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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Best Stocks to Watch in '11

@jacobskip tweets, "What do you think about ACTC? Is Socius funding kiss of death? Have any additional information to share on Socius/Peizer?"

This was in response to a tweet of mine pointing out that Advanced Cell Technologies (ACTC.OB) nabbed $25 million in funding from Socius Capital Group. Sounds innocuous enough, but Socius is chaired by Terren Peizer, the founder and CEO of Hythiam (HYTM.OB), peddlers of the controversial Prometa addiction treatment program. Peizer claims Prometa is a revolutionary new way for addicts to kick the habit. Critics accuse Peizer of selling snake oil. I suggest checking out Hythiam's stock chart over the past few years before deciding which side is right.

Now, Advanced Cell's embryonic stem cell research has nothing to do with Hythiam or treating drug addicts. However, if Advanced Cell's stem cell technology is as revolutionary as its founders claim, why does the stock trade on the bulletin boards, and why does the company need to seek out funding from someone as controversial as Peizer?

Socius has an "impressive record of making investments in emerging life scienes companies," said Advanced Cell in its funding announcement. I checked Socius' recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and found that the firm's investment holdings include Muscle Pharm (MLSP.OB), New Generation Biofuels Holdings (NGPF.PK), PositiveID (PSID), Dutch Gold Resources (DGRI.PK), International Stem Cell (ISCO.OB), DayStar Technologies (DSTI) and ZBB Energy (ZBB), among others.

Advanced Cell, even trading for 20 cents a share, has an enterprise value of $250 million because the company has 1.3 billion shares outstanding! Traders likely consider a 20-cent stock to be cheap and love that the company issues press releases all day long to keep the stock liquid. For those of us who look at fundamentals and balance sheets, a $250 million enterprise value for a high-risk company like Advanced Cell is really expensive.

--Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Adam Feuerstein.

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Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.
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