AEterna Zentaris Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:AEZS), a specialty biopharmaceutical company engaged in developing and commercializing novel treatments in oncology, endocrinology and women’s health, today reported financial and operating results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2016.

Commenting on first quarter results, David A. Dodd, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, stated, “During the first quarter, we made steady progress in the areas of product development, commercial performance and financial operations. I am pleased to report that we remain on track to attain our 2016 corporate objectives. We still expect to complete the pivotal Phase 3 Zoptrex™ trial in Q3 of 2016 and to report top-line results by year-end.”

Mr. Dodd continued his commentary with a discussion of the development of Macrilen™, which, if approved, will be the only FDA-approved means of evaluating adult growth hormone deficiency (AGHD), “Since announcing patient recruitment in the fourth quarter of last year, our CRO has opened approximately 20 of our anticipated 30 sites, enrolling approximately 30 patients. The pace of recruitment is accelerating, confirming our expectation that the confirmatory Phase 3 clinical study of Macrilen™ will be concluded in Q3 of 2016, also with top-line results being reported as soon as possible following trial conclusion. We feel very confident that the confirmatory study, which will consist of approximately 30 sites and a minimum of 110 patients, is on schedule.”

Concluding, Mr. Dodd addressed the Company’s commercial operations, stating, “We are pleased with the building of success from our promotion of Saizen® during the first quarter. Exceeding our baseline by 66% during the quarter was a great accomplishment by our sales team. Now that they have a number of targets that more closely matches our promotional capacity, we believe they should be in a position to produce meaningful commission revenue this year. I am hopeful that we will be able to add even more targets as EMD Serono recognizes the success of our efforts. Our full sales force sold APIFINY® for only half of the first quarter but managed to generate commission revenue nevertheless. We are hopeful about the commercial potential of APIFINY® because it is the only cancer-specific, non-PSA blood test for the evaluation of the risk of prostate cancer. Physicians have long needed such an adjunct to the PSA test. With APIFINY®, we believe we can satisfy that need. As a result of our promotional efforts, we are realizing an increasing penetration and acceptance of APIFINY®. More recently, we announced the expansion of our APIFINY® agreement to reflect our exclusive rights to promote this product throughout the U.S. We believe that such an expanded agreement opens significant revenue opportunities in support of this exciting product.”

First Quarter 2016 Financial Highlights

R&D costs were $3.7 million for the three-month period ended March 31, 2016, compared to $4.5 million for the same period in 2015. The decrease for the three-month period ended March 31, 2016, as compared to the same period in 2015, is mainly attributable to lower comparative third-party costs. The decrease in third-party costs is mainly attributable to the fact that the number of patients in active treatment in the clinical trial for Zoptrex™ was lower in the first quarter of 2016, as compared to the same period in 2015. The overall decrease in R&D costs is also explained by lower employee compensation and benefits costs, lower facilities rent and maintenance as well as lower other costs. A substantial portion of this decrease is due to the realization of cost savings in connection with our effort to streamline our R&D activities and to increase our commercial operations and flexibility by reducing our R&D staff, which was started in 2014 (the “Resource Optimization Program”), for which a provision was recorded in the third quarter of 2014.

G&A expenses were $1.9 million for the three-month period ended March 31, 2016, as compared to $3.4 million for the same period in 2015. The decrease is mainly attributable to the recording during three-month period ended March 31, 2015 of certain transaction costs associated with the completion of a public, registered offering of shares and warrants in March 2015.

Selling expenses were $1.7 million for the three-month period ended March 31, 2016, essentially unchanged as compared to the same period in 2015. The selling expenses for the three-month periods ended March 31, 2016 and 2015 represent the costs of our contracted sales force related to the co-promotion activities as well as our internal sales management team. Those activities were launched during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Net loss for the three-month period ended March 31, 2016 was $3.7 million, or $0.37 per basic and diluted share, compared to a net loss of $9.7 million, or $13.59 per basic and diluted share for the same period in 2015. The decrease in net loss for the three-month period ended March 31, 2016, as compared to the same period in 2015, is due largely to lower operating expenses and higher comparative net finance income.

Cash and cash equivalents were approximately $33.0 million as at March 31, 2016, compared to $41.5 million as at December 31, 2015. (Original Source)

Shares of Aeterna Zentaris are up nearly 6% to $3.68 in after-hours trdading. AEZS has a 1-year high of $51 and a 1-year low of $2.60. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $3.72 and its 200-day moving average is $4.31.

On the ratings front, Aeterna Zentaris has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on April 28, Maxim Group analyst Jason McCarthy reiterated a Buy rating on AEZS, with a price target of $11, which implies an upside of 216.1% from current levels. Separately, on March 31, Canaccord Genuity’s Neil Maruoka reiterated a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $9.

According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Jason McCarthy and Neil Maruoka have a total average return of -10.8% and -32.0% respectively. McCarthy has a success rate of 29.5% and is ranked #3695 out of 3828 analysts, while Maruoka has a success rate of 18.7% and is ranked #3814.

Æterna Zentaris, Inc. operates as a specialty biopharmaceutical company that is engaged in developing and commercializing novel treatments in oncology, endocrinology and women’s health. The company’s pipeline encompasses compounds at all stages of development, from drug discovery through to marketed products. It focuses on the development of Perifosine, Cetrotide, Ozarelix, AEZS-108 and AEZS-130.