NASA’s Curiosity rover has found organic molecules on Mars. Organic molecules are the building blocks of all known forms of terrestrial life and consist of a wide variety of molecules made primarily of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.
The surface of Mars is currently inhospitable to life as we know it, but there is evidence that the Red Planet once had a climate that could have supported life billions of years ago. For example, features resembling dry riverbeds and minerals that only form in the presence of liquid water have been discovered on the Martian surface. The Curiosity rover with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite was sent to Mars in 2011 to discover more about the ancient habitable Martian environment by examining clues in the chemistry of rocks and the atmosphere.
The organic molecules were found in Gale crater, the landing site for the Curiosity rover. Scientists think the crater was once the site of a lake billions of years ago.
Building Blocks for Life
Organic molecules can also be made by chemical reactions that don’t involve life, and there is not enough evidence to tell if the matter found by the team came from ancient Martian life or from a non-biological process. But the discovery shows that the ancient environment offered a supply of reduced organic molecules for use as building blocks for life and an energy source for life. Caroline Freissinet of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said:
We think life began on Earth around 3.8 billion years ago, and our result shows that places on Mars had the same conditions at that time – liquid water, a warm environment, and organic matter. So if life emerged on Earth in these conditions, why not on Mars as well?
If confirmed, the detection of life on Mars would be one of the most spectacular – and important – scientific discoveries that we can imagine. It would imply that life exists in the universe, probably on myriads of planets, and perhaps there are intelligent life and advanced civilizations out there. The search for radio signals from alien intelligences, another project with a really huge potential payoff if successful, is ongoing.
Images from NASA and Shutterstock.
Biotech Dominates July Penny Stock Picks
July brings new opportunities to trade penny stocks, according to the Investopedia top 10 penny stocks to watch. Biotechnology stocks in particular are poised for a breakout. Biotechnology funds broke out of the long-term basing pattern in June, forcing rotational buying pressure, which bodes well for the low-priced sub-sector, with many penny stocks ready to hit multi-year highs.
At the same time, the tech sector is getting sold with equal force in a profit-taking exercise that could deliver a period of under-performance for the sector’s lower-priced issues.
June’s biotechnology picks drew strong buying interest, led by ImmunoGen, Inc.’s 48% advance to a 52-week high. Small China stocks also posted strength, as China Commercial Credit, Inc. gained close to 35%. China Commercial Credit and June’s three biotech picks return to the July top penny stock list, joined by six new penny stocks.
1. ImmunoGen Inc. (IMGN)
ImmunoGen, a provider of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for the treatment of cancer, jumped from number four in June to the top spot in July.
The stock posted a 12-year high at $20.25 in 2013 and sold off to $5.34 in December 2014. A recovery in 2015 stalled less than a point below the prior peak, creating a decline that continued into an 18-year low at $1.51 in November 2016.
Buyers took over in 2017, generating an uptick that reversed at the 2014 resistance approximately three weeks ago. In June, the stock broke out and made the top 10 list for the first time. It could end up in the $8.00 to $10.00 price zone.
ImmunoGen creates targeted cancer therapeutics using its proprietary ADC technology. The company’s candidate, mirvetuximab soravtansine, is in a Phase 3 trial for an ovarian cancer, and is in Phase 1b/2 testing in combination regimens for earlier-stage disease.
The technology is used in Roche’s Kadcyla, in three other clinical-stage ImmunoGen product candidates, and in programs in development by Amgen, Bayer, Biotest, CytomX, Lilly, Novartis, Sanofi and Takeda.
2. China Commercial Credit, Inc. (CCCR)
China Commercial Credit Inc. (CCCR), which provides business loans and loan guarantee services to small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), farmers and individuals in China’s Jiangsu Province, jumped from number five in June to second place in July.
The company went public on the U.S. exchanges at $6.50 in August 2013.
The stock experienced a downtrend that bottomed out at 25 cents in February 2016 and began an upward trend that stalled at $3.20 in September. The stock hit a higher low in March 2017 before recovering, testing the 2016 high. A breakout should bring broad buying interest that could support a continued upside that could double the price by year’s end.
The company was founded in 2008 and provides business loans and loan guarantee services to small-to-medium enterprises, farmers and individuals in China’s Jiangsu Province.
