Friday File: Blanco’s “Alzheimer’s Disease is Completely Treatable” pitch for the “Revolutionary ‘TREM-2 Repair’ Protocol”

by Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe | January 4, 2019 9:38 am

Is there really some huge news coming about Alzheimer's Disease on January 14? What's the teaser pitch from Radical Technology Profits all about?

Ray Blanco makes (part of) his living looking for biotech moonshots, like most biotech-focused newsletter writers — and like his predecessor at Agora’s biotech and emerging tech-focused newsletter Breakthrough Technology Alert, he has often touted companies that are trying to end the scourge of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Why? Well, two main reasons: First, and by far most important, is that Alzheimer’s Disease is the Great White Whale of biotech investing, by far the largest “unmet need” and the hugest market that has not really been tapped by a blockbuster drug… existing treatments help some with symptoms, but no real preventive or curative drug has ever made a big impact, partly because there’s still a huge amount of debate over what causes Alzheimer’s.

That’s not for lack of trying, researchers have been banging their head against this wall for decades… and biotech and pharma companies the world over know that there are hundreds of billions of dollars potentially on offer for a real “cure,” and they keep pushing possibilities through clinical trials… and failing, usually very expensively. For most drugs, Phase III is when you really prove safety and efficacy and have a good chance of approval thanks to the many prior studies that set up expectations… for Alzheimer’s Drugs, Phase III is where you spend a few hundred million dollars but abandon your efforts at the finish line for lack of efficacy or some surprising new safety issue.

And Second, because the market for newsletter subscribers is also the population of people that is likely to be most worried about Alzheimer’s Disease… relatively affluent people in their 50s and 60s. They (maybe you, if you fit the “average” profile) have enough money to hope for a relatively secure retirement and potentially afford $2,000 a year for a niche sector investment newsletter, but also are at the age that they’re likely to have friends or family members (especially parents) whose lives have been ravaged by the disease, or fear for it in their own future. The “greed” impulse for finding a cure is boosted by the “maybe this will really help people, including me” feeling you get from reading about an Alzheimer’s breakthrough.

So we’ve seen Alzheimer’s Disease pitches many times from pretty much every biotech-focused newsletter, but things have been a little bleak in this area recently (as with much of biotech)… and, since none of the Alzheimer’s drugs pitched over the years have actually made it through to approval, or even in many cases to late-stage clinical trials, none of the Alzheimer’s pitches have made any money for investors if held through today (some of them would have provided opportunity for trading profits for those who are nimble and prescient, but any stock price spikes on good news or newsletter attention have always faded).

And this week, we’ve got another one to look at for you in an ad that started circulating recently. It looks very similar to Ray Blanco’s pitch from about a year ago, though it’s for a different company — back in January of 2018 he had a similar-looking and very similarly worded pitch for a teensy little microcap called ProMIS Neurosciences (PMN.TO, ARFXF)[1], which was supposed to be about to blow the roof off Alzheimer’s and become a $40 billion behemoth thanks to his promise that their CEO would make a February 14 announcement to shock the world with the news that “Alzheimer’s Disease is Now Completely Treatable.”

And, of course, no such announcement was made last February… and that preclinical microcap did not cure Alzheimer’s Disease last year. The attention from Blanco was enough to help send the shares from 22 cents to 63 cents (Canadian), but the rest of the year saw the stock return to that 20 cent neighborhood, where it now sits once again.

That, in turn, was quite reminiscent of his similar promises about Anavex Life Sciences (AVXL) back in 2015[2], which was also supposed to “revolutionize modern medicine” thanks to its CEO’s anticipated November 7, 2015 announcement. Anavex is still an Alzheimer’s “story stock” to this day, marking now about the 10-year anniversary of its ANAVEX 2-73 drug being the “next great hope” for Alzheimer’s sufferers (and biotech investors), and it’s still trudging along, starting another Phase 2b/3 trial… who knows what will happen, the three-year results of its last trial looked at least mildly encouraging[3] but the number of patients ever dosed with that drug is still extremely small, that phase 2 study started with only 32 patients and continued on with 21.

As many folks have noted, Alzheimer’s Disease treatments almost always fail in Phase III clinical trials… which, probably not coincidentally, is when the patient cohort typically becomes far larger and you get a real sense of the average response from at least hundreds, preferably thousands of patients. AVXL’s next study will be more than 10X larger, but will still treat only 450 patients, so the skeptic in me still says the sample size is too small to take very seriously. That’s a huge deal for Alzheimer’s Disease, since any drug will likely be extremely widely prescribed to people who are relatively healthy and don’t yet have symptoms of dementia — safety is going to be important, even as the FDA is trying to encourage more AD drugs with somewhat easier paths to approval and might allow through drugs whose efficacy is less than exciting, and you might not learn much that’s very definitive about safety from a few dozen or even a few hundred patients.

