Geron Corporation (GERN)

Q2 2010 Earnings Call Transcript

July 30, 2010 11:00 am ET


David Greenwood – EVP, CFO, Treasurer and Secretary

Thomas Okarma – President and CEO


Mark Monane – Needham & Company

Egala Humavitz [ph] – Rodman & Renshaw

Joe Pantginis – Roth Capital Partners

Steve Brozak – WBB Securities



Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the second quarter 2010 Geron earnings conference call. My name is Kristal, and I will be your operator for today. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. (Operator instructions) I would now like to turn the conference over to your host for today, Mr. David Greenwood, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Please proceed, sir.

David Greenwood

Good morning and welcome to the Geron earnings call. I am David Greenwood. Tom Okarma is with me. This is an earnings related conference call, and we will begin with a summary of operating results for the second quarter. Our agenda then includes an overview of recent operating highlights at the company and a summary of our plans for the remainder of the year. Following that presentation by Tom, we will as you would all have a general Q&A session.

Two informational items, in the event of forward-looking statements, please understand those comments are made subject to the Safe Harbor provisions. Any forward-looking statement involves uncertainty and we refer you to the risk factors detailed in filings with the SEC. Secondly, all participants are currently in listen-only mode, the lines will open for the Q&A and the call will be available for webcast replay until the end of August. You can reach that off of our Website.

Revenues from license fees and royalties were up over the comparable three-month period in 2009 and the comparative number for six months year-to-date is up over 2009, but the $1.9 million level for six months, these numbers are not overly significant. Other cash inflows to the company during the quarter included just under $200,000 of interest income which only reflects the positioning of the yield curve. Our marketable securities portfolio remains intact and no write-downs or provisions for write-downs.

Q2 R&D expenses were down period-to-period in part driven by timing differences in purchasing drug products and funding clinical trial sites and lower costs attributed to our AML trial with that one once the trial was fully enrolled. Six-month R&D expenses were also slightly lower than in 2009 for the same reasons. G&A expenses were up somewhat for the quarter and six-month period due to some higher consulting expense and principally non-cash stock-based compensation expense.

We ended the quarter with $156 million cash on the balance sheet. Our current running rate net burn number is in the $48 million to $50 million range annualized. So, the company continues to be funded for the near-term. Finally, a comment on one of the subsequent events mentioned in the press release. Tom will speak to the other, which is the non-small cell lung Phase II with our telomerase inhibitor. Long-time shareholders will recall that we established TA Therapeutics in Hong Kong in 2005. The Hong Kong government was our venture partner and their objective was to attract biotechnology to Hong Kong in collaboration with UST, that’s the University of Science of Technology Hong Kong University researchers. And we work productively with those basic research scientists screening libraries of natural product extracts for telomerase activators. But we are now working with one chemical series and a potential IND candidate small molecule. We are engaged in preclinical metabolism and tox studies. The academic researchers in Hong Kong cannot help us with that. The Hong Kong government made a decision to not invest further in the program as our partner, insofar as there was no employment or engagement going forward on the Hong Kong side and limited knowledge and technology transfer.

We had of course provided for this possibility in the formation agreements and we at this point pertain full ownership of the asset. Our intent going forward is to move the current lead compound or a next-generation compound into the clinic for one or more indications and we will do that on our balance sheet, and at some point, we will partner again. Tom?

Thomas Okarma

Thank you, David. Good morning everyone. Thank you all for joining us this morning. This has been a very significant quarter for Geron and that we have advanced each of our three therapeutic franchises, Regen Med, Oncology and Telomerase Activation. Well, I will comment this morning on six events. We will start with today’s news, the FDA concurrence for us to proceed with the world’s first human clinical trial of embryonic stem cell therapy and spinal cord injury. I will then turn to our announcement of the initiation of our randomized Phase II clinical trial of Imetelstat in non-small cell lung cancer. Thirdly, I will speak a bit to the Telomerase Activation program and remind folks of the world’s first in-vivo proof-of-concept of Telomerase Activation in an animal model of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

I will then turn to our Imetelstat presentations at AACR and ASCO. Fifthly, I will remind folks of our very important data in guinea pigs on our CM1 product or cardiomyocytes that demonstrated the absence of any arrhythmias, and finally, a comment or two on our two new additions to the Board of Directors, Hoyoung Huh, and Bob Spiegel.

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