Market volatility is up in recent sessions, and while that may have applied a brake to the upward trend, it also opens up opportunities for investors willing to shoulder some extra risk. Because in the markets, we frequently see that what goes down, must come back up.
It’s logic behind the old cliché to ‘buy low and sell high,’ and while it may sound obvious, it’s still a sound way to make money. And in the stock market, there are no ‘lower’ stocks than the penny stocks.
These are equities that trade for less than $5 per share, the very bottom of the price range. While they are priced that low for a reason – and the reasons may vary – low price in itself doesn’t mean that the stock’s fundamentals are sour. Smart investors can find some true bargains among the penny stocks, and set themselves up for outsized gains.
What’s the flip side? Minor share price depreciation can fuel major percentage losses. By nature of these massive movements, penny stocks are notoriously volatile.
The first penny stock we're looking at is a pharmaceutical company with a focus on oncology therapies. GlycoMimetics' mission is to discover, develop, and commercialize new small-molecule glycomimetic drug candidates. The company’s research is focused on the complex carbohydrates that coat all human cells – and are frequently involved various disease processes, including cancers and inflammatory disorders. GlycoMimetics is working with several compounds – five in all – that are designed to selectively target particular molecular mechanisms functioning in carbohydrate biology.
The company’s lead candidate, farthest along the development pathway, is GMI-1271, also called uproleselan. This is a first-in-class targeted inhibitor of E-selectin, and has received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the FDA as a treatment for adults with Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). The drug is currently in a Phase 3 trial. Earlier trials showed positive results when uproleselan was combined with existing chemotherapy treatments, including better than expected remission rates and higher overall survival. The drug was well-tolerated, and adverse effects were fewer than had been anticipated.
In the Phase 3 study for uproleselan, the company is optimistic on reaching year-end 2021 targets for completing enrollment in a pivotal trial on patients with relapsed or refractory AML. GlycoMimetics has also received, through its collaborator in China, Apollomics, Breakthrough Therapy Designation for that country, and in March the collaborator began dosing patients in a Phase 1 study.
GlycoMimetics second leading drug candidate, GMI-1359, target tumor trafficking and metastatic spread, through inhibition of E-selectin and CXCR4, two adhesion molecules. The drug candidate showed promise in pre-clinical tests, and this past April the company reported additional positive results, including immune activation, in the first two patients to be dosed in a proof-of-concept Phase 1b study. The study evaluates GMI-1359 as a treatment for advanced breast cancer with bone metastases.
Based on the company's clinical programs and its $2.25 share price, major returns could be on the horizon, according to Roth Capital analyst Zegbeh Jallah.
Jallah points out the continued success of studies involving uproleselan, writing of the company’s program update: “Most important, it seemed, was the expected 2H21 enrollment completion of the ongoing Phase 3 studies of Uproleselan (E-selectin) in AML... Regarding the exact timing of the readouts, management noted that more color will be provided later, given that the readouts are event-dependent. As soon as those events occur, they'll be able to provide more granular timelines. However, it is likely that the NCI-sponsored study could meet the criteria to trigger an analysis of event-free-survival (EFS) during 1H22... This has been viewed by many as a non near-term catalyst, but as we race through 2021 the opportunity is indeed coming into view."
The analyst summed up, "With the progress of Uproleselan, which helps validate multiple other off-shoot programs in the pipeline that also target E-selectin, this remains a good long-term buy... We would expect more interest in this program as we make it through the year, given the strong scientific rationale and the drug being selected for an NCI-sponsored study... Overall, we continue to believe that Uproleselan could become a broadly used drug, with multi-blockbuster sales potential."
To this end, Jallah rates GLYC a Buy along with a $15 price target. Shares could appreciate by 567%, should the analyst’s thesis play out in the coming months.
The company’s progress has attracted 3 unanimous positive reviews from Wall Street, giving it a Strong Buy consensus rating. Based on the $14.50 average price target, the upside potential comes in at 544%.
OcuPhire Pharma (OCUP)
Sticking with the biotech sector, we’ll shift from cancer research to eye disorders. OcuPhire Pharma is focused on developing and marketing new treatments for disorders at both the front and back of the eye.
The company’s pipeline has two main products under development; Nyxol, an eyedrop product, is designed to both reduce pupil size and improve visual acuity, and has indications for disturbances of night vision or low-light-level vision, presbyopia, and pharmacologically-induced mydriasis. The drug candidate has completed seven Phase 1 and 2 trial studies, on a total of 230 patients.
The second leading candidate, APX3330, is an oral tablet targeting retinal and choroidal vascular diseases that affect the back of the eyeball. The drug inhibits angiogenesis and inflammation pathways, and is indicated for treatment of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. Like Nyxol above, APX3330 has completed numerous early stage trials, including six Phase 1 studies and five Phase 2 studies. The drug has been followed in over 440 patients across those studies.
During the first quarter, OcuPhire reported positive early results in the Phase 3 MIRA-2 trial with Nyxol. The product met primary and secondary endpoints on efficacy. In addition, Nyxol was initiated in the Phase 2 VEGA-1 trial, evaluating it in combination with pilocarpine as a treatment for presbyopia.
Also in the quarter, APX3330 was initiated in the Phase 2 ZETA-1 trial, an investigation of the drug as a treatment for diabetic-related eye disorders. This study continues from those referenced above.
Among the bulls is Canaccord analyst John Newman who rates OCUP a Buy along with a $25 price target. Investors could be sitting on gains of ~589%, should Newman’s forecast play out over the next 12 months.
"The positive results from the MIRA-2 study... increase the probability of approval for Nyxol in Reversal of Mydriasis and has positive implications for other Nyxol indications, such as presbyopia and Night Vision Disturbances... We expect additional positive Nyxol data from presbyopia in 2Q21 and from night vision disturbances in 3Q21, as well as potentially positive data from APX3330 in diabetic retinopathy and Nyxol in a second reversal of mydriasis trial by early 2022," Newman opined.
Do other analysts agree with Newman? They do. Only Buy ratings, 4, in fact, have been issued in the last three months, so the consensus rating is a Strong Buy. The average price target of $23.50 suggests an impressive 458% upside from the share price of $4.21.