But I haven’t really been following Anavex or ProMIS recently, and I’m no expert on Alzheimer’s Disease, so let’s get to the meat of this one, shall we?

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Now that we’ve given you some reason for skepticism about the whole idea of investing in a “big news” Alzheimer’s treatment in general, and perhaps about Ray Blanco’s ability to predict those scientific events with the accuracy he evinces in his ads, what the heck is his pitch about this time?

Here’s a little snippet from the order form:

“This is a discovery so spectacular, that Washington University School of Medicine confirmed:

‘TREM2 triple[s] the risk of Alzheimer’s disease’

“Dr. Marco Colonna, one of the doctors involved in the study, agrees it cannot be ignored:

‘All signs point to TREM2… [it] is now linked to Alzheimer’s disease.’

“And Dr. Ryan will share his discovery with the world.

“When he does, his tiny little company – currently trading for less than $20 per share – will be ignited by the $1.410 trillion in worldwide demand for a true Alzheimer’s cure.

“Early investors will have front row seats to history unfolding — millions of lives saved, a world without the terrible fear of dementia, and the fastest 72-hour profit gain in stock market history.”

We get lots of other clues as well…

“No pharmaceutical… no Silicon Valley tech startup… no company currently trading on any exchange anywhere in the world has ever had a run like this…

“No wonder a group of members of this company’s Board of Directors and Senior Management Team gobbled up a staggering 11,856,247 shares of their own company!

“Not only that, but they ALL bought on the same day…

“Clearly, something HUGE is on the way and you now have the opportunity to be the next person in line behind them.”

And we’re told that Jay Flatley, former CEO of Illumina, “scooped up” 250,000 shares.

Is that enough? Indeed it is, we don’t even have to roll through the rest of the ad (though you can check it out here[4] if you’re so inclined)… the answer to this one is: Denali Therapeutics (DNLI)

Confirmation? In this case a couple specific numbers make it easy… on December 12, 2017, most of the board members and officers converted their private or preferred shares into common equity, right after the company’s IPO. That number did indeed total up to 11,856,247 shares, including the 250,000 shares owned by former Illumina CEO (and now Independent Director of DNLI) Jay Flatley.

I expect that not a single one of those people has bought Denali shares since it went public (there have been some “acquisitions,” but they all look like stock grants to board members and executives, some of whom have also been selling — as is typical of a newly public company), and I wouldn’t describe that conversion process as them “gobbling up” shares on that particular day, though some of them did invest in the company when it was private (most notably ARCH Venture Partners’ Robert Nelson, a well-known biotech venture investor who is also a board member and a large shareholder — more than 10 million shares of that 11.8 million are listed under his name).

And yes, Denali is trading at just under $20 a share right now, and is a small cap stock with a market cap of about $1.8 billion — though it’s nowhere near as tiny as ProMIS or Anavex were when Blanco touted those other Alzheimer’s hopefuls in years past. It also has some strong partnerships, notably with Sanofi and Takeda, and a lot of cash (about $375 million last quarter, both from the IPO and from partnership payments)… and an extremely early-stage pipeline of treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

The drug pipeline[5] stands out mostly for its lack of any big news at this point, their most advanced three drugs are in “early clinical” stage (including DNL747 for Alzheimer’s, along with a couple Parkinson’s drug candidates) and mostly still testing for initial safety in small groups of healthy volunteers, though they do say that the “science is breaking open” for their work in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS as degenogenes are identified.

Most of the leaders at Denali are from Genentech’s neuroscience division, and it seems that they’re trying to take Genentech’s (and others) success in oncology, based partly on better genetic understanding and targeting, and use that to take the next steps in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. They are using genetics to select specific targets and biomarkers for drug development, and have designed their own proprietary platform for engineering large and small molecules that can cross the blood brain barrier, which is a challenge for many drugs (particularly the “big molecules” like antibodies). They also talk about a “portfolio” approach, where they work on several drugs at once for an indication, dropping the lead drug and going to the next one in line if it fails to show progress, which sounds encouraging… but I have no idea whether that’s at all unique in the world of biotech.

