase II patients for a trial of a treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma.
 
I might purchase ONCS after this report reaches its audience. I might make money, or I might avoid contracting my own tumor, or both.
 
PROPHECY PLATINUM: Those looking for platinum prospectors that appear "cheap" might take a look at this one.
 
Its chief executive has been at the job of reshaping the former nickel and platinum prospector for a full year now. Greg Johnson says the fork in the resources road is just ahead of us. (Oh pray thee, yes!)
 
"Look at Frank Holmes and his sector-rotation matrix", says Mr. Johnson, 48-year-old CEO of Prophecy Platinum (TSX:V.NKL, Stock Forum). "There has probably never been a three-year downturn in any sector, ever. We are seeing Asia interest in platinum group metals."
 
Mr. Johnson, a geologist, is former Placer Dome, NovaGold, South American Silver and others. 
 
Prophecy is due for fresh assays from far-eastern drilling at its Wellgreen platinum project in Yukon, Canada. As soon as this week.
 
"We have scale, we are right off the highway, we have ports," he says.
 
The first data from that area (September 2013) showed fairly high-grade platinum-group metals. 
 
Greg studied geology at Western Washington State University. He spent the past year "rebranding" Prophecy Platinum, which is a breakaway from Prophecy Coal/Prophecy Resource Corp. (TSX:V.PCY, Stock Forum) Expect a name change at some point ... and those fresh assays.
 
Prophecy -- when I caught the story in New Orleans last week -- is known as a low-grade platinum prospector with a cumbersome loan and a hanging block of shares from the mothership-side side of the corporate equation: Prophecy Resource Corp.
 
Greg Johnson looks like he has erased all of the loan and most of Prophecy Coal's large ownership. Fresh or re-upping investors include resources maven Ernesto Echavarria and a billionaire-Vancouver-area- real estate person. See press release of this week.
 
Now, cross your fingers, Mr. Johnson can start showing more of the promise of that higher-grade platinum at Wellgreen. This is what current and potential investors want to see: 2-gram (platinum/palladium/nickel) equivalent with true thicknesses that run many hundreds of meters at Wellgreen, which Greg says is the globe's largest platinum deposit OUTSIDE of SOUTH AFRICA and RUSSIA.
 
Prophecy Platinum's September data showed 353 metres of continuous mineralization grading 2.62 g/t platinum equivalent. 
 
As a platinum seeker, I intend to purchase shares soon. The shares are at 50 cents Canadian. Prophecy Platinum also has a metals project at Lynn Lake, Manitoba in Canada, near Carlisle Goldfields (TSX:V.CGJ, Stock Forum), whose shares I do own and which just declared a poison pill against unwanted takeovers.
 
Your friendly, 
 
Thom Calandra  
 

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tcalandra
Mr. Fib, my resources, in terms of metals equities, with a few energy cos, texas, utah, are down 50 or 55% since Feb. 2011. Our audience knows I am no Danny Deadlock when it comes to the entire equity landscape. I continue to stick largely with resourcew. Thanks for commenting, Thom
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November 23, 2013
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fibonnaci
ur wife would whoop ur butt if she knew how much $$$ u lost on these crappy companies
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November 22, 2013
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