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Benzinga’s Top Upgrades, Downgrades For December 29, 2020


These 2 Penny Stocks Are Poised to Go Boom, Say Analysts

Wall Street has mixed feelings about penny stocks. These tickers changing hands for less than $5 per share either draw investors in with their high return potential or send them running for the hills, but why?When we say high return potential, we aren’t exaggerating. The bargain price points allow investors to snap up more shares than possible when investing in other more well-known names. What’s more, even what feels like trivial share price appreciation can translate to massive percentage gains.That said, there’s a legitimate reason some investors are wary when it comes to penny stocks. The risk involved with these plays scares off the faint hearted as very real problems like weak fundamentals or overwhelming headwinds could be masked by the low share prices.So, how should investors approach a potential penny stock investment? By taking a cue from the analyst community. These experts bring in-depth knowledge of the industries they cover and substantial experience to the table.Bearing this in mind, we used TipRanks’ database to find two compelling penny stocks, according to Wall Street analysts. Both tickers boast a Strong Buy consensus rating and plenty of upside potential.Matinas BioPharma (MTNB) By using its lipid nano-crystal platform (LNC) delivery technology, Matinas BioPharma hopes to solve complex challenges related to the oral delivery of small molecules, gene therapies, vaccines, proteins and peptides. Currently going for $0.87 apiece, several members of the Street believe its share price presents an attractive entry point.Writing for BTIG, 5-star analyst Robert Hazlett points to MAT2203 as a key component of his bullish thesis. The therapy was designed as a liposomal nanocrystal (LNC) version of the broad-spectrum anti-fungal amphotericin B that allows for oral delivery of the drug.Ahead of the Phase 2 EnACT trial evaluating the candidate in cryptococcal meningitis, with enrollment for Cohort 2 set to begin in the near-term and the next DSMB data expected in mid-2021, Hazlett points out that this is the “first of potentially several indications with the novel antifungal.”Further explaining his optimism about the therapy, Hazlett stated, “There was unanimous recommendation by the independent DSMB to move to the second cohort of patients in of EnACT, which is a validating event for MAT2203, as progression through the cohorts is assessed by the rate of CSF fungal clearance and the absence of fungal count rebound, and progression through the cohorts of EnACT therefore signals MAT2203’s activity and its successful crossing of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to maintain a reduced fungal count in the CSF.”Additionally, the enrollment for ENHANCE-IT, a head-to-head trial of MAT9001 compared to Amarin’s Vascepa, has been completed. MAT9001 is MTNB’s free fatty acid formulation of EPA and DPA, and according to Hazlett, it generates substantially higher blood levels of EPA than Vascepa.If that wasn’t enough, the company has recently announced a collaboration with the NIAID to study a liposomal nanocrystal (LNC) formulation of Gilead’s remdesivir, for an oral formulation of the COVID-19 therapy. “We believe this collaboration further validates Matinas’ LNC technology,” Hazlett commented.In line with his bullish stance, Hazlett rates MTNB a Buy, and his $5 price target implies room for a stunning 474% upside potential in the next 12 months. (To watch Hazlett’s track record, click here)Turning now to the rest of the Street, other analysts echo Hazlett’s sentiment. As only Buy recommendations have been published in the last three months, MTNB earns a Strong Buy analyst consensus. With the average price target clocking in at $4, shares could soar 359% from current levels. (See MTNB stock analysis on TipRanks)Equillium (EQ)Leveraging an in-depth understanding of immunology and its role in disease, Equillium is developing innovative therapies for severe autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. With shares trading for $4.25, some analysts think that now is the time to pull the trigger.Following the company’s Analyst Day highlighting its clinical programs for anti-CD6 monoclonal antibody itolizumab, Leerink analyst Thomas Smith remains optimistic about its long-term growth prospects.During the event, EQ released individual patient responses along with biomarker analyses, coming on the heels of the recent positive interim data from the first three cohorts of the Phase 1b EQUATE trial studying itolizumab in acute graft versus host disease (aGVHD). Going forward, the company wants to conduct dose expansion in Cohorts 2 and 3, by enrolling three additional patients in each cohort, with top line results from the trial expected in 1H21.Looking at the initial data from the Phase 1b EQUATE trial, it showed rapid, deep, and durable responses for itolizumab in aGVHD, in Smith’s opinion. As for the updated data, there was an 80% overall response rate (ORR) across all doses by day 57, with 8 out of 10 total patients achieving a complete response (CR). What’s more, the therapy was also tied to the ability to taper and dose reduce systemic steroid use in patients.“These results aligned with biomarker data showing that itolizumab rapidly decreased CD6 expression on CD4 and CD8 T cells. We believe these results are compelling and supportive of EQ’s plans to expand dosing into additional GVHD patients at the 0.8mg/kg and 1.6mg/kg dose levels,” Smith explained.If that wasn’t enough, EQ presented preclinical and translational research supporting the Phase 1b EQUALISE trial for itolizumab in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and lupus nephritis (LN), and Smith expects top line results in SLE to come in 1Q21 and interim results in LN in 2H21.To this end, Smith rates EQ a Buy along with an $18 price target. Should this target be met in the year ahead, investors could be pocketing a gain of ~328%. (To watch Smith’s track record, click here)What does the rest of the Street have to say? 3 Buys and no Holds or Sells add up to a Strong Buy consensus rating. Given the $15 average price target, shares could skyrocket 328% in the year ahead. (See EQ stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for penny stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.

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