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Biotech CEOs Talk Vision, Cash Burn, Catalysts At Benzinga Global Small Cap Conference

Biotech CEOs Talk Vision, Cash Burn, Catalysts At Benzinga Global Small Cap Conference

The inaugural Benzinga Global Small Cap Conference featured a panel discussion with CEOs of three exciting biotechs: Fortress Biotech (NASDAQ: FBIO), Sorrento Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ: SRNE) and Dyadic International, Inc. (NASDAQ: DYAI).

The discussion was moderated by Jason Kolbert, director of research at Dawson James, which rates each of the companies with a Buy.

Fortress Biotech's Vision: Fortress Biotech's focus is on diversification, developing multiple drug candidates and marketing multiple approved drug products, with the idea of reducing risk and at the same time increasing upside potential, CEO Lindsay Rosenwald told the panel.

"It's hard work, but we can do [it]," he said.

With $300 billion to $400 billion a year spent on life sciences R&D globally, and the majority of it being invested in therapeutic product research, the market is inefficient, Rosenwald said.

Fortress looks at acquiring drug candidates in clinical trials that have good proof-of-concept; buying them inexpensively due to the inefficiency of the market; and develop the drugs toward commercialization, the CEO said. 

Over the last six years, Fortress has acquired 40 marketed products as well as development-stage programs, with the latter being developed with partner companies.

Rosenwald highlighted the company's dermatology business, which is expected to rake in revenue of $40 million this year and beat that number next year. 

It has 16 clinical-stage programs, and four pivotal trials ongoing, with two more expected to start next year, and an NDA pending before the FDA, the CEO said.

Sorrento Therapeutics Snapshot: Sorrento, meanwhile, is a fully-integrated platform company, with multiple late-stage compounds and a revenue-generating business in pain drugs, CEO Henry Ji said. The annual revenue run-rate is around $40 million, he said. 

Dyadic International's Vision: Dyadic's vision is to completely disrupt the bio-manufacturing process, be it with therapeutic proteins, vaccines or antibodies, said CEO Mark Emalfarb.

Highlighting the efficiency of the company's manufacturing process, Emalfarb said the company is able to make antigens faster, cheaper and at flexible commercial scales.

Related Link: Week Ahead In Biotech: FDA To Decide On Emergency Use Of Pfizer's COVID Vaccine, Hematology Conference Presentations Pick Up Pace

Fortress Biotech's Balance Sheet: Fortress Biotech's dermatology business has been growing at a CAGR of 50%, and COVID-19 slowed the run rate to 25% this year, although it is still a record, Rosenwald said. The CEO said the spend is around $30 million per year, not accounting for the outflow on acquiring licenses.

The goal is to get the cash level positive as soon as possible, he said. A revenue stream is in sight, thanks to four to five NDAs planned over the next four years, he said. 

Sorrento's Product Pipeline: Sorrento's revenues are tiny vis-à-vis the company's vision, but it is attempting to set up infrastructure which will help in marketing in the future, Ji said.

The goal is to push its big products, he said, giving the  example of the COVI-STIX, which is seen as multi-billion-dollar diagnostic product for COVID-19.

The product could be licensed in all 50 states and possibly overseas, he said.

Sorrento's CEO said the company now has the largest COVID-19 pipeline, comprising COVID-STIX and Columbia's COVID-TRACE, which is awaiting emergency use authorization.

COVID-STIX is akin to a pregnancy test that can be used in a lab setting or at home, with results in a few minutes. The results can be confirmed using a PCR test a few days later, Ji said.

Dyadic's COVID-19 Plans: Dyadic's sale of its industrial division to DuPont de Nemours Inc (NYSE: DD) a few years fetched it $75 million, with $22 million spent on stock buybacks, Emalfarb said.

The company is using technology and funding from big pharma and animal health companies to offset its cash burn rate, the CEO said. 

The company could announce COVID-19-related deals with India, Israel, Europe and with the U.S. government over the next year, potentially related to antibody production, he said. 

Biotech Catalysts Ahead: Fortress is planning to file an NDA for ultra-rare Menkes disease in the first half of 2021, and finish a pivotal trial for a checkpoint antibody, for which a data readout is planned some time in 2021, Rosenwald said.

In 2022, the company plans to launch one or two of these products, and in 2023, two more NDA filings are planned, he said. 

Sorrento is closing in on completing the pivotal trial of a second pain drug, which promises $5 billion to $6 billion in peak sales a year, Ji said.

From the oncology and pain management pipeline the company sees a multi-billion-dollar potential opportunity, he said. 

As a platform company, Dyadic looks to add more customers while also working on moving its COVID-19 vaccine candidate into the clinics, either on its own or through partnership, so that it can make available large quantities of vaccine doses at affordable costs, Emalfarb said.

Related Link: Attention Biotech Investors: Mark Your Calendar For December PDUFA Dates


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