It’s been ninety years since Canada’s greatest achievement in biotech took place; the discovery of insulin by Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best, in 1922.
While nothing since has matched that miraculous feat, it’s not like Canada has been sitting still in the meantime. Canadian researchers have contributed to The Human Genome project, cracked the genetic code of the mosquito that carries the deadliest strain of malaria, and deciphered human chromosome 7, which holds the gene for cystic fibrosis.
Looking for something more current? Check out our updated article: “Canadian Biotech Stocks: The Ten Best Performers So Far in 2014”
Today the Toronto Stock Exchange and The TSX Venture Exchange are home to 119 Life Sciences companies that have a total market capitalization of $21.4 billion. These companies raised more than a billion dollars in 2010 and 2011 combined, and have raced out to lead the way in 2012. Several Canadian Life Sciences stocks have already posted triple digit gains already this year. We count down the top ten performers, excluding those stocks that began the year at less than a nickel.
1. TearLab (TSX:TLB) +201%
Price on December 30th, 2011: $1.08
Price on June 29th: 2012: $3.25
For investors, those were tears of joy in the first half of 2012. Tearlab, as its name suggests, develops treatments for diagnosing Dry Eye Disease. The company said it had signed sixty contracts for its The TearLab Osmolarity System, and passed that number just halfway through Q2. The company’s recent financing, at $3.60, was oversubscribed.
2. Cipher Pharmaceuticals (TSX:DND) +142%
Price on December 30th, 2011: $.64
Price on June 29th: 2012: $1.55
Shares of Cipher Pharmaceuticals spiked in May, when the company announced it had received FDA approval for acne treatment Absorica. Absorica is the third Cipher product to receive regulatory approval. Since 2007, the company has derived most of its revenue from cholesterol treatment drug Lipofen, and in Q3 of last year it began to market ConZip, a Tramadol treatment for moderate to moderately severe chronic pain. Recently, Cantech Letter caught up with Cipher CFO Norm Evans to talk about why he believes Absorica could be the first Cipher product to be truly differentiated from its competition.
3. Lorus Therapeutics (TSX:LOR) +141%
Price on December 30th, 2011: $.195
Price on June 29th: 2012: $.47
Early last month, Lorus closed a private placement that raised $6.6-million, giving the company, which lost $1.03-million in its recently reported Q3, a little more fiscal certainty. Shareholders can now focus on the company’s lead anticancer drug candidate LOR-2040, and its anti-cancer drug LOR-253, which is in phase 1 clinical trial.
4. Bioasis Technologies (TSXV:BTI) 139%
Price on December 30th, 2011: $.61
Price on June 29th: 2012: $1.46
Vancouver-based Bioasis is focused on technologies and products for diagnosis and treatment of central nervous system disorders. The company’s stock began to take off early in 2012 after it shored up its balance sheet with a private placement, and continued to rise after it announced positive test results from therapeutic development program in early May.
5. iCo Therapeutics (TSXV:ICO) +107.8%
Price on December 30th, 2011: $.255
Price on June 29th: 2012: $.53
iCo’s stock began to perk up early in 2012, after the company announced it had secured a $10-million equity line facility with the Dutchess Opportunity Cayman Fund Ltd. a division of Dutchess Capital, a fund manager with offices in Boston, New York, London and Beijing. Ico’s short form prospectus, filed June 13th, will raise up to $25-million and is an expansion of the December agreement between Dutchess and Ico. The company, which was founded in 2005, is a biotech that focuses on redosing or reformulating drugs that already have a clinical history. iCo owns the exclusive worldwide rights to two products. iCo-007, is a Phase I for the treatment of Diabetic Macular Edema. iCo-008, a treatment for severe ocular allergies and Wet Age Related Macular Degeneration, is a product with Phase II clinical history.
6. Neptune Technologies (TSX:NTB) +101%
Price on December 30th, 2011: $2.40
Price on June 29th: 2012: $4.83
At a manufacturing facility in Sherbrooke, Neptune Biosciences manufactures Krill oil. Krill are shrimplike crustaceans that are the primary food source of marine life such as salmon, whales and rockfish. Recently, fish oil from the tiny algae and plankton eaters has come to be prized as a dietary supplement for human consumption. A 2007 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed the oil, which is extremely high in omega 3, decreased inflammation and arthritic symptoms in cardiac and arthritis patients. Other studies showed it was effective in raising HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and lowering triglycerides. Byron Capital Healthcare analyst Douglas Loe says he likes the company’s chances.
7. Patheon (TSX:PTI) +89.8
Price on December 30th, 2011: $1.28
Price on June 29th: 2012: $2.43
Patheon, a contract manufacturer of prescription and over-the-counter drugs leapt after the company reported its recently reported Q2. Although the topline increase was a modest 6.8%, investors were encouraged by the company’s revenue guidance, in which management said it expects 2012 revenue to top $725-million.
8. Acasti Pharma (TSXV:APO) +73.3%
Price on December 30th, 2011: $1.20
Price on June 29th: 2012: $2.08
Shares of Acasti, which has developed a product portfolio of long-chain omega-3 phospholipids, were jolted after the comapny closed a $2-million private placement in February, which was entirely subscribed to by Dr. Harlan Waksal, Acasti’s executive vice-president and another company on our list, Neptune Technologies. Neptune increased its control position in Acasti, which had been at 57% prior to the transaction.
9. Amorfix Life Sciences (TSX:AMF) +71.4%
Price on December 30th, 2011: $.28
Price on June 29th: 2012: $.48
Mississauga-based Amorfix Life Sciences develops therapeutic products and diagnostic devices that target misfolded protein diseases. The company’s shares doubled after a study released in April showed that its lead anti-PrP antibody that demonstrates specific, dose-related killing of ovarian tumour cells.
10. Transition Therapeutics (TSX:TTH) +46%
Price on December 30th, 2011: $1.43
Price on June 29th: 2012: $2.09
Shares of Toronto’s Transition Therapeutics have been on a slow steady rise throughout 2012, after a management shakeup last year saw the company’s President and CFO Elie Farah part ways with the company. Investors have now turned their attention back to the company’s treatment pipeline which includes ELND005 (AZD-103), which recently completed a Phase 2 study for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.