By Louis Navellierof InvestorPlace

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A typical "penny stock," believe it or not, can trade for as much as $5 a share. The idea behind penny stocks is the same, however, whether the investment is worth 3 cents or $3.03 -- a very small-cap equity or microcap stock with the ability to break out and post big gains.

When I screen for penny stocks, I always omit companies that are illiquid, trading for only a few pennies or listed on the pink sheets. These penny stocks are just too risky to make sense. However, that doesn't mean investors can't find a number of bargain breakouts by combing through cheap stocks.

Here are eight examples of breakout penny stocks in the health care sector. All it takes is one big drug approval, a buyout from big pharma or a plump contract from a major provider to send shares of penny stocks like these soaring.

Cardica (CRDC)

Cardica ( CRDC) designs, manufactures and markets products used by cardiac surgeons. These products are frequently used when performing coronary bypass surgery. Cardica also makes endoscopic microcutters which are used in various other surgeries. This penny stock has boasted an impressive gain of 82.8% since January. In early August, Cardica reported total product sales of $1 million for its fiscal fourth quarter ending June 30. Its stock price of $2.14 is down slightly from its 52-week high of $2.85; however Cardica is still a good bargain buy at this time.

Pro-Dex (PDEX)

Based in Santa Ana, Calif., Pro-Dex ( PDEX) designs, develops and manufactures rotary drive systems for the medical device and dental industries. These rotary systems are also used in cranial, spinal, arthroscopic and orthopedic surgery. This penny stock has climbed 46.5% since January, or 71 cents a share. In its last income statement, PDEX reported quarterly revenue growth of 33.7% year over year, along with a net profit margin of 2.82%. Investors can buy into Pro-Dex stock at $2.22 per share.

CAS Medical Systems (CASM)

Medical-technology company CAS Medical Systems ( CASM) develops manufactures and markets non invasive patient monitoring products. The company's products are divided into the following segments: critical care monitoring, blood pressure measurement technology and bedside monitoring. While this penny stock is up just 4.7% year-to-date, it is still riding high from its 52-week change of 43.2%. Its stock price of $2.22 is not far off from its 52-week high of $2.51, which is an encouraging sign for potential investors.

TearLab (TEAR)

TearLab ( TEAR) is known by many by its former name of OccuLogix. Based in San Diego, the health care company is known for its tear testing platform which allows eye doctors to test for highly sensitive and specific biomarkers. Since March 1, the stock has climbed an incredible 162%. The huge spike in stock price occurred when OccuLogix announced that investors had agreed to buy 1.5 million shares of the company's common stock for $3.22 per unit. The purchase cost investors approximately $5 million and sent TearLab's stock surging. Since the purchase, the stock has leveled off, however at $2.63 a share, this penny stock is still worth buying.

Synergetics USA (SURG)

Headquartered in Missouri, Synergetics USA ( SURG) is a medical device company that designs, manufactures and markets microsurgical instruments. These instruments are used in microsurgery and are often used by ophthalmologists and neurosurgeons. Synergetics is another penny stock that has had a successful 2010. Year-to-date, this health care stock has climbed 113.7% compared to small gains by the broader markets. Equally impressive is the company's quarterly earnings growth of 622.5%, which was reported in its last income statement.

Iridex (IRIX)

Iridex ( IRIX) is a global provider of therapeutic based laser systems and delivery devices used to treat eye diseases and skin conditions. Its products consist of laser probes that are used in treating eye diseases including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Over the past 52 weeks, IRIX stock has gained 35.7%. This penny stock has also outperformed earnings estimates for two straight quarters, which has pleased shareholders. A net profit margin of 8.2% last quarter also adds to this stock's impressive resume.

Animal Health International (AHII)

As its name would suggest, Animal Health International ( AHII) distributes animal health products in the U.S. and Canada. Its products include pharmaceuticals, vaccines, parasiticides, diagnostics, capital equipment and sanitizers, among others. According to the company, it sells more than 40,000 products to approximately 71,000 customers. The last 52 weeks have been a bumpy ride for AHII, but the penny stock is up 19.8% during that time. Investors are optimistic as analysts have upped earnings estimates to eight cents this quarter and EPS of seven cents last quarter. At $2.60, AHII is a very affordable stock to buy right now.

Simulations Plus (SLP)

Based in Lancaster, Calif., Simulations Plus ( SLP) produces software used for pharmaceutical research and educational purposes. The company also makes computer software and hardware to be used specifically by people with disabilities. Since January, this penny stock is up 93.5%, and it posted a net profit margin of 23.7% last quarter. Likewise, this stock met earnings estimates last quarter, after exceeding expectations in the two prior quarters. Its quarterly earnings growth of 30% year over year also makes this penny stock a valuable buy at this time.

As of this writing, Louis Navellier did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.

One of Wall Street's renowned growth investors, Louis Navellier is the editor of four investing newsletters: Emerging Growth (formerly known as MPT Review), Blue Chip Growth, Quantum Growth and Global Growth. His longest-running publication, Emerging Growth, has a track record of beating the market nearly 3 to 1. Navellier is the author of a BusinessWeek bestseller, "The Little Book That Makes You Rich," and the chairman and founder of Navellier & Associates, Inc.

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