3. CymaBay Therapeutics, Inc. (CBAY)
CymaBay Therapeutics Inc. (CBAY), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing therapies to treat specialty and orphan diseases, returns from the June list, where it ranked number 9. The stock rallied to an all-time high at $13.78 in February 2015, then suffered a steep downtrend that continued into the first quarter of 2016. The stock then dropped to an all-time low at 82 cents before bouncing to $3.04 in April, a yearly high, ahead of a pullback that continued into the November low at $1.15.
The stock broke above the 2016 high in February 2017, reaching a two-year high at $4.81.
Net loss for the 2017 first quarter was $5.4 million, or ($0.20) per diluted share, compared to $6.8 million, or ($0.29) per diluted share in the first quarter of 2016. Net loss in the 2017 first quarter was $1.4 million lower compared to the prior year period, primarily due to the recognition of collaboration revenue in 2017.
The rally has now reached a two-year high, attracting buying interest that could move into double digits.
4. Peiris Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (PIRS)
Pieris Pharmaceuticals Inc., a, clinical-stage biotechnology company committed to providing solutions for oncology, respiratory disease and other therapeutic areas, moved from June’s 7th spot to July’s 4th spot. The stock launched on the OTC market in 2014, trading between $2.00 and $4.25 before falling to $1.26 in January 2016. It ground sideways through November, then tested the first-quarter low ahead of a January 2017 breakaway gap that has drawn steady buying interest. The rally gathered momentum in early May after announcing a partnership with AstraZeneca PLC and is currently testing the 2015 high, the all-time high.
The company’s product includes immuno-oncology multi-specifics tailored for the tumor microenvironment, an inhaled Anticalin protein to treat uncontrolled asthma as well as a half-life-optimized Anticalin protein to treat anemia. Anticalin proteins, proprietary to Pieris, are a class of therapeutics validated in the clinic and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. Anticalin is a registered trademark of Pieris.
5. 22nd Century Group, Inc. (XXII)
22nd Century Group, Inc. (XXII), a plant biotechnology company that is a provider of tobacco harm reduction and development of proprietary hemp/cannabis strains, broke out above multi-year resistance near $1.50 in 2013, rallying to a record high a few months later at $6.36. The stock then began a persistent decline through August 2015 before finding support at 56 cents, followed by a bounce to $1.75.
The stock has traded within those boundaries for 22-months, bouncing at support three times and reversing at resistance in equal measure. The price returned to that level a fourth time, improving odds for a breakout that could double the price in the year’s second half.
22nd Century Group is a plant biotechnology company focused on genetic engineering and plant breeding that allows the increase or decrease of the level of nicotine in tobacco plants and the level of cannabinoids in cannabis plants. The company’s main goal in tobacco is to reduce the harm caused by smoking. The main goal in cannabis is to develop proprietary hemp/cannabis strains for new medicines and agricultural crops.
The stock last month joined the Russell Microcap Index, when FTSE Russell reconstituted its U.S. and global equity indexes. Membership in the Russell Microcap Index means automatic inclusion in the appropriate growth and value style indexes. FTSE Russell determines membership for its Russell indexes primarily by objective, market-capitalization rankings and style attributes.
6. Corindus Vascular Robotics, Inc. (CVRS)
Corindus Vascular Robotics, Inc. (CVRS), a developer of precision vascular robotics, returned to the national market in 2015 following a trading halt, topping out around $4.50 and starting a decline that continued to reach new lows in January 2017 when it bottomed at around 40 cents. Since that time, the price activity has been constructive, with high volume rally bursts moving the stock into 2016 resistance at $1.75. The bullish behavior has created a cup and handle basing pattern that points to an uptrend into the 2015 high following a breakout.
Revenue for the first quarter of 2017 was $0.8 million compared to $1.1 million for the same period in the prior year. The decrease is due mainly to the deferral of system revenue associated with a future obligation to upgrade multiple customer units from the company’s CorPath 200 System to the CorPath GRX System.
The company installed three new CorPath Systems in the first quarter of 2017, increasing its total installed base to 48 CorPath Systems.
Gross loss was $1.1 million for the 2017 first quarter, compared to a gross profit of $0.03 million for the 2016 first quarter. The cost of revenues for the first 2017 quarter continued to include the effect of under-utilization of production facilities and the cost of CorPath GRX System upgrades that installed pursuant to pre-existing contractual arrangements.
