There aren't too many publicly traded companies with dreams as ambitious as Organovo Holdings (NASDAQ: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.