You'd be hard-pressed to find a stock as richly valued by traditional metrics as Organovo Holdings (ONVO -2.56%). The company has brought in a measly $264,000 in revenue over the past nine months, and increased its share count a whopping 60%. Despite this, it is valued at roughly $720 million.
The reason for the disparity is the excitement -- warranted or not -- surrounding the company's technology. Organovo is a leading 3-D bioprinter, and it will take its first real product to market by the end of the year.
While some may get excited about the possibility of one day printing human organs, even-keeled investors would be wise to focus on what the company is actually working on right now: creating liver tissues for use by pharmaceutical companies. These 3-D tissues can be used to detect liver toxicities before drug companies entering FDA clinical trials, potentially saving billions of dollars.
The company got a big boost in January when it announced that its liver cells had passed functional validation tests well ahead of schedule. In essence, this meant that the company's bio-printed liver tissue had responded to known toxins in a manner that mimicked how native tissue does.
Just as important, Organovo delivered its first batch of liver tissue to a key opinion leader -- in this case, a top research scientist -- well ahead of schedule. With the accelerated timeline, it also pushed up its product launch to some time before December 2014 -- though specific details weren't given.
So did we learn anything from the company's earnings?
In short: not much.
Because Organovo won't be generating any significant revenue until the end of the year, there's not much to reveal. As in past quarters, much of the important news was just a recap of events we already knew about: partnerships with the NIH to produce eye tissue, collaborative agreements to research and print skin tissues, and initial data on 3-D bioprinted breast cancer tissue.
In fact, the only important thing of note to individual investors was a review of the company's financial position. As I said in the outset, Organovo has increased its share count by 60% over the past year -- due in no small part to its lack of significant revenue. At the end of 2013, the company had $50 million in cash on hand. The hope, for those invested in the company, is that this money can bridge the gap between now and when real revenue starts to come in at the end of the year. Though the company increased its head-count by 35% to 39 full-time employees, and has doubled its R&D expenditures, it should -- based on historical cash burn -- be able to make it until 2015 without more rounds of public financing.
Of course, that's no guarantee, and any additional rounds of funding wouldn't necessarily be reason to panic, as the company may simply be raising funds to expand capabilities with exciting new technologies. No matter the outcome, investors need to keep their eyes on two things moving forward: the launch of 3-D liver tissues later this year, and the overall cash position of the company.