The company is not pitching themselves as the owner of a cure for Alzheimer’s, that’s all Ray Blanco, but they do have three Alzheimer’s drugs in their “core” portfolio — though the “TREM” drug, which they currently call ATV:TREM2, is still just planning for an IND at some point over the next year or two, it won’t likely generate any data anytime soon… and certainly not before January 14.

They have released Phase 1 results for their most advanced Alzheimer’s Disease drug, DNL747, which gave some indication of a solid safety and pharmacokinetic profile (meaning mostly that it didn’t cause severe reactions in healthy volunteers, and the drug got into the blood as expected and had the chemical reaction planned), and hope to initiate the next clinical trials soon to start to get some indication of efficacy (whether it actually does anything useful for patients)… presumably from some targeted Alzheimer’s patients with specific biomarkers.

You can get a good deal more information from their R&D Day Presentation that was given last month[6]. This is one of those companies that looks really impressive to me, mostly because of their professed strategy and the quality of their investors and executives, but I’ve learned to resist that impressive look in this particular sector — I’ve generally sworn off of investing in clinical stage biotech stocks because of my inability to be an expert in the science… or make any rational guesses about the financial prospects for drugs that are likely to be close to a decade from commercialization (though that could speed up a bit if all goes really well). This is not a sector where betting on one or two companies is likely to work out well for individual investors, the failure rate is very high and lots of very smart people who understand the science (unlike me) calculate the odds of success for specific companies very differently — and accept that failure rate as the cost of investing in the sector, which means they have to diversify (ARCH Venture Partners, for example, helped to build Denali and is well-known for their venture work in biotech, and they list a portfolio of well over 100 companies they’ve worked with — some have been big successes, some have disappeared).

So I won’t be buying this stock, but it is the first new Alzheimer’s pitch we’ve seen in a while, and it is an interesting looking company despite its young age and early stage pipeline, so perhaps those of you who dabble in biotech or have some sector expertise will be interested in at least watching their progress. If there’s going to be big news on January 14 about some efficacy breakthrough from Denali in these early Phase 1/2 trials, and a “Alzheimer’s will soon be treatable” headline, I would guess that January of 2020 is a much likelier date to shoot for than next week. But, of course, hope springs eternal and I wish them the best — the science sounds cool, and the cause is certainly worth the effort.

I’ve got a separate Friday File note coming out for you in a little while with some portfolio updates after these crazy couple weeks (not huge ones, I’m largely hunkering down at the moment), so stay tuned…

  1. similar-looking and very similarly worded pitch for a teensy little microcap called ProMIS Neurosciences (PMN.TO, ARFXF):
  2. Anavex Life Sciences (AVXL) back in 2015:
  3. three-year results of its last trial looked at least mildly encouraging:
  4. check it out here:
  5. drug pipeline:
  6. R&D Day Presentation that was given last month:

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  1. 47 |
    Jan 4 2019, 09:59:39 am

    have not followed him in years, but when I did ,Ray was awful. Perhaps he has done ok in the bull market(as just about everyone has). i believe the next few years will require some real ability to navigate

  2. 28 |
    Jan 4 2019, 10:48:43 am

    I get lots of promotional emails from Blanco. If had invested only $1000 in each, I would now be many thousands poorer. As you said he is consistently way ahead of the 3rd phase trials and for my opinion simply gambling that he can at least get a BIG HIT on something that he can use later on to promote his “gumshoe skills” in future promotions. He appears to be a better promoter than analyst. Just my impression which may not be accurate but you can make your own conclusions.

    • Avatar
      Jan 21 2019, 05:07:21 pm

      Well then Matthew McCall its pitching the same company with his Blockbuster FDA Approval Summit 2019 something that it’s on 3rd trial waiting approval from fda, pls let me know if its Denali or which one.


    • Avatar
      Jan 4 2019, 02:59:55 pm

      Dr. Bredesen actually flags some companies at the forefront of testing, which can be used to diagnose different types of dementogens (Quicksilver Scientific for heavy metals), different sensitivities/susceptibilities (Cyrex Labs for leaky gut, blood/brain barrier permeability, gluten, etc) as well as the progression of the disease (Neurovision for retinal imaging, NanoSomiX for neural exosomes, etc). I’m just finishing the book, so I haven’t looked yet to see if these are publicly traded.

      • Avatar
        Aug 8 2019, 01:45:11 pm

        NTRP has just completed Phase 2 trials and seem to be very successful with their drug Bryo>>>> which is administered in the absence of memantine which makes more effective results in beneficial treatment for more advanced stages of Alzheimers and moderate cases. Sounds promising! Neurotrope is going to announce results of the FDA Phase 2 in 3rd Qtr 2019. Comes much closer to fitting than DNLI.

