Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Shares in Ziopharm Oncology, Inc. (NASDAQ:ZIOP) dropped 10% today after the company reported that it was offering $75 million shares to investors through a secondary stock offering. The news initially sent Ziopharm's shares tumbling, but buyers stepped into the sell-off, allowing shares to recover most of their early morning decline by late in the day.
So what: Emerging biotechnology companies often tap the equity markets for additional financing to pay for expensive R&D, and Ziopharm is no exception. According to research conducted by Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, the direct costs to develop a commercialized medicine total about $1.4 billion.
Ziopharm plans to use the proceeds from its $75 million offering to fund general corporate purposes, including to advance the cancer therapies it's licensed from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Ziopharm's focus on cancer treatment suggests that this financing is particularly important. Historically, 93% of oncology drugs entering phase 1 have failed to make it to market. Ziopharm hopes that its unique approach can overcome those less-than-inspiring odds.
The company is developing technology that would allow them to reengineer a patient's immune system to more easily recognize and destroy cancer cells. Importantly, the company is complimenting this strategy with gene switching technology that it believes will allow it to more accurately target cancer, reducing damage to healthy cells. The most advanced product in Ziopharm's pipeline is Ad-RTS-IL-12, which is being evaluated in a phase 2 breast cancer trial.
Now what: The share offering dilutes current investors, but it provides Ziopharm with the financial fire power necessary to advance its CAR-T immuno-oncology drugs through clinical trials.
Exiting the third quarter, the company had $46 million in cash on the books, so if the company's offering goes off without a hitch, it could end up with a cash stockpile north of $100 million that can be used for future development. Regardless, Ziopharm's research pipeline remains very early stage, and that means that investors should approach it with a healthy dose of caution.