Friday, February 28, 2020

Rich Day on the Stock Market for California "Eat Me" Cancer Therapy Firm

Forty Seven went public in June 2018. Here is how its stock has performed.
Google graphic
The stock price of Forty Seven, Inc., the high-flying company with a $15 million link to the California stem cell agency, today closed nine times higher than its all-time low just last October. 

The stock hit $50.00, 19 percent above its close yesterday. Its low last fall was $5.53. The stock took off this morning on the basis of news reports that Gilead Sciences, Inc., was in talks with the company about a possible purchase. Forty Seven is one of the few companies showing gains today as the stock market continued to plummet. 

Forty Seven was identified as "pivotal" investment earlier this month by the stem cell agency. It is one of 60 companies whose clinical trials the $3 billion agency is supporting. Forty Seven aims at fighting cancer by triggering the body's immune system and is known for its "eat me" therapeutic approach.  

The company's web site says, 
"The therapeutic potential of the innate immune system, the first line of defense against cancer, was not well understood and appreciated when Irv Weissman and his colleagues at Stanford University identified CD47-SIRP-alpha as a novel immune pathway. This discovery has the potential to lead to new therapies and empower patients to fight cancer with their own immune cells, in the hopes of one day saving lives."
No new details have emerged as of this writing on a possible Gilead-Forty Seven deal. 

CIRM, as a state agency, cannot profit directly from an increase in the company's stock price. California's state constitution bars the state from owning stocks. However, the state could benefit from royalties from Forty Seven if the company's CIRM-financed work results in profits. 

So far, CIRM-backed investments have generated few royalties despite expectations raised by agency supporters. During the 2004 ballot campaign that created the agency a potential of more than $1 billion in royalties was bandied about. 

The stem cell agency, known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), declined to comment on the Forty Seven news. But the agency has previously touted the significance of its role in funding the firm with $15.2 million and also backing underlying research by Weissman, who has received $30 million from CIRM. Weissman sits on the company board. 

Also not commenting was Forty Seven and the campaign organization pushing a November ballot proposal that would give financially strapped CIRM an additional $5.5 billion. CIRM is running out of cash and will begin to shut down if the measure fails to make the ballot or win voter approval.  

CIRM points to companies like Forty Seven as evidence of the value that the agency has provided for the people of California and the state's business climate. Forty Seven and other CIRM success stories are likely be ballyhooed often in the upcoming campaign.  

Readers who are not familiar with northern California may be interested in how the stem cell geography works in the Golden State. 
  • CIRM is headquartered in Oakland, It is only 42 driving minutes away from Gilead.
  • Gilead is located in Foster City, only 20 minutes from Forty Seven.
  • Forty Seven is located in Menlo Park, only 19 minutes from Irv Weissman's office at Stanford. 
One caveat on those times and distances: They are only good when the traffic is not too bad.  But the physical proximity does have something to do with the building of a "critical mass" of stem cell enterprises in the Golden State, something that researchers and CIRM find valuable. 

Here is a Forty Seven video discussing the company's "eat me" approach.

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