The Mission Report

The MissionIR Report - Mid-November 2011

In-depth analysis, timely updates, latest market news


Market News

Company Updates


Americans Increase Retail Spending in October

U.S. consumers spent more money at online stores such as Amazon and electronics and appliance stores, as retail sales rose sharply for the second straight month. Sales at U.S retailers increased a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in October, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. That follows a strong 1.1% surge in September.

The pace of sales in October suggests the fourth quarter got off to a good start since consumer spending accounts for the bulk of U.S. economic growth. If the level of spending is similar in November and December, the economy would likely grow faster than the third-quarter rate of 2.5%.

The data isn't adjusted for prices, but economists expect no monthly change in consumer prices during October. The consumer price index is due for release Wednesday.

Other data on Tuesday also suggest further improvement in the U.S. economy. Wholesale prices eased 0.3% — the biggest drop in more than a year and a half — and a survey of manufacturing executives turned positive for the first time in six months. See story on producer prices.

Millan Mulraine of TD Securities said "the economy appears to be clearly on the right track and moving in the right direction."

Yet economists also point out that consumers have reduced their savings to finance their most recent purchases. Unless wages rise or companies hire more rapidly, consumer spending probably cannot sustain its recent pace.

"Consumers, which account for 71% of the economy, continue to spend," said BMO senior economist Jennifer Lee. "That's great news for growth, but where they're getting the money to spend is a little concerning."

Auto sales, meanwhile, contributed a much smaller portion of retail sales in October than they did in September. Auto-related sales rose 0.4% last month after a 4.2% spike in September.

Excluding the auto sector, retail sales rose 0.6% in October. Auto sales can swing sharply from month to month and mask underlying retail trends.

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected retail sales to rise a seasonally adjusted 0.2%, or a scant 0.1% minus autos.

The biggest increase in retail sales took place among electronics and appliance stores. Sales jumped 3.7%, the fastest rate in almost two years.

Sales at nonstore retailers — Internet companies and mail-order catalogs — rose 1.5%. That was the biggest increase since January.

Sales also rose 1.5% among do-it-yourself and garden stores, 1.1% for grocery stores and 1.3% for shops that sell sporting goods, books and music.

Consumers were able to increase their spending on discretionary items partly because they had to spend less on fuel to drive to nearby stores. Gasoline stations reported a 0.4% decline in sales.

Americans also spent less at department stores (-1.2%), clothing stores (-0.7%) and home-furnishing stores (-0.7%).

Overall retail sales are 7.2% higher compared to one year ago, and they have increased 7.6% in the past three months.

Oil Price Flirts with $100 per Barrel

Oil prices climbed to near $100 per barrel Tuesday following a series of positive reports about the U.S. economy.

In midday trading benchmark crude rose 36 cents to $98.50 per barrel in New York. Crude jumped as high as $99.34 at one point. Brent crude, which is used to price many foreign oil varieties, rose 45 cents to $112.34 per barrel in London.

Prices jumped after the U.S. said that consumer spending rose in October for the fifth straight month. Spending increased for electronics, appliances, hardware and building supplies. Sales also rose at grocery stores, bars and restaurants and health care stores. Inflation eased last month, as companies paid less for gas, new cars and other goods.

The European Union also said that the 17-nation bloc avoided contracting in the third quarter. The eurozone economy grew by 0.2 percent in the July-September period. However, it's still expected to fall into recession as countries like Italy and Greece cut spending to reduce debt.

Meanwhile, retail gasoline prices in the U.S. slipped less than a penny to a national average of $3.41 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Gasoline prices are about 52 cents higher than the same time last year.

In other energy trading, heating oil was essentially flat at $3.1562 per gallon, and gasoline futures rose 3 cents to $2.5678 per gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $3.582 per 1,000 cubic feet.

VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc. (VSTA) Represents Growing Field of Cell-Based Therapy

Few would dispute the fact that more progress has been made in medicine and the overall science of healthcare in the past century than in all of the previous centuries put together. If there's a focal point for this ongoing revolution, it's the increasing ability to treat disease at the cellular and even molecular level, often through tapping the patient's own unique cellular powers for regeneration and combatting disease. Working in this field requires dealing with biochemical complexities that were unimaginable a few decades ago, and can involve huge up-front investments of time and money, but the potential applications are almost endless.

