Co-founder of biotech powerhouse, ImClone Systems, sees perhaps even greater potential at Neptune subsidiary Print
By M.E.Garza   
Monday, 02 April 2012 01:43
Two of our favorite biotech companies are tied at the hip, but one of them does not yet trade in the U.S. With a key upcoming catalyst that could see big pharma lining up with partnership offers, is there a way for American traders and investors to get skin in the game?

Neptune Technologies & Bioressources (NASDAQ:NEPT) and its share holders own a significant portion of their Canadian spin-off, Acasti Pharma Inc.(TSX-V.APO) which-- at least for the time being-- trades only on the Toronto Stock Exchange. 

A year or so ago, we first covered the Nasdaq traded Neptune when its shares were trading around the $2 mark. The stock rose significantly shortly after our reports-- due mostly to the fact that the stock had such a low float and was mostly undiscovered. Still, like so many other biotechs its shares now appear significantly undervalued (for a number of reasons which we will get into in more detail during an upcoming report). While Neptune is easily two times the company it was when we first covered it, the market has not yet recognized or appreciated some of the firm's recent fundamental changes, milestone accomplishments and its position for greater profitability than ever.

Even while most American investors can't buy stock in Acasti Pharma, that foreign exchange listed subsidiary has some important upcoming catalysts that could add significant value to both stocks.

In short, the key takeaway here is that as Acasti rises, so will Neptune.

Harlan Waksal M.D. quitely joined Acasti Pharma, the first subsidiary of Neptune Technologies & Bioressources as Executive Vice-President, Business & Scientific Affairs last summer.

Waksal, who helped found and eventually right the sails at ImClone Systems-- a powerhouse biotech (and now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company)-- sees the same potential at Neptune’s subsidiary Acasti Pharma.When he first saw the effects of the parent company’s Phospholipid Omega 3 Krill Oil first hand as a patient, he excitedly recognized the promise and market potential of their highly patented platform.

When he saw the effects of the parent company’s  Phospholipid Omega 3 Krill Oil first hand as a patient, he excitedly recognized the promise and market potential of their highly patented platform.

"I did get excited about it," explains Waksal. "It was very clear that Neptune had a potential product in the area of cardiovascular, that I thought was not only unique, but something that could be a billion dollar type of product."
"Why was that exciting for me? It is rare that somebody comes across a potential drug that has a safety profile that is already well understood. We're working with something called the Phospholipid Omega 3 coming from Krill- a small crustacean that we fish from Antarctica.”

In an exclusive video interview with BioMedReports, Waksal answers questions about the key characteristics which make both companies an intriguing bet for biotech investors- particularly with data from Phase II clinical trials expected during the second half of 2012:

“We're focusing on triglycerides, and that is a little different than the whole lipid profile, statins are addressing a different aspect,” Explains Dr. Waksal.  They're addressing the bad cholesterol, the LDL. The market for the statins is about $35 billion. For fish oils it's very different.

“The overall fish oil market for 2012 will be somewhere around $8 billion. Of that $8 billion, however, you have to break down what is the prescription aspect of that. And the prescription market is $1.3 billion for one prescription drug, Lovaza (Omega-3-acid Ethyl Esters)-- the fish oil. That's how much it comprises.  So this is an area that is growing and changing and will continue to evolve.

“My personal feeling about this is that we're in the midst of an epidemic. An epidemic with obesity, with fast food, with diabetes, and this is a growing and growing area because of the mean implication of those things is an increase of triglycerides and drugs that can counter that are going to be increasingly desired because the ramification of having triglyceridemia is having coronary artery disease. And if we can do things to go ahead and stop that, that's a great thing. My belief is, beyond the fish oils, that our drug will have an ability to be taken at a lower dose, have greater implications in terms of its ability to be tighter to a patient's need because you're going to be able to go to a higher does; won't require being taken with any kind of food or fats like the current drugs that our out there. And I think that, overall, this market area is going to grow very dramatically. And so, I believe that we have the potential of having, what I consider, a blockbuster-type of drug that could be greater than a billion dollars in value.

“I've already built a biotech company and I understand the hyperbole that goes with that, and fortunately we were very successful in bringing into fruition what we believed would take place-- a breakthrough type of technology.
“In this case, it's a little bit of lower hanging fruit. We know what the technology should do. We know what Omega 3's should do. What we need to prove is that the Phospholipid Omega 3 has greater potential than the other drugs that are out there, that are doing the same kind of thing-- like the other Omega 3's. So to me, everything comes down to data. We are doing the clinical studies now. This is the year that we're going to be generating that data and I'm very excited about it and looking forward to it because I believe the data is going to demonstrate the kind of potential this drug is going to have.

“We have one marketed product that uses the same technology that products in our pipeline are using. It’s approved. It’s been through the FDA and it serves as a great proof-of-concept for our ability to not only take our product through the regulatory pathway, but also partner and get through commercialization."

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