  3. 648 |
    Jan 4 2019, 10:11:29 pm

    Anybody with experience using L-serine for preventative for ALS Alzheimers?; I can not find on retail market. I read an article by Jay Heinrichs in Southwest Airlines magazine September 2016 issue, researcher Paul Alan Cox touted L-serine for neuro & ALS. My mother died at 80 7 years ago; she had Parkinsons for 7 years, and severe dementia/ALS last 3 years of life. I am 66…… I will not be subscribing to Blanco’s service, nor buying DNLI.

    • Avatar
      Mar 11 2019, 06:40:38 pm

      Yes I have been taking L-serine and great choice and idea…I communicated with the young doctor downunder who tied down at least one absolute cause recently for ALS. so yes for ALS.. not sure about it working for Alzheimers. I use the Swanson’s L-serine but I had polio in my throat as a child so I have swallowing trouble due to some permanent paralysis . So I open capsules of everything and put them in applesauce with honey mixed in. Sadly, my last bottle tasted very different and bad like liquid soap. So I spit it out and have not had time last week to call the company. I have done this for 2 years and it tasted ok and the same until this latest bottle… I may try to find another source…when I do I will try to put it on here for you and if you find a source let me know too know….

      • 648 |
        May 3 2019, 10:32:05 pm

        Fred, sorry I missed your comment on L-serine. Have you found another source that taste’s ok/better? I have not found a source.
        Thank you, Steve

  4. Avatar
    Jan 6 2019, 09:44:32 pm

    UCLA Alzheimers researcher for the past 15+ years, Dale Bredesen, M.D., blames the failure of the pharma community to come up with a single drug cure (in his book the End of Alzheimers; available at Amazon) on there being more than one cause to the disease, up to 37 separate causes in combination. His book lays out a multi-pronged protocol including exercise, diet, supplements, and changes in sleep patterns ,which has shown efficacy in over 100 Alzheimer affected subjects; most of whom showed reversal of symptoms within 120 days. My 75 year-old brother was told by his neurosurgeon in Dallas that he had a 90% chance of developing Alzheimers. He began the Bredesen protocol, in June (2018), has been re-tested, and his neurosurgeon was amazed by the change in his profile, but of course was unwilling to give credit to a protocol which does not include any prescription drugs whatsoever. Read the book. The worst thing that can happen to you on the protocol is you will lose weight, lower your risk of heart attack and stroke and cancer; improve your cholesterol and triglyceride readings, and more. Its not an easy protocol to follow, takes a huge amount of discipline and will power to stay with it, but the results make the effort very worthwhile. The younger you start, the more likely you will avoid the disease. In the meantime, save your investing dollars for anything but drug development for Alzheimers. – jrmitt

  5. Avatar
    Jan 7 2019, 02:11:25 pm

    Thank you Travis. You have confirmed my own research and conclusion on Blanco’s “tiny” company as DNLI and done so with more useful evidence and information.

  6. 21
    Jan 12 2019, 11:25:48 pm

    Wish I’d known about you before I invested in DNLI. I bought the tease, as I am totally new to investing in stocks. I watch it hover around $20 from day to day and fortunately I didn’t invest much (don’t have much to invest). I wonder now if I should just keep an eye on it or take my money out when it’s worth a little more than I paid for it.

    • Avatar
      Mar 13 2019, 04:13:54 am

      That’s what I did. I figure if it does start going up I’ll buy again. At least the little profit I took covered a loss on a dumb stock I jumped in later on lol

  7. 34 |
    Jan 13 2019, 03:41:39 pm

    Is this the same person who recommended PGNX?. I bought at around $8. It is now @4.82. Lost so much. I will never never follow this guy anymore

  8. 21
    Feb 20 2019, 08:03:19 pm

    Blanco’s at it again. I got this exact same pitch today with a new target date of March 13. How does he get away with this? I guess because it works, huh? I hate to admit it worked on me when I read it the first time and made my very first trade, knowing nothing about the stock market. I didn’t invest much and still hold the shares, which have gone up and down. Maybe this tease will push the stock up enough that I can make a bit of a profit and sell.

  9. Avatar
    robert adams
    Mar 6 2019, 05:43:08 pm

    Yes i saw this March 13 tagline— I am a neurologists but that does not make me immune from effective pitches. i am not aware of any major neuro meeting that week but have not dug that much. Mr Blanco is talking about a number of stocks in a number of different domains. I have signed up for a few services so far waiting for a good outcome but no frank disasters either.

