Med-Tech Companies

Clinical-trial firm sells majority stake

Prism Clinical Research, a privately held clinical-trial company in St. Paul, has sold a majority stake in the business to Australian research organization Nucleus Network for $7 million.

Prism Clinical Research runs a 52-bed research facility in the University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL), a biotech-heavy business incubator along Hwy. 280 just north of the University Avenue interchange. The Prism facility specializes in early-stage clinical research. Current clients include five UEL tenants.

“Prism has long been what can best be described as an anchor tenant in our facility,” UEL Executive Director Diane Rucker said in an announcement. “The company … is a vital partner for many of our tenants, helping them validate their technology to increase the likelihood of their commercial success.”

A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said Prism received a $7 million investment on Aug. 8, and the deal announcement said the all-cash investment secured an unspecified majority stake in the company.

Nucleus conducted an extensive search for a U.S. facility before settling on Prism and its UEL facility. Prism is known for its ability to conduct Phase I trials in “diverse therapeutic populations.”

joe Carlson

public companies

Stock split is increasingly rare company move

SPS Commerce announced a 2-for-1 stock split on July 25, for shareholders of record on Aug. 8, to be paid on Aug. 22.

The stock closed at $104.83 on Aug. 22 and after the split shareholders received two shares for every one they owned and the stock price was adjusted appropriately. SPS was trading around $50 per share Aug. 23.

“We believe the stock will provide better liquidity and allow the stock to be more acceptable to a broad range of investors,” Minneapolis-based SPS said.

But stock splits are an increasingly rare action companies take to manage the price, but not value, of their shares.

The last large Minnesota-based public company to issue a stock split was Fastenal in May, and before that Graco in December 2017. According to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices in 1998 there were 1,125 stock splits and reverse stock splits from all publicly traded companies; by 2008 that number had dipped to 338, and last year there were just 227 stock splits.

Companies used to target a share-price range more closely by using stock splits. “You could almost plot when a stock hit a certain level,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices who started at the company in 1977. “If they liked to keep the stock around $60, and when it hit $75 or $80 they would split it.”

There are still legitimate reasons for conducting a stock split, but greater institutional ownership and faster and cheaper trades for both institutional and retail investors creates less incentive to manage to a share price range.

Patrick Kennedy

Medical tech

CVRx gets U.S. nod to market Barostim Neo

CVRx, a privately owned med-tech firm in Brooklyn Park founded in 2001, said its Barostim Neo system is the first medical device approved in the U.S. that treats chronic heart failure by sending electrical impulses to the natural baroreceptors in the carotid artery in the neck.

“After many decades of research in the field of neuromodulation, the Barostim Neo is the first device approved in the United States that uses the power of the brain and nervous system to target cardiovascular disease,” CVRx CEO Nadim Yared said in a company announcement.

Neuromodulation is a broad category of medical therapies in which pacemaker-like devices are implanted under the skin to apply electric current directly to nerves to stimulate brain activity and trigger desired physiological changes.

CVRx specializes in applying mild current to nerve endings in the carotid artery in the neck. The company has run clinical trials in the past to see how well the system could lower blood pressure and treat heart failure, which has been its focus since 2015.

In May, researchers presented the results of a pivotal controlled clinical trial in which 130 people who had been on guideline-directed medical therapy were randomized to get a Barostim Neo, while another 134 people remained on medical therapy in the company-sponsored trial.

The results showed objective and subjective improvements in CVRx patients. Objectively, the Barostim group saw a 21% reduction in the hormone NT-proBNP, while the control group saw a 3% increase. NT-proBNP is a closely watched biomarker because increases indicate a worsening of heart failure.

Barostim patients also showed improvements in “quality of life” measurements, including a 14-point improvement over the control group in the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire, and a 60-meter improvement in the standardized six-minute hall walk test.

Patients in the study were generally eligible only if they had Class III heart failure and a 35% or less ejection fraction in the left ventricle.

joe Carlson