Legendary investor George Soros remains upbeat on young biotechs. His Perseus-Soros Bio Pharmaceutical Fund this year has upped its stake in Valentis (VLTS). The company is developing products to treat peripheral arterial disease (PAD), an inflammatory disorder that leads to plaque formation in blood vessels, mainly in the legs. Dennis Purcell of Perseus-Soros, which now owns 14.5%, says its chief product, VLTS 934, has proved in Phase 2 trials to be "safe and efficacious" in treating PAD. In 2004 the stock rose to 6 soon after Soros bought in. But even when the stock slid to 3 last year, Soros didn't sell any shares. "Our fund invests in late-stage compounds with large markets, and Valentis fits our strategy," says Purcell. Data from a second Phase 2 trial, due in July, are expected to be positive, says Kevin DeGeeter of investment bank H.C. Wainwright, who rates Valentis, now at 2.99, a "buy," with a 12-month target of 6.50. With some 5 million Americans suffering from severe PAD, VLTS 934 has a potential market of at least $500 million, DeGeeter says. CEO Benjamin McGraw III says he is in talks with big drugmakers as partners to co-produce and market VLTS 934.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.
By Gene G. Marcial