The company continues to expect the full year 2017 revenue to be in the range of $13.
7. RADA Electronic Industries, Ltd. (RADA)
RADA Electronic Industries, Ltd. (RADA), a defense electronics system of advanced electronic systems for airborne and land applications, fell into a multi-decade decline after it joined the Nasdaq in the 1990s. The stock ground out a series of lower highs and lows through January 2016’s all-time 54-cent low.
The stock spent 16 months moving sideways in a narrow basing pattern before turning higher in May 2017 and rallying back to 2016 resistance at $1.78. The bullish activity completed a cup and handle breakout pattern that could point to a fast rally into the August 2015 gap between $3.70 and $2.50.
Revenues totaled $4.7 million in the 2017 first quarter, up 91% compared to revenues of $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2016.
Gross profit totaled $1.7 million in the first 2017 quarter of 2017, a gross margin of 35.7%, compared to gross profit of $6,000 (gross margin of 0.2%) in the 2016 first quarter.
Operating income was $0.4 million in the first 2017 quarter compared to an operating loss of $1 million in the 2016 first quarter.
Net income attributable to RADA’s shareholders in the 2017 first quarter was $0.4 million, $0.02 per share, versus a net loss of $1.8 million, or $0.23 per share, in the 2016 first quarter.
8. ChromaDex, Corp. (CDXC)
ChromaDex, Corp. (CDXC), a provider of proprietary health, wellness and nutritional ingredients, that creates science-based solutions to dietary supplement, food and beverage, skin care, sports nutrition and pharmaceutical products, went public in April 2016 at $4.70. The stock rallied to an all-time high at $6.18 in May, then fell one month later to $2.46 in a single session, eventually posting a lower December low. It tested that support level in April 2017, then turned sharply higher, now testing 2017 resistance at $3.80. A breakout could point to a significant upside, taking the stock back to last year’s high.
For the first quarter of 2017, ChromaDex reported net sales of $4.4 million, a decrease of 39% compared to the same period of 2016, due mainly to decreased sales in its ingredients business segment, as a result of dropping its largest customer for fiscal year 2016. The ingredients segment created net sales of $2.1 million for Q1 2017, a decline of 55%, compared to the same 2016 period.
The net loss attributable to common stock holders for Q1 2017 was $1.9 million or ($0.05) per share versus a net income of $0.3 million or $0.01 per share for Q1 2016.
In May, the company announced the closing of the $16.4 million second tranche of the strategic investment of up to $25 million led by Hong Kong business leader Li Ka-shing.
Li Ka-shing has invested in many innovative companies in the last decade, including Facebook, Spotify, DeepMind, Siri, Impossible Foods and Modern Meadow. The new investment will support future ChromaDex developments in the global marketplace.
The $16.4 million second tranche follows an initial $3.5 million tranche that closed on April 27, 2017.
9. Safe Bulkers, Inc. (SB)
Safe Bulkers, Inc. (SB), a player in the hot and cold dry bulk shipping sector, topped out at $11.48 in March 2014, then entered a downtrend reaching an all-time low at 30 cents in January 2016. A recovery wave in November stalled at $2.38, followed by sideways action that has completed a small-scale cup and handle breakout pattern. A buying spike over $2.60 can be expected to set the upside into action, supporting a rally that could surpass $5.00.
The company declared a cash dividend of $0.50 per share on its 8.00% Series B, Series C and Series D Cumulative Redeemable Perpetual Preferred Shares for the period from April 30, 2017 to July 29, 2017.
This is the 16th consecutive cash dividend declared on the company’s Series B Preferred Shares, the 13th cash dividend declared on its Series C Preferred Shares and the 12th cash dividend declared on its Series D Preferred Shares since their respective commencement of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
10. Ballard Power Systems, Inc. (BLDP)
Ballard Power Systems, Inc. (BLDP) is a provider of clean energy products that reduce customer costs and risks, and helps customers solve challenges in their fuel cell programs. The stock reached an all-time high at $144.95 in 2000 before falling into a downtrend lasting more than 12 years, sending the stock to an all-time low at 56 cents. A 2013 upward trend continued through 2014, hitting an 8-year high at $8.38, followed by a correction that’s now returned to 2015 resistance at $3.10. A breakout could catch fire, pushing the stock to a test of its 2014 high.