    • 30
      Mar 11 2019, 05:44:49 pm

      I take magnesium L-Threonate, DMSO (an interview video of DMSO an interview on how it helped people who were in accidents, in some juice (both cross the brain barrier) and Serrapeptase, It can bind itself to alpha-2 macroglobulin, a protein in blood plasma, and travel to the areas of the body where it’s needed most. Interestingly, serrapeptase is the same enzyme that helps silkworms eat their protective cocoon before flying away. Serrapeptase has the distinct ability to digest only non-living tissue allowing the old toxic layers that clog the digestive system and the lining of our arteries to dissolve. This is one reason why it’s so good at keeping arterial deposits from building up after heart surgery.

      I could really tell a difference when I started taking the Magnesium L-Theronate, within 3 days, my head was remarkably clearer. I take it with the DMSO and both cross the brain barrier. My mother has dementia right now, so I’m trying to slow down my chances of going there and try and help her.

      I seriously can’t believe the difference the magnesium L-Threonate has made. I take it twice a day am and before bed with the DMSO.

  10. Avatar
    D W
    Mar 14 2019, 01:03:01 pm

    I wonder what the correlation is between the pumps and fund rasing by the companies. Naturally these types of companies raise money alot, but DNLI did file for a shelf offering yesterday. and Promis did a private placement in January.

    • 11901 |
      Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe
      Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe
      Mar 14 2019, 01:40:16 pm

      Don’t know if there’s any direct connection, but companies do tend to get more talkative when they’re in need of raising money.

  11. Avatar
    Aug 6 2019, 10:22:34 pm

    Read Ray Blanco’s Alzheimer’s pitch also. Wasn’t going to pay thousands for any newsletter.!

    Researched myself and have found that another hopeful with Phase 2 results coming in 3 Qtr. 2019 is now NTRP. Purchased a few shares and have no idea how that may turn out. I did find Denali DNLI but do not see that they are in any FDA trials on any product with Alzheimer implications that will produce any instant results….at least not advertised.

    NTRP does have have a Dr. Ryan also and see that Denali has a Dr. Ryan J. Watts. So which Dr. Ryan was Ray Blanco speaking of??? NTRP ‘s product in clinical trials does work better in the absence of Memantine or Namemda and the company is quite hopeful in it’s breakthrough which could be a breakthrough therapy designation and relates to Neuron and Synaptic connections being re-established.
    Anyway, I’m no scientist and not too clever, but I would rather put my few bucks on NTRP being closer to a winner than DNLI at this point. And that is my take on this great mystery. Of course, my pocketbook may be the one to feel the effects of my questionable research.

    I think these analysts like to throw facts out there that point to several companies at one time and get you all confused and you can have it all rolled together to get you to sign up to their fulfilled registration numbers….no matter if all the facts are jumbled together with several companies at one time described. It’s a hodge-podge of tidbits for you to digest and figure it out….knowing that you may not if you don’t subscribe to their “news”…..That’s my take!

    • 11901 |
      Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe
      Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe
      Aug 7 2019, 10:57:29 am

      NTRP is more likely to make an Alzheimer’s-related move this year than DNLI, I expect, though don’t, of course, know if it will be a positive or a negative move. The clues for this particular ad all point to Denali, not Neurotrope (Jay Flatley buying shares, TREM-2 focus, etc.), but that doesn’t mean Blanco will be right (so far his previous tout for Alzheimer’s, Promis, has also failed to break through). Alzheimer’s is an incredibly tough target, but there’s so much money in it that companies keep throwing themselves at the wall trying to break through… hopefully one of them will succeed eventually.

  12. Avatar
    Aug 8 2019, 02:13:00 pm

    You are right, all the clues do point to DNLI. But all the pieces for them to have it altogether in the Alzheimer field do not seem to line up.
    Yes, believe that NTRP is more lined up in their Phase 2 FDA trials being completed. And yes, do not know if the results will be as positive as hoped (praying it is as I purchased a few shares)….awaiting to hear the results in 3rd Qtr (Aug or Sept) as touted by Ray Blanco for DNLI….But NTRP seems further along with their clinical trials and seem to be positive so far……
    Sorry these people promote companies that lead investors astray. We, the little people, need our hard-earned money and need it to grow just as much, if not more than the rich. Shouldn’t have to pay thousands to pick up a tidbit and then find out it wasn’t even correct. That is ashamed to do this to people!

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