Aeterna Zentaris Surprises Again

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For those of you wondering when the day would come that Aeterna Zentaris (NAS: AEZS) would turn a quarterly profit, today is the day.

In an absolute shock, Aeterna Zentaris, a small-cap favorite of mine that currently has 11 compounds in its pipeline, reported a profit of $0.01 for the third quarter on revenue of $9.5 million. This compares with the consensus estimate that called for a loss of $0.09 on revenue of $6.8 million.

Helping the company report blowout results were higher sales of its hormone drug, Cetrotide, and favorable euro-to-dollar exchange rates. In addition, because of a change in the way the company values its warrant liability, the company pocketed a gain of $9.3 million as opposed to the $4.5 million it lost from the same warrants in the year-ago period.

Although I'm excited about this profit and the healthy cash position of $48.1 million that the company ended the quarter with, it's the pipeline update that really has me excited about Aeterna Zentaris' potential.

Perifosine, the company's lead cancer-drug candidate, completed patient enrollment in phase 3 clinical trials during the quarter. Already with "orphan drug" status and receiving a patent on the drug in Europe through 2023, the company appears to be marching toward a meeting with the FDA sooner than later. Even with perifosine licensed to Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NAS: KERX) in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, Yakult Honsha in Japan, and Handok in South Korea, the revenue potential for perifosine, if approved, is huge and makes Aeterna an instant buyout candidate.

But, it isn't just perifosine that's stirring the pot. AEZS-130, the phase 3 experimental molecule designed to be the first oral drug to detect adult growth hormone deficiency, showed remarkable efficacy, and the company anticipates filing a new drug application with the FDA shortly. In addition, AEZS-108, a molecule designed to treat endometrial cancer, reached efficacy and safety goals in phase 2 clinical trials. This doesn't even take into account the positive data from the company's other pre-clinical drug candidates.

The reason I like Aeterna Zentaris (a lot) has to do with a simple numbers game. Back in April, I commented that relative to some of its peers, Aeterna Zentaris gets no respect. The company currently has 11 compounds under development and two in phase 3 clinical trials, yet it commands a market value of only $150 million.

Compare this with XenoPort (NAS: XNPT) , Orexigen Therapeutics (NAS: OREX) , or ImmunoGen (NAS: IMGN) , which have seven, two, and 12 drugs under development but have only a combined two drug candidates currently in phase 3 trials. Still, these companies command market valuations of $179 million, $99 million, and $973 million. The numbers simply don't make sense, but I anticipate that will change soon enough.

Consider this another successful quarter for Aeterna Zentaris in its quest to gain some respect from investors.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorSean Williamshas no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen nameTMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen nameTrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle@TMFUltraLong.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of ImmunoGen. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policythat recently reported positive results in the efficacy of its truthiness.

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