Geron Corporation (GERN - Free Report) shares have soared 91.9% in the past six months, significantly outperforming the industry’s decline of 7.7%. The stock saw a turnaround this year after it fell 13% in 2017.
Geron is focused on developing anti-cancer therapies based on telomerase inhibitors. The company’s pipeline consists of only one candidate, imetelstat. It is being developed for the treatment of hematologic myeloid malignancies like myelofibrosis (“MF”) and myelodysplastic syndromes (“MDS”). Notably, Geron has collaborated with Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ - Free Report) subsidiary, Janssen, for imetelstat.
Geron has no approved product in its portfolio and its top line solely comprises license fees and royalties.
Currently, Imetelstat is being evaluated for MF in a phase II IMbark study and for MDS in a phase II/III IMerge study.
In December 2017, Geron presented preliminary data from part I of phase II/III IMerge study. The data showed that imetelstat achieved RBC transfusion-independence (RBC-TI – reduced or no requirement of RBC transfusion over a certain interval) in 54% of the patient population, which have not received prior treatment with either lenalidomide or a hypomethylating agent, for at least 8 weeks.
Moreover, Geron expanded the Part I of IMerge and enrolled 20 additional patients in a refined MDS population to confirm the clinical benefit and safety observed earlier. The FDA granted fast track designation to imetelstat based on data from part 1 of IMerge in October 2017.
Meanwhile, the clinical benefit and a potential overall survival benefit observed during the third internal review in March 2018 supported continuation of the phase II IMbark study without modifications. However, J&J is planning to amend the protocol of the study to allow long-term treatment of patients.
Investors are solely banking on the continuation and success of these two studies. Geron’s price has started rallying before J&J’s earnings release next week in anticipation of positive updates on imetelstat.
Zacks Rank & Key Picks
Geron carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
A few better-ranked stocks in the pharma sector include Protagonist Therapeutics, Inc. (PTGX - Free Report) and Catabasis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (CATB - Free Report) . While Protagonist sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Catabasis carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Protagonist’s loss estimates narrowed from $1.30 to 66 cents for 2018 and from $1.99 to $1.26 for 2019, over the last 30 days. The company delivered a positive earnings surprise in three of the trailing four quarters, with an average beat of 24.95%.
Catabasis’ loss estimates narrowed from $1.09 to 92 cents for 2018 and from $1.76 to $1.48 for 2019, in the last 30 days. The company came up with a positive earnings surprise in all the preceding four quarters, with an average beat of 14.56%. The stock has rallied 22.2% so far this year.
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