This was supposed to be the year that Organovo (NYSEMKT: ONVO) proved all the naysayers wrong. After years of saying that its 3D bioprinting technology would revolutionize the drug discovery process, the company finally came out with its first marketable product in 2015: the exVive 3D Human Liver Assays.
Want a quick primer on how the technology works? Check out the video provided by the company below:
Unfortunately, things haven't quite gone the way shareholders had hoped. Information about the liver assay's sales has been incomplete at best, and management has stated that it won't give an update about the sales until the summer of 2016.
But as a shareholder myself, I'm not bailing yet. In fact, over the next 15 months, I believe there are a number of catalysts that could actually push the company -- and its stock -- much higher. Here are three of the key events I'll be looking for.
Any update on liver assay numbers
CEO Keith Murphy did an admirable job preparing investors for relatively slow adoption of the company's technology. Unlike Big Pharma releases that normally sky-rocket once made available, Murphy argued that Organovo customers were likely to take a "show-me" approach to the company's technology.
It shouldn't be terribly surprising, then, that we can deduce Organovo signed roughly 12 or 13 contracts for its exVive 3D Liver Assays thus far. While I'm very disappointed that the company has chosen to signal that it will wait until next summer to give us more information on the sales of the product, I wouldn't be surprised to see an update if major traction is accomplished with the product.
In an interview with Benzinga, Murphy said that, "people are missing the forest from the trees," by reacting negatively to revenue numbers thus far. While he has a point, that's only half the story. Investors want transparency, and they don't think they're getting it.
Feeling that pressure, I believe Murphy will announce any major news on exVive 3D Liver sales to investors before the June date.
Kidney: The next big thing
Organovo doesn't plan to rest on its liver product alone. In fact, it has telegraphed there's no shortage of opportunities for the company moving forward.
The key is taking a deliberate pace and prioritizing the most doable and lucrative options. Next up on the list is the company's exVive 3D Kidney tissue. While the liver tissue generally fetches around $150,000 per contract, the kidney is expected to command much more -- at least $250,000 per contract.
The tissue is expected to receive functional validation by December of this year, and be released for contracts in September of 2016. Don't be surprised if these are lowball estimates by management. Organovo repeatedly blew past its timeline goals with the liver assays. Wall Street would generally view any sign that its kidney tissues are doing the same in a positive light.
The next mini-conglomerate?
Perhaps the most interesting development from Organovo came to light when the company held a round of funding through stock offerings this year. Instead of just focusing on developing tissues that Big Pharma companies could use in the drug discovery process, Murphy said that his company would be taking a multi-pronged approach to revenue generation moving forward. This includes:
- Bringing more tissues to market faster than expected.
- Owning or developing its own drug candidates, using its proprietary technology.
- Becoming a leader in 3D bioprinting technology. I assume this means marketing certain aspects of the company's NovoGen MMX Bioprinter.
To me, these seem like far-fetched goals for a company that needs to start producing more revenue soon. That being said, if Organovo were to announce a partnership that could bring in more money -- either through monetization of its bioprinter or the purchase of a drug compound -- it would undoubtedly have a major effect on the stock.
In the end, there's a reason Organovo stock accounts for less than 0.5% of my family's holdings: It's a very risky stock. Execution needs to be flawless for the company to reach its goals, but if they're met, the upside is sky-high.