Total revenue was $22.7 million in the quarter, an increase of 39% from growth in both power products and technology solutions.
Gross margin was 42% in the quarter, an improvement of 22 points due to a shift in product mix toward higher margin technology solutions and heavy duty motive for the China market, including the establishment of a production line in Yunfu, China for the manufacture and assembly of FCvelocity-9SSL fuel cell stacks.
Cash operating costs were $10 million in the quarter, a 6% increase due to higher research and product development expenditures as well as a stronger Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar, since a significant amount of cost is denominated in Canadian dollars.
Low-priced biotech stocks have risen following a long slumber, with steady buying interest likely to continue. This group should offer a variety of profitable penny stock plays during the quiet summer trading season, while low-priced stocks in other sectors move into narrow trading ranges.
Featured image from Shutterstock.
Last Week’s Top Cannabis Stock Winners And May’s Stocks To Watch
Medicinal and recreational cannabis continues to spur investment in marijuana-based pharmaceuticals.
Several publicly traded cannabis stocks gained more than 5% this past week, some of which have market capitalizations exceeding $50 million, according to Investopedia. The Solactive North American Medical Marijuana Index, which tracks the medical marijuana sector, gained 1.5% for the week.
Cannabis stocks also trade on other exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and over the counter.
Following are last week’s five top performers, followed by a list of four cannabis stocks to watch for the month of May.
Insys Therapeutics Inc., Nasdaq: INSY
Insys Therapeutics, a Chandler, Arizona-based specialty pharmaceutical company, was one of the week’s top performers, gaining more than 11%. The stock was boosted by Wednesday’s announcement that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Syndros product label. Syndros, the company’s lead product, is a liquid, oral dronabinol (synthetic THC) solution for treating nausea that is chemotherapy induced, and for treating anorexia related to AIDS. The approval means the company can now market the product commercially.
Insys Therapeutics, Inc. also markets Subsys, a sublingual fentanyl spray for cancer pain in opioid-tolerant cancer patients in the U.S.
The company is also developing Cannabidiol Oral Solution, a synthetic cannabidiol for catastrophic epilepsy syndromes in children. It is also developing other products, such as dronabinol line extensions and sublingual spray products.
Insys has posted flat revenues for the last three years, but its operating income fell at the end of 2016 as the company invested more in research. Gross profit has improved over the last three years.
Insys did not post the biggest gain in the past week, but it is the only one of this week’s top five winners that is also listed on Investopedia’s cannabis stocks to watch for March.
Marapharm Ventures Inc., OTC: MRPHF
Marapharm Ventures Inc., a Kelowna, Canada-based medical marijuana company, gained more than 40% this week after the company announced on Tuesday it will apply for a recreational marijuana license in Nevada. The following day, the company received approval for building permits for modular structures. On Thursday, the company announced that Nevada gave final approval to grow and sell cannabis.
Formerly known as Capital Auction Market Inc., the company serves the medical and recreational marijuana industry in Canada and the U.S.
Marapharm applied to Health Canada for a production and sales license three years ago and has passed the necessary security clearances, according to the Daily Marijuana Observer. The application is currently in the screening process. Health Canada advised the company in September it seeks to amend its application to allow for new regulations.
Marapharm’s common shares are traded in Canada under the MDM symbol and in the U.S. and on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the symbol MRPHF on the OTC. In Europe, it trades under the symbol 2M0 on the FSE.
MMJ Phytotech Ltd., ASX: MMJ
MMJ Phytotech Ltd., trading on the Australian Stock Exchange, gained more than 5% for the week, closing at $0.365 AUD Friday. Australia is developing its own medical marijuana program after legalizing it in November of 2016. MMJ is one of several ASX listed cannabis companies.
Shares of Australian companies involved in the production and research of medicinal marijuana have soared more than 130 percent on average in Sydney this year, exceeding the growth rate of peers in the U.S. and Canada by six times, according to Bloomberg. The surge was also sparked by the country easing restrictions on cannabis imports to treat illnesses from cancer to epilepsy.
