Neuralstem, Inc. (NYSE MKT: CUR) reported its financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2014.
“Neuralstem has progressed into a clinical development stage company focused on the central nervous system (CNS),” said Richard Garr, Neuralstem President and CEO. “During 2014 we added two established industry leaders as Independent Directors, Catherine Angell Sohn, Pharm.D. and Sandford Drexel Smith. Dr. Sohn is the former Senior Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Alliance, GSK Consumer Healthcare, at GlaxoSmithKline. Mr. Smith is the former Executive Vice President of Genzyme Corporation. The Company moved forward two lead clinical assets: our small molecule neurogenic drug candidate NSI-189 and our spinal derived neural stem cell therapeutic candidate NSI-566. We established and/or grew clinical research programs with leading investigators at Emory University, University of California, San Diego (UCSD), University of Michigan and Massachusetts General Hospital. Our investigators published and presented proof of principle data in both lead assets as highlighted below. In 2015, we plan to begin clinical development of our NSI-189 small molecule drug in a second indication for the treatment of cognitive deficit from schizophrenia, and we plan to initiate a Phase II clinical trial for the ongoing development program for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). The cell therapy programs in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), chronic spinal cord injury (cSCI) and stroke will also move forward. We expect this to be another important year continuing our development and progress across both platforms.”
2014 Clinical Program and Business Highlights
Neurogenic Small Molecule Platform Clinical Development
- NSI-189 Phase II clinical trial for the treatment of MDD is expected to commence in the second quarter of 2015. Maurizio Fava, M.D., Slater Family Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital is the principal investigator for the 150-patient, multi-site clinical trial.
- Top-line data for the NSI-189 Phase Ib MDD trial. The data was presented at the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology (ASCP) and the International College of Neuropyschopharmacology (CiNP) annual meetings. The randomized, placebo-controlled, dose-escalation study showed clinically meaningful and statistically significant results in depressive and cognitive measurements at the end of the 28-day dosing period. Moreover, therapeutic benefits were sustained over the 8-week follow-up period signaling possible hippocampal neurogenesis.
- NSI-189 MDD biomarker data. In November 2014, researchers presented Phase Ib blood-based biomarker data and analysis for MDD in a poster at the CNS Summit, which identified a rapid and persistently efficacious response.
- Expansion of NSI-189 development program to a second indication for the treatment of cognitive deficit in schizophrenia. Cognitive deficit in schizophrenia is a prominent characteristic of the disorder that is correlated with the occurrence of hippocampal atrophy in this patient population. Commencement of the Company’s NSI-189 cognitive deficit in schizophrenia Phase Ib trial is expected in 2015.
Cell Therapy Platform Clinical Development
NSI-566 spinal cord-derived stem cell therapy under development for the treatment of ALS
- Top-line data for the Phase II NSI-566 ALS trial. Topline ALS Phase II data were released on March 12, 2015. Our top-line data in the Phase II ALS clinical trial met the primary safety endpoints and established what we believe to be the maximum tolerated dose of 16 million cells delivered in 40 injections. The secondary efficacy endpoints of ALSFRS and grip strength at nine months post-surgery demonstrated statistical significance in a comparison between responders and non-responders at nine months post-surgery; and as in the Phase I trial, disease stabilization was seen in the responders. We plan to present the full Phase II trial data later in 2015. This dose-escalating trial treated 15 ambulatory patients in five cohorts. Each of the three patients in the final cohort received a total dose of 40 injections of 400,000 cells, 20 injections each in the cervical and lumbar regions, for a total 16 million transplanted cells per patient. A larger, controlled Phase II trial is expected to commence in 2015.
- Phase I cell survival study data. In November 2014, a long-term NSI-566 ALS Phase I cell survival study, entitled “Analysis of graft survival in a trial of stem cell transplant in ALS,” was published in the journal “Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.” Researchers concluded that NSI-566 cells survived for the entire post-operative period of each of the autopsied patients studied from nine to thirty months post-transplantation. They also concluded that long-term immunosuppression was most likely not required for long-term survival of the cells.
NSI-566 spinal cord-derived cell therapy under development for the treatment of cSCI
- Commencement of Phase I cSCI. The first two patients have been treated in a Phase I trial for cSCI at the UCSD School of Medicine, supported by the UCSD Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center. The four-patient stem cell transplantation safety trial is currently enrolling patients and expects to report full data in the fourth quarter of 2015, following a six-month post-surgery study for each patient.
