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3 Biotechs Burning Through Cash: Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (KERX), Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (PPHM) and More

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Young, upstart pharmaceutical and biotech companies do one thing that almost no other industry does. They go years without generating any revenue. Thanks to investors, they can periodically issue shares to raise cash while their drugs are in development. Companies in this space like to raise capital when it reaches an inflection point like a successful clinical trial or FDA approval. Between these inflection points, though, these companies need to keep a close eye on the amount of cash they spend.

Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:KERX)Let’s check in with Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:PPHM)Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:KERX), and ZIOPHARM Oncology Inc. (NASDAQ:ZIOP) .

As the dust settles
It has been a bumpy ride these past couple of months for Peregrine, thanks to an on-again, off-again relationship with the phase 2 data for its flagship non-small-cell lung cancer drug bavituximab. After the back and forth about the efficacy during the trial, the company has concluded that the data showed enough promise that it can move onto phase 3 clinical trials. Peregrine is hoping to succeed where many others have failed, developing an effective treatment for NSCLC. Oncotheryon is one of the most recent examples of a company announcing it failed to improve survival rates for patients with NSCLC. Recently, Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG)‘s Abraxane, which was originally designed for treating breast cancer, was approved by the FDA as a treatment for NSCLC. According to research analysts, sales of Abraxane for the NSCLC indication could reach annual sales of $110 million, so there is a pretty strong market out there if Peregrine can get bavituximab through the FDA approval process.

In the company’s last earnings report in October, Peregrine had about $24.4 million in cash on hand. Unlike some other small-cap biotechs, it does have a small revenue stream coming in from contract manufacturing agreements from its subsidiary Avid Bioservices. Based on this revenue stream, its current cash hoard, and its operational losses of about $7 million per quarter, the company predicts it should be able to go at least until October of this year before it needs to dip into the equity markets again. Considering that the average phase 3 lasts just over 30 months, it looks like Peregrine will need to raise capital before it can get through this new trial.

Riding a wave of good news
Keryx’s management team is probably popping some bubbly somewhere. After announcing very good news regarding the results of its phase 3 trials for Zerenex, the company has seen its shares explode 136%. The drug, which is designed to reduce phosphate levels in the bloodstream, not only met its primary endpoints with strong statistical significance but some secondary ones as well. This also comes as great news to patients suffering from end-stage renal disease, who frequently have circulatory problems associated with elevated phosphate levels. While there are still a few hurdles left to pass, these signs bode well for Keryx. If the FDA does approve this drug, it could have a leg up on other chronic kidney disease drugs.

At its last reported earnings release, Keryx had about $20 million in cash to keep the lights on and was burning through cash at a rate just over $5 million per quarter for the past year . This is also not including any milestone payments from its sublicense agreements with Japan Tobacco and Torii Pharmaceutical. At that time, the company believed that could keep them going for the rest of 2013. But why waste a good time to do a public offering? Within 48 hours of Monday’s announcement, Keryx went to the market and raised $55 million.

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