The suggestion that a single stock could lead some investors to become millionaires next year may sound fanciful but I think this is quite possible if events work out for small-cap drug discovery and development firm ImmuPharma(LSE: IMM). Let me explain.
Over the last three months, shares in the AIM-listed company have climbed more than 200% in value as anticipation grows over the outcome of a Phase III clinical trial for Lupuzor -- its 100%-owned potential treatment for Lupus.
Approximately five million people are believed to suffer from the chronic and potentially life-threatening autoimmune disease that can be a notoriously difficult to treat. In the last 50 years, only one therapy -- GlaxoSmithKline's Benlysta -- has been approved for use, despite its questionable efficacy and serious side-effects. In 2015, the drug achieved sales of over $400m. By 2020, this figure is expected to rise to $1bn.
Positively, data from Lupozor's Phase IIb trial indicated that ImmuPharma's treatment -- which modulates rather than blocks the immune system -- was both effective and safe. Moreover, the effectiveness of Lupuzor increased even after the three-month trial's conclusion. Investors will be hoping that the 52-week, randomised and double-blinded study currently in progress (involving patients in the US, Europe and Mauritius) yields similar results.
In its most recent update on 21 December, the company revealed that all 200 participants had now received the full 12-month dosage and that the "robust safety record" shown in earlier trials continues to be seen. According to Chairman Tim McCarthy, the company looks forward "withcontinuedconfidence" to reporting on top-line results in Q1 of next year.
In the event of a positive outcome, ImmuPharma will then seek to exploit its Fast Track designation and push for approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once received, the company would then be free to seek out a global licensing deal for taking Lupuzor to market or -- perhaps more likely -- consider takeover bids by deep-pocketed pharmaceutical giants at a price befitting its blockbuster potential. Given the suggestion that it could be used in the treatment of other diseases, the price could easily be in the billions of pounds. Right now, ImmuPharma's market cap is a little over £200m.
Tempted? If so, it's vital to consider the flip side of this investment.
A word of warning
Despite the encouraging outcomes of previous trials, the possibility of the drug failing to impress still remains. Plenty of highly promising treatments have disappointed at the last hurdle, resulting in significant capital losses for investors. Unless you're willing to embrace this level of risk, Immupharma shouldn't even make it on to your watchlist, let alone into your portfolio.
That's why -- as a holder of its stock -- only a small proportion of my capital is invested in the company. This money can be lost. I might grumble and curse but -- thanks to a degree of diversification -- I won't lose my shirt.
That said, if -- and it remains a sizeable 'if' -- Lupuzor proves effective (or at least more efficacious than Benlysta), I'm confident that ImmuPharma could generate huge wealth for investors in a very short time period.
No investment is devoid of risk but only you can decide whether this is one worth taking.
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Paul Summers owns shares in ImmuPharma. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.