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Can Organovo Holdings Inc. Keep It Up?

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There aren't too many publicly traded companies with dreams as ambitious as Organovo Holdings (NYSEMKT: ONVO  ) . Its ultimate goal -- true to its name -- is to bioprint proxies for human organs that can be used ideally for transplants but at the very least to speed up medical testing of promising treatments that are meandering in the arduous clinical trials process. 

That dream is likely decades away from potential realization, but bioprinting the lab equivalent of human tissue for the sake of drug testing is closer than you may think. Organovo's first viable product -- a 3-D liver assay test -- is still on track to hit the market later this year.

Shares of Organovo soared 18% last week on the news, fueled largely by kind words from Roche's head of mechanistic safety at the 3D Cell Culture 2014 conference in Europe last week. He noted that Organovo's 3-D liver assay test is able to discern between similar toxic and non-toxic compounds. Organovo followed that up by sticking to its target of launching the test by the end of this year. 

The assay test is naturally pretty important for a company that's bleeding money as it ramps up its research. The market wasn't impressed to see Organovo clock in with revenue of a mere $0.4 million for all of fiscal 2014 that ended in March, more than offset by operating expenses that doubled to $21 million. The sooner it can get its first needle-moving product to market the sooner investors can stop fretting about the unflattering pace of Organovo's cash burn. 

As you can imagine, you don't dream as big as Organovo without being a roller coaster of an investment. The stock soared 326% last year as its story got lumped into the 3-D printing craze that drove shares of the companies making printers that crank out physical objects higher in 2013. This year has been brutal for investors in 3-D printing, and that includes those that happened to own Organovo stock since peaking in November.

Organovo shares kick off this holiday-abridged trading week trading 22% lower in 2014 and 37% off of its November highs. However, the more recent trend has been encouraging. The stock has soared 68% since bottoming out at $5.12 just two months ago. Short interest is near its historical high, drumming up hope that a short squeeze can push the stock even higher. 

As a development-stage company with negligible revenue investors know that they're strapping themselves onto a white-knuckled ride here. This is a story that will take years -- not months -- to play out, but the obvious potential gains if Organovo becomes the first company to succeed commercially in bioprinting faux human tissue are substantial. This is the kind of company that could be worth billions or nothing at all in a few years. You don't get any riskier than that, and that will naturally keep the volatility at a feverish pace.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2014, at 5:41 PM, jj5460md wrote:

    The naysayers like to focus on the lack of revenue and cash burn. If one reads SEC filings they know this is of little concern. Why would they have revenue at this stage? Writers acknowledge the liver assay but tone it down and cast shadows of doubt as to the validity. One needs to remember that Murphy has consistently met (and beaten) every target stated - nearly unheard of with 100% revolutionary technology in rapid form. We now have the first KOL (Roche) that came out extremely favorable. But it doesn't end there - writers somehow put on blinders when it comes to other active areas of ONVO's pursuit: cosmetics industry (L'Oreal), kidney assay (U Queensland), and oncology initiatives with tumor models (breast, etc). Lastly, they do endeavor to print organs. While we await this ambitious endpoint, ONVO clearly has enough going on to keep its shareholders and mankind excited and rewarded. The risk, well overstated by the author IMO (worth nothing in a few years ???), is that they never print organs but save untold sums of money in drug R&D/safety, save untold numbers of animals from horrific experimentation, and improve our understanding of tumor models/microenvironment that is key to improved therapy. All-in-all this points to a risk that I (and others who understand the implications of the above) am happy to take on.

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Rick Munarriz

Rick has been writing for Motley Fool since 1995 where he's a Consumer and Tech Stocks Specialist. Yes, that's a long time. He's been an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and a portfolio lead analyst for Motley Fool Supernova since each newsletter service's inception. He earned his BBA and MBA from the University of Miami, and he now lives a block from his alma mater.

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8/28/2015 4:00 PM
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