NSI-566 spinal cord derived stem cell therapy under development for the treatment of motor deficits in stroke
- Advancement in Phase I/II ischemic stroke trial. Neuralstem continued to enroll patients in its collaborative Phase I/II ischemic stroke trial with BaYi Brain Hospital in Beijing. The Phase II, controlled proof-of-concept study, is expected to commence in 2015. The trial is sponsored by Neuralstem’s wholly owned subsidiary, Suzhou Sun-Now Biopharmaceutical Co. Ltd. (“Neuralstem China”), which was formed to develop Neuralstem’s cell therapy products in China.
NSI-532.IGF second generation gene engineered cell therapy
- Expansion of cell therapy development program to include a second cell line engineered to express human insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). NSI-532.IGF cells are a cortical neural stem cell line engineered to deliver IGF-1, which is intended to provide an extra therapeutic benefit. This is the first instance in which Neuralstem is working to demonstrate the ability of it cells to act as a stable CNS delivery vehicle for gene therapy.
- NSI-532.IGF preclinical Alzheimer’s data. In October 2014, the first data were presented at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons Annual Meeting. In a presentation titled, “Peri-hippocampal stem cell transplantation rescues cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease,” University of Michigan Medical School researchers concluded that Neuralstem’s NSI-532.IGF cells rescued spatial learning and memory deficits in mice with an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease.
2014 Business Highlights
Board of Directors: Neuralstem appointed two independent directors to its Board of Directors in 2014, Catherine Angell Sohn, Pharm.D. and Sandford Drexel Smith. Dr. Sohn is the former Senior Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Alliance, GSK Consumer Healthcare, at GlaxoSmithKline. Mr. Smith is the former Executive Vice President of Genzyme Corporation.
Financial: In January 2014, Neuralstem closed a $20 million registered direct offering with proceeds intended to fund its ongoing clinical trials and corporate operations.
Financial Results for the Year Ended December 31, 2014
Cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments on hand was approximately $27.5 million at December 31, 2014, compared to approximately $16.8 million at December 31, 2013. The increase was primarily due to our raising approximately $19.5 million, net, through the sale of our common stock and warrants, and approximately $4.2 million, net, from our October 2014 debt amendment transaction, partially offset by cash used in our operations.
In the year ended December 31, 2014, we reported a net loss of approximately $22.6 million or $0.26 per share, compared to a loss of approximately $19.8 million or $0.27 per share in the year ended December 31, 2013. Our operating loss in the year ended December 31, 2014 was approximately $17.4 million, compared to a loss of approximately $12.5 million in the year ended December 31, 2013. The increase in operating loss was primarily attributable to an increase of approximately $3.7 million in general and administrative expenses coupled with an increase of approximately $1.0 million in research and development expenses.
The increase in research and development expenses was primarily attributable to an increase of approximately $0.7 million in payroll and related expenses due to increased salaries and headcount, an increase of approximately $0.1 million in project and lab expenses and an increase of approximately $0.1 million in travel and related expenses due to our clinical trial activities. These increased expenses are all related to a ramping-up of our pre-clinical and clinical trial efforts and are expected to continue into subsequent periods.
The increase in general and administrative expenses was primarily attributable to an increase of approximately $2.0 million in non-cash stock based compensation expenses primarily related to financial advisory and consultant services’ achieving a performance based milestone that resulted in a term extension of certain common stock purchase warrants, an increase of approximately $1.0 million in legal and professional fees related to patent, litigation and other corporate matters, an increase of approximately $0.6 million in consulting fees primarily related to new business development efforts and an increase of approximately $0.2 million in payroll and related expenses due to current year headcount increases.
In addition, in the year ended December 31, 2014 we recorded approximately $5.2 million of other expenses, primarily comprised of approximately $3.1 million related to our extension of certain common stock purchase warrants, approximately $1.6 million of interest expenses principally related to our long-term debt, a loss of approximately $0.4 million on our debt amendment transaction and approximately $0.3 million related to the change in fair value of the Company’s warrant liabilities, partially offset by approximately $0.3 million of income from a milestone payment from a legal settlement. (Original source)
Shares of Neuralstem closed last Friday at $2.56 . CUR has a 1-year high of $4.81 and a 1-year low of $2.12. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $3.43 and it’s 200-day moving average is $3.13.
On the ratings front, Neuralstem has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on March 12, Brean Murray Carret analyst Jonathan Aschoff reiterated a Buy rating on CUR, with a price target of $8, which represents a potential upside of 212.5% from where the stock is currently trading.
According to TipRanks.com, Aschoff has a total average return of 18.4%, a 69.0% success rate, and is ranked 42 out of 3516 analysts.
Neuralstem, Inc. is a biotechnology company. It is engaged in the development and commercialization of treatments for central nervous system disease based on transplanting human neural stem cells and the use of small molecule drugs.