MMJ Phytotech has focused on becoming a direct supplier to the growing Canadian recreational and medical and markets, which are estimated to have a combined value of C$8 to C$9 billion by 2024.
MMJ holds one of 41 licenses issued by Health Canada.
The company controls operations across the complete medicinal cannabis value chain through three business units.
Tetra Bio-Pharma Inc., OTC: TBPMF
Tetra Bio-Pharma saw shares jump more than 20% for the week. One factor was an agreement signed Wednesday with Panag Pharma to develop and commercialize a pair of cannabinoid based formulations for treating pain and inflammation.
The filing of a patent in ocular disease combined with the patents from Panag in the ocular space indicates strong revenue potential, according to the company.
Tetra Bio-Pharma will have exclusive access to sell the topical and ocular drug in North America with the right of first negotiation outside the U.S. and Canada. The company will also have the right of first negotiation for future cannabinoid-based products.
Tetra Bio-Pharma will work with Panag to ensure a successful development leading to marketing authorization. Panag will continue to focus on the development of new products for unmet medical needs while Tetra will take the lead in commercializing the products.
Zynerba Pharmaceuticals Inc., Nasdaq: ZYNE
Zynerba Pharmaceuticals Inc., another player in the cannabinoid space, finished the week with about a 5% gain.
The company develops and markets synthetic cannabinoid therapeutics for transdermal delivery. The products address the symptoms of patients with fibromyalgia, epilepsy, peripheral neuropathic pain, osteoarthritis and Fragile X syndrome.
Zynerba is developing ZYN001 and ZYN002, the first being a THC pro-drug patch that provides transdermal THC delivery for fibromyalgia and peripheral neuropathic pain, the second being a synthetic CBD gel that provides transdermal, non-psychoactive CBD delivery for osteoarthritis, epilepsy and Fragile X syndrome.
Top four cannabis stocks to watch in May.
1. AbbVie Inc. (ABBV)
AbbVIe is a pharmaceutical company that already has a cannabis-based drug on the market. The FDA approved Marinol, a drug that helps alleviate vomiting or nausea for chemotherapy patients. It also helps AIDS patients who have lost their desire to eat.
ABBV has increased revenues for the past four years. Its operating income has also steadily increased.
AbbVie concentrates almost exclusively on U.S. markets, which represents some degree of risk. Most pharmaceuticals market globally. Should the domestic market falter, ABBV could see a drop in value.
2. Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company, SMG
Known for its lawn and garden products, Scotts Miracle-Gro is developing products for cannabis growers, including pesticides for use on marijuana plants. The products can be used to grow medicinal marijuana.
The stock has experienced a sideways pattern since December 2016. Should the stock find support at its 200-day moving average, recovery is possible.
Revenues surged in the quarter ended April 1, 2017, as did the company’s income. But given the drop in price recently, this could be a stock to watch rather than buy for the time being.
3. Corbus Pharmaceuticals, CRBP
Corbus Pharmaceuticals stock has been up and down over the past year. The company’s marijuana-based drugs are in clinical trials. Resunab, designed to treat sclerosis, has shown promising trials.
The stock tends to dip right before trial results are announced, then rally when results are positive. The company is currently testing Resunab for treating cystic fibrosis. The pessimism/optimism pattern will continue as this drug is tested yet again.
The company has posted negative operating income, with revenues close to zero. It relies on the success of a single drug.
4. Insys Therapeutics Inc. Nasdaq, INSY
Insys Therapeutics is the only one of the cannabis stocks to watch that was listed among last week’s top gainers.
As investors sober up about the marijuana craze, the reality of using it in medicines will set in. Like other sources for drugs, cannabis offers positive prospects and some failures.
The drop in share price for some cannabis stocks indicates the companies have to deliver soon on the promise of medical cannabis.
Investors are advised not to act based on enthusiasm for marijuana, and to pay attention to drug trial results.
Directed Evolution Teaches Nature the Unnatural, Brings Silicon to Life
Caltech researchers have achieved a spectacular demonstration that living organisms can be persuaded to make silicon-carbon bonds. The study is the first to show that nature can adapt to incorporate silicon into carbon-based molecules, the building blocks of life. This breakthrough could have en important impact on how medicines and other chemicals are made in the future, and open new horizons to synthetic biology.
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