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Geron (GERN) Q1 Loss In-Line, Imetelstat Remains in Focus

Geron Corporation GERN reported a loss of 6 cents per share in the first quarter of 2016, unchanged from the year-ago period and in-line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Total revenues increased 39.5% from the year-ago period to $749,000 in the first quarter of 2016. The Zacks Consensus Estimate forecasted no revenues for the first quarter.

Revenues included royalty and license fee revenues under various non-imetelstat agreements.

Research and development (R&D) expenses remained flat at $5 million reflecting the impact of higher costs for the company’s share of development expenses under the imetelstat collaboration with Johnson & Johnson’s JNJ Janssen Biotech partially offset by lower personnel related expenses resulting from the 2015 organizational resizing.

R&D expenses are expected to increase during the remainder of the year as the development of imetelstat continues.

Imetelstat is currently in a phase II study (IMbark) in patients with DIPSS intermediate-2 or high-risk myelofibrosis who have relapsed after or are refractory to a JAK inhibitor. An internal review to determine the adequacy of one or both of the initial dosing arms is slated for the second half of the year. Based on this review, a decision will be taken regarding the continuation/halting/modification of the dosing arms or the selection of alternative doses.

Imetelstat is in a phase II/III study (IMerge) as well for myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). An internal review of this study (to support advancement into Part 2) is also expected in the second half of the year.

General and administrative expenses increased 4.3% to $4.8 million.

Geron is currently working on expanding its pipeline – the company is seeking to add new oncology candidates, programs or companies to its portfolio.

Geron is a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock. We are positive on the company's agreement with Johnson & Johnson which provides it with a strong partner as well as funds. The company’s growth prospects currently depend entirely on the successful development of imetelstat which is its sole pipeline candidate.

We expect investor focus to remain on imetelstat and business development updates.

Some better-ranked stocks in the health care sector include ANI Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ANIP and Cambrex Corporation CBM. Both are Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks.

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