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"A question that probably some of you are thinking of ... which I find to be very interesting. So, supposedly we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light... inside the body ... Sounds interesting, right? ... It sounds interesting to me."
President Trump caught a lot of flak last week for -- so the story goes -- urging patients infected with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-19 to "drink bleach" in order to "disinfect" themselves from the inside out. Sadly, the President then proceeded to mix his advice with some less-than-coherent musings about "injections" and "cleanings" and "disinfectants" -- and calls to U.S. poison control centers apparently spiked in response to those comments.
But that doesn't mean the President was completely in the wrong. In fact, one company thinks he might be on to something.
Tiny Englewood, Colorado-based microcap Aytu BioScience (AYTU) apparently took the President's musings to heart (the ones about the light, at least -- not the Clorox), announcing that it has signed an agreement with privately-held Sterling Medical Devices to help commercialize a light-based therapy developed by the Cedars-Sinai Health System to treat COVID-19.
The device in question, dubbed "Healight," is described as a "novel endotracheal catheter," whereby a tube is inserted into a patient's endotracheal and nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) regions. Glowing and dousing a patient's innards with UV-light, it is hoped the device might prove to be "a safe and effective antiviral and antibacterial treatment" for defeating the SARS-CoV-19 coronavirus.
As Aytu argues, Sterling, its chosen partner in this venture, "has a stellar reputation as a best-in-class medical device product firm with more than 21 years of experience." Out of "over 1,100 projects engineered ... none [have failed] to receive FDA regulatory approval upon submission," notes Aytu CEO Josh Disbrow. With Sterling's help, Aytu hopes it will be able to use Healight "to positively impact outcomes for critically ill patients infected with coronavirus and other infections."
And so do investors -- who bid up Aytu's stock by more than 44% in Monday trading.
Pie in the sky, you say? Perhaps. We do note Disbrow's clever language, potentially inflating Sterling's success rate with caveats such as "1,100 projects engineered" being approved only "upon submission." How many of those projects didn't pan out well enough to ever be submitted for FDA approval, one wonders?
This isn't Aytu's first foray into COVID-19 work, however, nor its only chance of success. In a note recommending that investors "buy" the shares earlier this month, Ladenburg Thalmann analyst Jeffrey Cohen noted that the company is also distributing "COVID-19 IgM and IgG rapid tests" designed to detect the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in the capillary blood of infected patients. AytuBioScience has apparently already sold 100,000 such test kits into the market, and is working to obtain 500,000 more from the test's developer, Zhejiang Orient Gene Biotech Co., Ltd. in China. Based largely on its test kit business, Cohen postulates that Aytu stock could be worth $2.50 a share -- 38% more than what it currently sells for.
And who knows? Even if the UV light thingamajig doesn't work out -- maybe the test kit venture will.
Overall, Aytu has slipped under most analysts’ radar; the stock’s Moderate Buy consensus is based on just two recent ratings. With shares trading at $1.84, the $3.75 average price target suggests room for over 100% upside. (See Aytu stock analysis on TipRanks)
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