However, in the case of VistaGen Therapeutics, the ability to work directly with human cells offers a way for pharmaceutical companies to save money while risking less of it. VistaGen has developed a way to use advanced stem cell technology to generate human cell based bioassay systems that allow new drug candidates to be effectively tested for possible toxicity without having to expend the volumes of money and effort required to take a drug all the way to human clinical trial. It's a highly accurate and economical way to identify problems early on, in addition to making it feasible to cost-effectively develop non-toxic drug variants, so that promising drugs aren't shelved unnecessarily.

This superior method of drug toxicity testing, not to mention the thousands of other advancements that have already taken place as a result of new stem cell discoveries, will potentially enable even greater strides in medicine over the next century. Notable publicly traded companies using stem cell and associated technologies for the rapid advancement of health care include the following:

  • Aastrom Biosciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: ASTM) uses ixmyelocel-T, a patient-specific multicellular therapy, which draws on the human body's own healing powers, to help people with severe chronic cardiovascular disease.
  • Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. (OTCBB: ACTC) applies stem cell based technologies in the field of regenerative medicine.
  • BioTime, Inc. (AMEX: BTX) develops and markets products and technologies in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine, including proprietary ACTCellerate™ cell lines, culture media, and differentiation kits.
  • Cytori Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CYTX) focuses on regenerative medicine, with products for the cosmetic and reconstructive, cell banking, research, and various disease markets.
  • Bacterin International Holdings, Inc. (AMEX: BONE) is a developer of anti-infective coatings for medical applications and bone graft materials.
  • Pluristem Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: PSTI) develops placenta-based cell therapies to treat a variety of local and systemic inflammatory diseases.
  • Geron Corporation (NASDAQ: GERN) uses differentiated human embryonic stem cells to develop biopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer and chronic degenerative diseases.
  • Neuralstem, Inc. (AMEX: CUR) has a patented technology that can produce neural stem cells of the human brain and spinal cord in commercial quantities, and also has a cell therapy platform for targeting central nervous system conditions.
  • Neostem, Inc. (AMEX: NBS) is accelerating proprietary cellular therapies, and becoming a single source for collection, storage, production, development and transportation of cells for cell-based medicines and regenerative science.
  • ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd. (OTCBB: IMUC) harnesses the body's immune system for therapies against a variety of cancers.
  • VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc. (OTCBB: VSTA), in addition to developing human pluripotent stem cell-based bioassay systems, focuses on using its unique stem cell technologies for cell therapy and regenerative medicine, such as repairing, replacing, or restoring damaged tissues or organs.

For additional information on VistaGen Therapeutics and its stem cell-based bioassay systems, visit the company's website at

Golden Star Resources, Ltd. (GSS)

Earlier this month, Golden Star Resources announced its third quarter results for the three month period ending September 20, 2011. An increase in gold prices and higher production pushed gold sales to $125.9 million, up 15% from $109.8 million in the second quarter of 2011 and up 21% from $103.7 million in the third quarter a year ago. The Company returned to positive cash flow from operations while continuing to invest in initiatives to reduce costs and increase reserves and resources.

Earlier this month, Golden Star Resources announced its third quarter results for the three month period ending September 20, 2011. An increase in gold prices and higher production pushed gold sales to $125.9 million, up 15% from $109.8 million in the second quarter of 2011 and up 21% from $103.7 million in the third quarter a year ago. The Company returned to positive cash flow from operations while continuing to invest in initiatives to reduce costs and increase reserves and resources.

About Golden Star Resources, Ltd. (GSS)

Golden Star Resources is a mid-tier gold mining company with total historical production of over two million ounces of gold. In addition to operational growth, the company has consistently grown through exploration and corporate development activities. Since incorporation over a quarter-century ago, Golden Star has maintained a long-term commitment to sustainability with particular emphasis on health, education and the environment.

The company has two operating mines situated along the prolific Ashanti Gold Belt in Ghana, West Africa. Its growth strategy includes exploration and expansion activities at both Bogoso/Prestea and Wassa/HBB. The Bogoso/Prestea mine has the ability to process both non-refractory and refractory ores. The Wassa plant processes ore from the Wassa pits in addition to high grade ore from the HBB satellite mines.

Over its 25-plus year history, Golden Star has maintained an aggressive exploration program. Year over year, the company's exploration budget has ranged between $10 and $20 million per year. The exploration expenditures for 2011 are expected to total $20 million. While the majority of Golden Star's exploration activities are proximal to operations in Ghana, the company has a property portfolio that includes projects in Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Niger in West Africa and Brazil in South America.

Hansen Medical, Inc. (HNSN)

In recent news, Hansen Medical announced the world's first uses of the Magellan™ Robotic System in the treatment of Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD). The System was designed to allow precise and predictable catheter navigation of peripheral vessels while reducing procedure time, lessening radiation exposure, lowering procedural fatigue and enabling new procedures.

