Ocean Biomedical, Inc. (NASDAQ: OCEA) is a biotechnology company focused on transforming biomedical inventions into cutting-edge therapies. The company develops novel therapies in the areas of oncology, fibrosis, and infectious diseases, in partnership with universities, medical centers, and researchers.
Listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the symbol OCEA, Ocean Biomedical works to accelerate the development and commercialization of discoveries from research universities and medical centers. The company was formed in 2019 and is headquartered in Rhode Island. It was founded by Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, who is also the executive chairman. Elizabeth Ng is the chief executive officer.
As part of its efforts to expand the business, the company recently entered into a joint venture partnership with Virion Therapeutics to find treatments for cancer and chronic infectious diseases.
Ocean Biomedical has a promising pipeline of late-stage pre-clinical assets in cancer, malaria, and fibrosis — a breakthrough vaccine candidate for malaria is currently being advanced. The company is developing three programs based on discoveries of novel, first-in-class biological targets, with each having the potential for multiple indications.
Cancer Program: The company is advancing immunotherapies for lung, brain, and other cancers while continuing to enhance the understanding of the broad anti-tumor mechanisms behind its anti-CHi3L1 discoveries. Studies have confirmed the effectiveness of anti-CHi3L1 in brain cancer, creating a 60% reduction in tumor growth in the human glioblastoma multiforme stem cell model in vivo.
Malaria Program: The Ocean Biomedical team is pushing its discovery science forward on several fronts to develop new solutions to address the urgent global need to develop more effective therapies for malaria treatment, including by enhancing the knowledge and control of the mechanisms by which the company’s PfGARP antigen induces malaria parasite death and optimizing/developing an mRNA vaccine candidate based on discoveries of PfGARP, PfSEA, and another antigen that may be able to simultaneously target the malaria parasite at different stages of the blood cycle.
Fibrosis Program: Scientists at Ocean Biomedical are also actively working to address the standard of care and treatment options for those suffering from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. There are indications that the company’s candidate for treating IPF may also prove effective against many other fibrotic diseases. The progress achieved in the program includes testing the anti-fibrotic treatment candidate OCF-203, which has generated impressive reductions of fibrosis in multiple models and reduced collagen accumulation by 85%-90%.
A few weeks after entering into a JV partnership with Ocean Biomedical, biotechnology company Virion Therapeutics presented positive preclinical oncology data at the annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, SITC 2023. Virion’s immunotherapies utilize proprietary genetically encoded checkpoint modifiers to enhance and broaden CD8+T-cell responses.
Recently, Ocean’s chief scientist Jonathan Kurtis received the Falk Medical Research Trust Transformational Award to advance a new class of anti-malarial drug candidates. His program includes a therapeutic small-molecule drug candidate for treating severe malaria and a therapeutic antibody for short-term malaria prevention.
Earlier, the company received a new patent for anti-fibrosis discoveries. The patent covers its anti-Chitinase 1 small molecule candidate. It is found that the candidate significantly controls fibrosis progression in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome in multiple testing models.
For the quarter ended June 2023, the company reported a net loss of $13.02 million or $0.49 per share, compared to a loss of $7.33 million or $0.31 per share in the prior-year period. Meanwhile, total operating expenses more than halved to $2.68 million in the June quarter from $6.9 million last year. At the end of the quarter, the company had total assets of $20.9 million.
Shares of Ocean Biomedical started trading on the Nasdaq stock market on February 15, 2023, under the ticker symbol OCEA, following a reverse merger of special purpose acquisition company Aesther Healthcare Acquisition Corp. The performance of the stock has not been very impressive in 2023, as it experienced weakness so far. While market watchers remain optimistic about OCEA’s growth prospects, the stock traded below its 52-week average during the second half. It has a heavy internal ownership.
The Good and The Bad
The company has committed financial backing, including funding facilities with White Lion Capital and Alto Opportunity Master Fund. Recently, Ocean inked a pact with its largest stockholder, Poseidon Bio, LLC, for a proposed debt facility consisting of convertible promissory notes with a principal amount of up to $10 million. However, the company is not immune to the growing competition the healthcare market is witnessing, though it follows an innovative business model. Also, the changing pharmaceutical landscape, marked by consolidations, poses a challenge to businesses engaged in the development and commercialization of medicines.
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