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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Cyclacel Pharma

Stocks in this article: CYCC AVNR NEOP SNSS AMRN

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- An email from John R. kicks off this week's Biotech Stock Mailbag:

"Hi Adam, what do you think of Leerink Swann's recent upgrade of Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals (CYCC) to outperform with a $3 price target last month? Stock closed today at another new 52-week low (70 cents after hours.) Do you think it's even worth a look when it hits cash levels, or around $0.55? Or should this one should just be in the dumper? I have some free capital and was looking at possibly pulling the trigger."

It's entirely appropriate to tie together Leerink's July 12 initiation of research coverage of Cyclacel with an outperform rating and a $3 price target with the same bank's role in leading a financing of Cyclacel on July 1 that raised $9.3 million, net of fees and expenses.

I'm told that some of Cyclacel's existing institutional shareholders weren't happy with the latest financing and didn't participate as a result. The Leerink deal might have been easy money but it raised too little and did nothing to improve the quality or stability of the company's shareholder base. In fact, the Leerink financing probably did the opposite, which has contributed to the stock's accelerated decline in value this summer. The market crash isn't helping, either.

Cyclacel still needs to raise more money, but will now be forced to go hat in hand to Wall Street with a weaker share price and less or no support from old shareholders who could have helped the company attract new shareholders.

Cyclacel is also saddled with a messy capital and governance structure that gives preferred shareholders too much control over the company's board. This is a legacy issue that Cyclacel should have fixed but hasn't.

I agree that Cyclacel's stock price is cheap and undervalued. Cyclacel should not carry an enterprise value half the size of competitor Sunesis Pharmaceuticals (SNSS), for example. But Cyclacel's stock is stuck in the muck and merely pointing out a relative valuation discrepancy isn't going to get it unstuck. Investors view data from the phase III study of sapacitabine in elderly AML patients as too far away to matter right now. If management wants to fix its stock price today, they should start by landing a licensing deal for one of its drugs. The validation would be a big confidence boost and the money from a partner would be a big help, too. Fix the capital structure and do the hard work necessary to bring in a better base of long-term institutional shareholders.

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