Michael Robinson’s Radical Technology Profits promoted a stock last week, shrieking ”A Thimble Full of ET-743 Sells
for $58.9 Million”. Then set forth a phenomenal get-rich-quick proposal, saying that the company who make this expensive stuff are about to go public, but Robinson has identified some bank, who can sell ”round lots” of this stock to investors, at pre-IPO prices.
He gave several hints. And for a mere
$1980, which is $2020 of the list price of $4,000.00, I can learn the secret to how this obscure company can make me rich someday.
The first hint, was that ET-743 is a cancer drug.
The next hint is that a chemistry student at the University of Illinois went scuba diving in the Carribean somewhere and retrieved some shellfish, from which he isolated the first sample of ET-743.
The third hint is that a Harvard professor attempted to make ET-743 synthetically, and the process was extremely complicated.
The fourth hint, is that the US government offers a tax credit to investors who buy into the company.
And the fifth hint, was an audio interview with the company CFO, who revealed that the company intended to get listed on the NASDAQ exchange sometime this year or 1Q2017 at the latest.
Since this WAS a Michael Robinson spiel, of course he forced the audience to listen to how important he is, and surprisingly, he actually taught us some valuable facts about how one sizes up the value of a new pharma drug. He even asserted more true facts than he did, wild conjecture, which tempted me to investigate the story in some depth.
The company CFO was clearly European and sounded Spanish or Portuguese. A search of ”biotech” ”cancer” ”shellfish” ”ET-743” brought several first-page links to a firm called Pharmamar, based in a suburb of Madrid. Yes, they registered a cancer drug by a different name (that name is a synonym). Yes, they found it in shellfish. Yes, a Harvard prof they paid as a consultant, tried to make the stuff synthetically. After great difficulty, he succeeded in proving that to make it synthetically would cost way too much money. However, there’s a natural substance in shellfish that’s a precursor to ET-743, and by genetic engineering techniques, some mutant microbes were developed, that make the precursor substance by fermenting a nutrient broth. A ten-step process isolates the precursor and makes changes to it’s chemical structure, to create a substance exactly like the one in the shellfish.
Here’s where the history gets ludicrously funny.
In 1969, NASA hoped to achieve a biology breakthrough by using Dr Neil Armstrong and Col Edwin Aldrin as human test subjects. Professor Armstrong and Colonel Aldrin were to expose themselves to a kind and intensity of atomic radiation, never before experienced by any living human. Dressed in a thin layer of plastic, they were to step outdoors onto the lunar surface, and expose themselves to the full intensity of the Sun’s radiation. (Previous spacewalks had been done by astronauts and cosmonauts, but in low Earth orbit, shielded by the Van Allen belts from the very harshest bombardment of high-energy particles, which are called the Solar Wind.) The human lab rats would fly the craft home with some samples of lunar rocks, then spend a month in a sterile isolation chamber, undergoing lots of medical tests to observe how their immune systems behaved, in turning themselves back on, after the unprecedented radiation exposure. (We civilians were all told, that the contact isolation precautions, were just in case there was some microbe that somehow stayed alive on the Moon, despite a solar wind bombardment that burned holes in the plastic of the astronauts’ space helmets. Then V-P Spiro T Agnew suggested a Mars trip, and the press bought into the idea, that the isolation precautions were a dry run for a Mars voyage, where there was a slight probability something might have been alive at one time. Of course, having us worry about the astronauts making us sick, eliminated any risk of us infecting the astronauts with an illness that could be lethal while they were immunocompromised…which was the actual concern.)
Making radiation therapy survivable, was a key medical goal of the NASA experiment.
The National Institutes of Health launched an ambitious, parallel plan, to discover natural substances on Earth, that showed anti-cancer activity. The thinking was, that novel radiotherapies would be possible, once we had a better handle on how the immune system responded to an ionized particle bombardment (what Armstrong and Aldrin got while moonwalking). If cancer could be beaten back, hard, with radiation, perhaps one of the remedies found in nature, would stop it from growing back, while the immune system rebuilt itself from the radiation damage.
The Nixon Administration had high hopes for this one-two punch against cancer, declaring a War on Cancer.
The NIH survey of natural substances, found two natural substances with surprising activity against cancer.
One was a particular species of shellfish from the Carribean…which when pressed to make a juice, yielded a juice that killed cancer cells somehow.
The other was the Cannabis plant. It also contained a juice, with something in it that somehow killed cancer cells.
The Hearst newspaper chain had spent a great deal of money demonizing the Cannabis plant. They got a law passed in 1934, prohibiting it’s medical use in the US (Doctors prescribed cannabis juice to children to relieve the cramping of colic. After 1934, they had to switch to bismuth sub-salicylate, a by-product of silver refining that was marketed as ”Pepto-Bismol”, and many doctors complained that it was less effective than cannabis had been.). By 1969, people who believed everything they read in newspapers, were quite convinced that cannabis was a dangerous plant with links to counter-culture groups, with the result that both of these promising leads on new anti-cancer drugs, got ignored in the US, where they’d been discovered.
The story attracted the attention of Zeltia, a small Spanish company who made paint, varnish, and cleaning products for sale in Europe. Their execs put a bit of money into the study of what was in the juice of these shellfish, and hired the Illinois grad to work in their labs. On his vacations, the Illinois grad would go diving and would return with other marine-biology specimens that got juiced and the compounds in the juice separated. This became the nucleus of a catalog of thousands of substances obtained from sea life, that might have some medicinal value for one or another purpose.
In an effort to raise capital, Zeltia formed an American Depositary Receipt (ADR) that would hold Zeltia shares (which trade in Barcelona and 3 other Spanish markets) and would be listed on the OTC as a US penny stock. Eventually, Zeltia did a reverse merger with PharmaMar. The stock, Grupo PharmaMar, trades on all 4 exchanges in Spain, and it’s ADR is available on the OTC. If the ADR begins trading on the OTC in adequate volume, the NASD may move it’s listing off the OTC and onto the NASDAQ, to accommodate the volume. What would cause the PharmaMar ADR to trade in huge volume, would be news of something positive for the drugs it makes. For now, ET-743 has won Orphan Drug status, which makes it possible to obtain a US tax credit, for investing in the Orphan Drug.
How this relates to ”round lots” of stock, isn’t entirely clear. PharmaMar is the investor, so it would get the tax credit….if and when it makes any money in the US, on which taxes are owed. For the tax credit to affect the individual investor buying in, there would have to be some active involvement by the investor, beyond passively buying and holding shares of stock. This is precisely why people who’ve been burned a few times, ignore motormouths like Michael Robinson. We can’t find out for sure, that he’s wrong about the tax credit, without first paying him money and signing a nondisclosure agreement. After which point, he discloses to us what he knows about PharmaMar and the supposed tax credit. We get to discover for ourselves, how to claim the credit. Then we learn from the IRS, whether they allowed it or not, after we claimed it on our tax forms. But at that point, we’re covered by the nondisclosure agreement, and we’re not permitted to tell anybody if the IRS allowed, or disallowed, our claim of whatever tax strategy Robinson invites us to use.
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