TapImmune evoking an aggressive response by the immune system and with investors Print E-mail
By M.E.Garza   
Wednesday, 06 April 2011 04:32
After seeing how the words “collaboration” and “partnership” can cause so much confusion, as it relates to dealings with the Mayo Clinic, it gives one pause to consider the power and implications behind the prestigious name. Mayo, of course, has a reputation for excellence and innovation that brings doctors and patients from around the globe for diagnosis and leading-edge treatments. It’s quite understandable that so many biotech firms, and medical researchers look for endorsement opportunities and tie-ins there.
To say the least, it’s unusual to find an instance in which an emerging biotech firm was actually approached by the prestigious medical center about forming a scientific relationship-- and not the other way around-- that certainly appears to be the case with Tapimmune (OTC:TPIV).

What attracted leaders in their respective spaces at Mayo to Tapimmune was the company's body of work involving the body’s T-cell-activating protein (TAP). Researchers know that without TAP, there are no cancer markers, so the immune system fails to spot the rogue cells and the cancerous cells can grow undetected. That premise became the focus of discoveries by scientists at TPIV.

Shares of the company are currently bouncing off all-time lows now that biotech investors are starting to take notice of the company’s TAP vaccine; which not only performs a key step in moving characteristic markers called antigens to the surfaces of cells, but because it also acts as an adjuvant or 'accelerant' to enhance targeted vaccines against infectious diseases. As one medical writer put it recently: “The company has engineered a remarkable, yet elegantly simple, way for the body to recognize tumor and infectious disease cells and provoke an aggressive immune response whereby the body's own killer T-Cells attack and eradicate harmful foreign bodies.”

The attention from Wall Street is growing, but the company's technologies have already been featured on ABC News, in BusinessWeek, Popular Mechanics as well as various newspapers and  respected medical journals. After years of hard work and frustration, it's safe to say that it wasn't the media attention, but perhaps, the initial approach by Mayo researchers, that got things moving in the right direction.

TapImmune’s Executive Chairman, Dr. Glynn Wilson, who has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and conducted medical research at The Rockefeller University in New York was asked by Mayo doctors to look at several ground-breaking medical technologies which “might fit” TapImmune’s own approaches. Wilson, who had also served as Head of Drug Delivery at SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, jumped at the opportunity, but only after careful technical diligence confirmed that their technologies were synergistic with TPIV’s own approaches. 

In reviewing a Mayo antigen technology for a HER2/neu breast cancer vaccine he and TapImmune’s President and CFO, Denis Corin realized that in combination with thier TAP technology they had the potential to develop a vaccine that would give both a robust cytotoxic T-cell reponse, by enhancing antigen presentation through the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) Class 1 pathway, and a long-acting immune response through enhancing the MHC Class 2 pathway.

As they were putting their agreement together, and discussing the potential of our TPIV’s technology for infectious disease and biodefense applications, they were introduced to a leading Mayo clinician and infectious disease vaccine expert who was very familiar with TAP and its role in antigen presentation.

As this clinical researcher had a novel smallpox vaccine approach and TapImmune had already demonstrated that TAP could enhance the potency of a conventional smallpox vaccine by over 100 fold in animals both parties realized it was a good fit for a second collaborative approach.

This approach has the potential to develop a vaccine that could provide a safer, effective, longer lasting and cheaper alternative to the current smallpox vaccines.  The company’s exclusive license option agreements were structured in a way that minimized the risk for both parties and provide flexible but synergistic alliances.

Unless you have been under a rock, we all know that the past few years have tremendously challenging for biotech firms and especially so for small companies reliant on raising capital with no revenues or near term revenues. Small cap biotechs whose technologies had not yet been proven in human models have been some of the hardest hit, not only in the US but in Europe as well.

With careful management of limited resources and the support of shareholders and investors, TapImmune has not only emerged from the financial crisis but it is firmly moving forward as it prepares to move into human clinical trials. Perhaps more importantly, the current management team has succeeded in building solid relationships which should propel things at faster pace than ever.

In the last 18 months, they have not only signed collaborative option agreements with exceptional organizations like Mayo, they have also built a world class advisory and management team.

Even while they struggled to raise adequate capital, they always managed to get funding to continue to build out their operational strategy and they never stood still.  After meeting the leadership team, it is quite apparent that these guys have their heads in the game and that their hard work and diligence is going to pay off. Their share of droughts without pay along the way also show investors that they are committed to their science and core beliefs about the potential for this prodigious TAP technology. 

This is a critical time for the company as recent discussions with the FDA have paved the way for them to initiate human clinical work on that breast cancer vaccine approach.  Some of the same investors who made a fortune betting early on bio-defense plays SIGA Technologies (Nasdaq: SIGA) and Cleveland BioLabs (Nasdaq: CBLI) are now placing their bets that TPIV will advance their own smallpox program “quite significantly” in the days and months ahead.

For now, the management team anticipates building out some of their own in-house programs with TAP and they continue to look at attractive partnership opportunities as other groups and firms have begun to approach them with the belief that TAP is a broadly-based technology that is synergistic with many other vaccine technologies and with multiple therapeutic applications.

After seeing some newly reported SEC S-4 filings that show Corin and Wilson buying up more shares of their own common stock, yesterday we reiterated our bullish rating for the stock and anticipate that shares will continue to move much higher in the days ahead as more buyers and news start to come in. In particular, we stand by our initial analysis that the overhang, which kept stock prices down after a previous financing, has been eliminated. This should cause price levels to accelerate more smoothly than anticipated by most investors, particularly given the small size of the float.

Disclosure: Long TPIV since $.16

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