Geron Corporation (NASDAQ:GERN) reported financial results for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2016 and recent events.

For the third quarter of 2016, the company reported a net loss of $3.6 million, or $(0.02) per share, compared to net income for the third quarter of 2015 of $27.2 million, or $0.17 per share. Net loss for the first nine months of 2016 was $21.1 million, or$(0.13) per share, compared to net income for the first nine months of 2015 of $8.5 million, or $0.05 per share. The company ended the third quarter of 2016 with $129.8 million in cash and investments and has not incurred any impairment charges on its marketable securities portfolio.

Revenues for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2016 were $5.1 million and $6.1 million, respectively, compared to $35.4 million and $36.2 million for the comparable 2015 periods. Revenues for the three and nine month periods endingSeptember 30, 2016 included license fee revenue of $5.0 million in connection with an upfront payment due under a license agreement signed in September 2016 with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for certain rights to specialized oligonucleotide backbone chemistry and novel amidates. Revenues for the three and nine month periods ending September 30, 2015 included the full recognition of the $35.0 million upfront payment from Janssen Biotech, Inc. (Janssen) as collaboration revenue upon the company’s transfer of the imetelstat license rights and completion of technology transfer-related activities outlined under the imetelstat collaboration agreement with Janssen. The upfront cash payment was received in December 2014 and recorded as deferred revenue at that time.

Total operating expenses for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2016 were $9.0 million and $27.9 million, respectively, compared to $8.3 million and $28.1 million for the comparable 2015 periods. Research and development expenses for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2016 were $4.3 million and $13.9 million, respectively, compared to $4.1 million and $13.8 million for the comparable 2015 periods. General and administrative expenses for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2016 were $4.7 million and $14.0 million, respectively, compared to $4.3 million and $12.9 millionfor the comparable 2015 periods. Year-to-date operating expenses for 2015 also included restructuring charges of $1.3 millionin connection with the company’s organizational resizing announced in March 2015.

The increase in research and development expenses for the three and nine month periods ending September 30, 2016, compared to the same periods in 2015, primarily reflected the net result of higher costs for the company’s proportionate share of clinical development expenses under the imetelstat collaboration with Janssen, partially offset by reduced personnel-related costs resulting from the March 2015 organizational resizing and lower costs for the manufacturing of imetelstat drug product. The company expects research and development expenses to be higher in 2016 compared to 2015 as the clinical development of imetelstat continues in collaboration with Janssen. The increase in general and administrative expenses for the three and nine month periods ending September 30, 2016, compared to the same periods in 2015, primarily reflected higher non-cash stock-based compensation expense and an increased allocation of facilities and other overhead costs to general and administrative activities.

Interest and other income for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2016 was $322,000 and $871,000, respectively, compared to $187,000 and $481,000 for the comparable 2015 periods. The increase in interest and other income for the three and nine month periods ending September 30, 2016, compared to the same periods in 2015, primarily reflected higher yields on the company’s marketable securities portfolio.

Recent Company Events

  • In the third quarter of 2016, Janssen conducted planned internal reviews of initial data from IMbarkTM and IMergeTM, the ongoing clinical trials of imetelstat.
    • IMbarkTM was designed to evaluate two dose levels of imetelstat (either 4.7 mg/kg or 9.4 mg/kg administered every three weeks) in approximately 200 patients (approximately 100 patients per dosing arm) with Intermediate-2 or High risk myelofibrosis (MF) who have relapsed after or are refractory to prior treatment with a JAK inhibitor. The co-primary efficacy endpoints for the trial are spleen response rate and symptom response rate at 24 weeks.

      Janssen’s review included data from 20 patients from each dosing arm who had been followed on the trial for at least 12 weeks. In this review, no new safety signals were identified and the safety profile was consistent with previous imetelstat clinical trials in hematologic myeloid malignancies. Activity in the 4.7 mg/kg dosing arm did not warrant further investigation of that dose, and this arm has been closed to new patient enrollment. In the 9.4 mg/kg dosing arm, even though at the week 12 data assessment an insufficient number of patients met the protocol defined interim criteria, this arm warranted further investigation because encouraging trends in the efficacy data were observed. New enrollment in the 9.4 mg/kg arm has been suspended while the trial continues in order to obtain additional and more mature data that includes a longer follow-up of these patients at 24 weeks.

      Enrolled patients in both arms are permitted to continue to receive imetelstat. Janssen has submitted a protocol amendment to health authorities that includes allowing eligible patients in the 4.7 mg/kg dosing arm to increase their dose to 9.4 mg/kg per investigator discretion.

    • IMergeTM is a two-part clinical study in patients with Low or Intermediate-1 risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Part 1 is a Phase 2, open-label, single-arm design in approximately 30 patients, which has been fully enrolled, and Part 2 is a Phase 3, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design in approximately 170 patients. Janssen’s review of data in a subset of patients in Part 1 indicated that emerging safety and efficacy in IMergeTM is consistent with data reported from the pilot study conducted at Mayo Clinic in MDS patients. The primary efficacy endpoint for the trial is 8-week transfusion independence. IMergeTM continues unmodified at this time.
  • Second internal data reviews of additional and more mature data from both trials are planned by the end of the second quarter of 2017.
  • Three abstracts describing non-clinical data on imetelstat were accepted for presentation at the 58th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and Exposition to be held in San Diego, California from December 3-6, 2016. (Original Source)

Shares of Geron closed today at $1.81, down $0.04 or -2.16%. GERN has a 1-year high of $5.30 and a 1-year low of $1.81. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $2.19 and its 200-day moving average is $2.66.

On the ratings front, Geron has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on September 19, FBR analyst Thomas Yip reiterated a Buy rating on GERN, with a price target of $5.00, which implies an upside of 169% from current levels. Separately, on August 19, BTIG’s Ling Wang initiated coverage with a Hold rating on the stock.

According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Thomas Yip and Ling Wang have a yearly average loss of 30.8% and 30.9% respectively. Yip has a success rate of 15% and is ranked #3999 out of 4165 analysts, while Wang has a success rate of 17% and is ranked #4016.

Geron Corp. discovers and develops therapeutic products for cancer. It is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company, which develops a telomerase inhibitor, imetelstat, in hematologic myeloid malignancies.