Organovo (ONVO 5.46%) is kicking off 2014 the same way that it closed out 2013: on fire.
The company hoping to create a proxy for human tissue that could be used to expedite drug testing -- with loftier organ-related aspirations down the line -- saw its stock soar 17% last week. The shares more than quadrupled last year as investors warmed up to Organovo's compelling story.
Organovo's 3-D bioprinting niche initially hopped on the 3-D printing bandwagon that's been en vogue since 2012. If we can now print physical objects on demand, why not genetic material, including tissue and organs? It's a fantastic scenario, yet the viability of Organovo's dream seemed years away. It helped make itself a rock star late last year when it pointed to the end of this year as its goal to roll out its first product. If this year's bioprinted liver tissue test is successful, heart and kidney tissue won't be too far away.
Soaring 326% over the past year, Organovo is packing a market cap of $842 million as it enters its first full week of trading in 2014. That may seem preposterous for a development-stage company with negligible revenue, but biotech and 3-D investors have shown that they're not afraid of taking a gamble.
An investment in Organovo is certainly not for the weak of heart. If it's successful in being the first company to market lab-created human tissue, drug companies will beat a path to its door. Organovo could be worth billions if not tens of billions. However, if it falls short -- or someone else beats it to the punch -- the stock's going to take a beating.
We won't have answers right away, but that will only make 2014 as volatile as the past year has been. We're months away from important tests that will hint at the feasibility of Organovo's faux liver tissue, but this is still a story that will take years -- not months -- to fully play out.
Organovo had a huge 2013, and it's likely to be more familiar to investors as 2014 plays out. That's saying something. Outside of the market's shortened trading day on Christmas Eve, you have to go back to mid-October to find the last time that less than a million shares traded hands.
It's going to be a lively year of trading for Organovo. Will its product follow suit? That's the multibillion-dollar question.