Organovo Holdings Inc (ONVO -0.66%) is a 3-D bioprinting company that has seen its shares pop by as much as 17% today, on a day when the rest of the market is down. What's the reason for this movement, and what does it mean for investors? Read below to find out.
As a publicly traded company, Organovo doesn't have much revenue to brag about. In fact, over the past four quarters, the company has logged only $1.2 million in revenue -- and yet it is currently valued at a ridiculous $750 million.
You won't see valuations like that very often in the public markets. But then again, you won't see too many companies trying to do what this company is attempting either. This year is supposed to be a big one for Organovo, as its first product -- 3-D liver assays -- are set to hit the market before 2015.
In simple terms, these liver assays are 3-D printed liver cells that are supposed to behave just like native liver cells. Pharmaceutical companies can use the cells to test drugs for toxicities and get more reliable results than they can now -- all before applying for FDA approval. The idea is that because the toxicities will show up earlier in the approval process -- or before the process even begins -- the drug companies will save tons of money before going through the laborious and expensive FDA gauntlet.
Hitting a major milestone early
Back in December, I pointed out three things that investors in Organovo needed to watch in 2014. The first was the results of the company's functional validation. Basically, that means the company was testing the cells in-house to see if they responded appropriately to known toxicities.
The results from these tests were expected to be released sometime in March. Following that, Organovo planned to turn over its liver cells to key opinion leaders (KOLs) for feedback in April.
But today, the company announced that the timeline has sped up dramatically. Instead of April, Organovo was able to deliver its first liver tissue to a KOL -- identified as a top research scientist -- in January. The company's Chief Technology Officer also stated, "we have...greatly increased our ability to produce [3-D liver tissues]. By the end of January, we expect to have bioprinted nearly four hundred 3D Liver tissues during the month."
That also means that instead of these liver assays hitting the market in December 2014, the company now expects for them to be generating revenue before December -- although no specific timeline was given.
What this means for investors
Make no mistake about it, Organovo is a risky and volatile stock. As mentioned above, it is extremely pricey based on traditional metrics.
And yet for long-term investors -- we're talking decades-long -- it's hard to deny the opportunity here. That's why I already own shares of the company. But as of this writing, they comprise less than 1% of my overall holdings.
Though $750 million is a large market cap for the company right now, if it is able to continue bioprinting other types of cells, I think the stock could appreciate noticeably in the future. I'm content to buy in at higher prices when more information is available -- if that's how things pan out.