Helicos BioSciences bouncing back Print E-mail
By Patrick Crutcher   
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 00:02
It appears that the bulls have taken over at Helicos BioSciences Corp. (NASDAQ: HLCS) following their major news release on Thursday. Specifically, HLCS announced “a publication demonstrating the detection and quantification of novel small RNA molecules using Helicos’ single-molecule sequencing technology. These data confirm a long-held, unproven hypothesis that mammalian cells are capable of synthesizing RNA by copying RNA molecules directly.” This is a very significant development, in terms of sequencing and future applications in diagnostic medicine.

In June 2010, HLCS went forward in their newest venture by starting their own diagnostics business. HLCS is in the early stages of validating molecular diagnostic (MDx) tests that utilize its HeliScope® Single Molecule Sequencer. The neat thing here is that their sequencer does not require amplification, a process for creating multiple copies of small segments of DNA . This makes sequencing much more timely and economical, hence HLCS has the potential to sell MDx tests cheaper than competitors.

Helicos believes that the HeliScope Sequencer will have utility across a broad array of MDx tests. Initially, HLCS is developing a MDx test that will identify gene mutations indicative of a woman’s increased risk of developing hereditary breast or ovarian cancer.
This test is currently scheduled to launch during the second quarter of 2011.

They also stated that,”Helicos is also developing additional MDx tests in well-established markets. Helicos intends over the longer term to use its core technology’s quantitative capabilities to explore developing MDx tests based upon the detection and quantification of foreign DNA/RNA circulating in the bloodstream, such as a non-invasive prenatal diagnostic test.” This is in direct competition with Sequenom Inc(NASDAQ:SQNM), who has been on the hunt for a non-invasive prenatal diagnostic test for Down’s Syndrome(T21 test). Clearly, HLCS has their guns pointed at SQNM.

Going forward, I like HLCS’s chances in the sequencing wars. They will need more capital in order to really translate their research into marketable products especially if they hope to compete with SQNM or ILMN. Luckily, it appears their sequencing technology is a step-ahead of the rest, for now. Investors should remember that sequencing technology has changed dramatically in terms of competition and cost in a short period of time. With that said, it is vital for HLCS to get their tests out on the market before another competitor catches up.

HLCS has major institutional holdings with 3 major holders( occupying 45% of the outstanding shares. They have also had a major spurt of insider buying near the end of June. Their balance sheet could be stronger with about $11M in cash, so be wary of any potential capital raises. We should note that insiders got shares near the bottom in late-June. They were also awarded 2 patents on August 3 that help HLCS’s IP portfolio, which the company has yet to announce.

HLCS is bullish for the long-term based on their move into the diagnostics business and hopefully their recent article in Nature can spur a few more sales of their sequencers.

Disclosure: No positions.

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