I’ve only written once about the Smallcap Discoveries service, so when several readers sent in questions about its “what if you could live to 200?” pitch, I decided to dig in a little.
Longevity is a frequent focus of the alternative health crowd, promising life extension to those most obviously interested in the topic (who happen to be the same demographic that’s interested in investment newsletters in general, financially stable folks in their retirement or near-retirement years), but this ad isn’t really about living to 200 — it’s about getting rich from the company that they think will help to cure cancer.
The “they” this time around is Paul Andreola and Brandon Mackie, who started this newsletter about three years ago in affiliation with Keith Schaefer’s energy-focused Oil & Gas Investments Bulletin — it’s a relatively expensive ($250/quarter, no refunds), micro-cap service that mostly focuses on Canada-listed stocks… and this time it’s one of the relatively small cohort of Canadian health care companies. Perhaps refreshingly, they traffic in small cap Canadian stocks but don’t seem to talk about the marijuana or mining sectors much.
If you’re curious about their history, I don’t know much — all I know from my experience is that they teased a telecom services stock about three years ago that was of similarly tiny size, and that particular stock (Lite Access Technologies, covered here) did eventually rise a year or so later, and for a while was really exciting (it went from $1.25 to over $3 at one point), but is now back well below a dollar.
So… which stock are they teasing now? Are they experts on drug development as well as on fiber optic installation?
Let’s see what we can learn… here’s a taste of the sales pitch to get you started:
“This Big Idea has the promise of curing virtually every disease known to humanity.
“Cancer. Diabetes. Alzheimer’s.
“All could be a thing of the past.
“We may see the first person live to be 200. That person is likely walking among us right now.
“You’ll get a longer life.
“More time with your family.
“More time to travel the world.
“What’s better—is that you will be in much better health than you thought possible.
“Big Pharma sees this coming. They’re all-in.
“They’re putting billions behind this Big Idea — and any company that helps make it a reality.
“I’m about to tell you all about a company at the crosshairs of this Big Idea.
“Big Pharma NEEDS this company to cure cancer.
“They have the best technology.
“They have the best scientists.
“And now they’re on every Big Pharma CEO’s speed dial.”
Leave aside the fact that if we start living to 200 then we’ll have to work until we’re at least 150, and we begin to learn that this sounds like a services company for the pharmaceutical sector.
That’s not enough narrowing down for us just yet, so let’s see what other clues we can sniff out of the rubble. The big focus here appears to be on antibodies…
“The race to cure cancer is on.
“Big Pharma is putting billions towards it.
“And their only hope is a Big Idea called Immunotherapy.
“Immunotherapy means programming your immune system to fight disease.
“You do this with antibodies; the same way you fight off a cold.”
We’ve all certainly heard of immunotherapy before, and it is really making huge strides in the fight against cancer — and generating some serious revenue for leading drugs like Keytrude, Opdivo and Yervoy that have shown great progress against some of the most difficult-to-treat cancers. It’s not new, of course, and there’s no chance that some little Canadian company has a lock on immunotherapy… but we still do want to learn what the stock is, yes?
“Big Pharma is shelling out billions to companies in this space.
“And we have found The One which will be one of the first to receive tens of millions of dollars….
“Making an antibody is simple.
“Infect an animal, extract the antibodies.
“Our company figured out how to do this 40% faster than anyone else.
“It was great. But they were only selling into “research markets.”
“Things like $10 diagnostic kits. Nothing to write home about.
“But then Big Pharma came to them and said, “hey, will your technology work with humanized antibodies?”
“You know, the ones that will cure cancer, or Alzheimer’s.
“A few months ago they tested it. It worked better than anyone could have ever predicted.”
And apparently they are rolling up their industry in some way…
“They are now cornering the market.
“Buying some of the best companies, with incredible technologies and amazing scientists.”
They also say that this company is currently very small, but is apparently getting involved in much bigger deals that aren’t yet on the income statement:
“This company’s last reported quarterly revenue was a paltry $1.7 million.
“This business is coming. And you’d never know it looking at this company’s financials.”
They compare this company to some huge recent winners, Samsung Biologics and Wuxi Biologics, which both trade at massive premiums as antibody manufacturers, and imply that they’ve now “found the next one.”
What else? We’re told that it has a market cap of less than $100 million and trades in Canada. So is that enough for the Thinkolator to work with?
Let’s see… have to move the car to roll it out of the garage, and brush off the pollen, but the Mighty Mighty Thinkolator starts right up. So far, so good… we feed in those few clues, set the dial to “mince,” and after just a few minutes we get our answer: This is Immunoprecise Andibodies (IPA on the Venture exchange in Toronto, IPATF OTC in the US).
Yes, they did post $1.7 million in revenue last quarter… and yes, they have been acquiring lots of smaller companies in the contract research/antibody development space, most recently ModiQuest Research… and yes, the market cap is in the right range, currently about C$70 million.
There’s a somewhat gushy article from an IPA investor here that gives you some sense of the “bull story.” The company is trying to build up a full-service antibody discovery and development platform as a contract research organization (CRO), it sounds like, and according to that article they’re emulating the past success of Invitrogen.
You can see the company’s own investor presentation here, which is also (of course) quite optimistic. Apparently the group has existed for a long time, but they’ve only been public for a bit over a year — that most recent quarter is their best one yet in terms of revenue, but, of course, that should almost always be the case for a brand-new public company that’s continually acquiring smaller companies. The share count has exploded as they’ve made all these deals, since they don’t actually have any cash and they have to get somewhat creative to raise money — the latest deal to cover the $11 million cost of the ModiQuest acquisition included both stock and cash, and they had to raise the cash by selling convertible bonds that carry 10% interest and come with four-year warrants exercisable at 70 cents a share (well below the current price).
If I could buy one of those debentures, maybe I’d consider it… 10% a year in interest plus near-the-money (now-in-the-money) warrants is pretty nice compensation for taking a risky flier like this. But the stock? I am obviously not an expert on the business, and their revenue will be roughly doubling with the acquisitions they’ve already made, but these shares are clearly a riskier bet… and it seems likely that the company will continue to be aggressive in making acquisitions to try to get up to a meaningful size, which means there will likely be opportunities for the stock to drop. Paul Andreola does note in the ad that he’s personally committed, with over $1 million invested in the company, so he does seem to have some conviction… at what price, I don’t know.
So there you have it — yes, it’s certainly a small cap, certainly trying to become a “go to” supplier of antibody-based drug development tools and services, and, well, whether or not they’re going to get there is beyond my ability to guess. They are in a period of substantial transition, with new leadership and this roll-up strategy of trying to become a large contract research organization, and the stock is certainly volatile (and recently pretty hot), but when it comes to the future you’ll have to use your own crystal ball… mine’s awfully cloudy when it comes to this business (though Immunoprecise is loosely connected to the only healthcare stock I currently own — they are, they say, “one of a few CRO’s” that’s certified to work with OmniAb animals, and OmniAb is now owned by Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND), but it’s not a relationship that’s particularly imporant to Ligand at the moment).
Have any thoughts on antibody companies? Think Immunoprecise will succeed in building this business into something big and meaningful (and profitable?) Let us know with a comment below.
Disclosure: As noted above, I own shares of Ligand Pharmaceuticals. I don’t own any of the other stocks covered, and will not trade in any covered stock for at least three days, per Stock Gumshoe’s trading rules.