"Today's announcement is a significant milestone in the history of Hansen Medical," commented Hansen Medical's Bruce Barclay, president and CEO. "It reinforces our commitment to improve the lives of patients, and the physicians that treat and care for them, around the world, and opens up an entirely new market for the use of flexible robotics in the vasculature."

About Hansen Medical, Inc. (HNSN)

Hansen Medical, Inc., a global leader in flexible robotics, is focused on creating robotic solutions that provide physicians with a better suite of tools for their procedural and therapeutic success. The Company's unique combination of technology and ergonomics helps healthcare professionals establish a new standard of care by enabling a new class of percutaneous procedures using advanced electromechanical technology.

Hansen Medical's Sensei X Robotic Catheter System is the world's next-generation purely robotic flexible platform that integrates advanced levels of 3D catheter control with 3D visualization to provide accuracy and stability during catheter-based electrophysiology procedures. By translating hand motions at the workstation to the control catheter inside the patient's heart, the Sensei X System's proprietary instinctive motion control technology empowers accurate and deliberate catheter placement.

The Company is executing a well thought out commercial plan to chart a path toward profitability. Equities research analysts at Ladenburg Thalmann recently initiated coverage on shares of Hansen Medical, Inc. The analysts set a "buy" rating and a $4.50 price target on the stock. Also notable, analysts at C.K. Cooper raised their price target on shares of Hansen Medical, Inc. from $4.00 to $5.30 in a research note to investors earlier this year.

VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc.

VistaGen Therapeutics recently announced poster presentation of its research and development activities leading to validation of its human stem cell-derived "Micro-Heart" cardiotoxicity bioassay system, CardioSafe 3D™, at the fourth Symposium on Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine. The poster was presented by Dr. Ralph Snodgrass, VistaGen's President and Chief Scientific Officer, at the NIH symposium held in Bethesda, Maryland on October 4 - 5, 2011.

"Cardiotoxicity has been implicated in almost 30% of drug withdrawals in the United States over the last 30 years," said Dr. Ralph Snodgrass, President and Chief Scientific Officer of VistaGen. "Our human stem cell-derived 'Micro-Heart' cardiotoxicity assay, CardioSafe 3D™, will contribute to the efficient and rapid identification of safer drugs before valuable resources are lost developing drug candidates with toxicity issues that are undetected until human clinical trials are in progress or even after FDA approval resulting in withdrawal from the market."

About VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc.

VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc. is a biotechnology company applying stem cell technology for drug rescue and cell therapy. Drug rescue combines human stem cell technology with modern medicinal chemistry to generate new chemical variants ("drug rescue variants") of promising drug candidates that have been discontinued during preclinical development ("put on the shelf") due to heart or liver safety concerns. VistaGen also focuses on cell therapy, or regenerative medicine, which includes repairing, replacing or restoring damaged tissues or organs.

VistaGen's versatile stem cell technology platform, Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube™, has been developed to provide clinically relevant predictions of potential toxicity of promising new drug candidates long before they are ever tested on humans. VistaGen's human pluripotent stem cell-based bioassay systems more closely approximate human biology than conventional animal studies and other nonclinical techniques and technologies currently used in drug development.

Using mature human heart cells produced from pluripotent stem cells, VistaGen leveraged its Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube™ platform to develop CardioSafe 3D™, a novel three-dimensional (3D) bioassay system for predicting the in vivo cardiac effects of new drug candidates before they are tested in humans. The Company now plans to use CardioSafe 3D™ to build a pipeline of small molecule drug rescue variants of once-promising drug candidates that have been "put on the shelf" by pharmaceutical companies and academic research institutions because of heart toxicity concerns, despite positive efficacy data signaling their potential therapeutic and commercial benefits.

VistaGen is also developing LiverSafe 3D™, a novel predictive liver toxicity and drug metabolism bioassay system for drug rescue applications. In parallel with drug rescue activities, the company is funding early-stage nonclinical studies focused on potential cell therapy applications of its Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube™ platform. Each of these nonclinical studies is based on the proprietary human pluripotent stem cell differentiation and cell production capabilities of VistaGen's Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube™ platform.


For more frequent updates, follow us on Twitter!

Home     About Us     IR Services     Investors     Partners     Market Research     Blog     Contact     Disclaimer

© 2011 Mission Investor Relations. All rights reserved.
3645 Marketplace Blvd.   Suite 130-280   Atlanta, GA 30344   404-941-8975