Worth Watching Stocks in Focus: ZIOPHARM Oncology Inc. (NASDAQ:ZIOP), First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)

On Wednesday, Shares of ZIOPHARM Oncology Inc. (NASDAQ:ZIOP), subtract -9.61% and closed at $6.87 in the last trading session. The last trading range of the stock ranges between $6.84 and $7.80. ZIOPHARM Oncology, Inc. (ZIOP), a biopharmaceutical company focused on new immunotherapies, recently declared the publication of data demonstrating improved persistence of genetically modified T cells targeting leukemia through utilization of its non-viral Sleeping Beauty (SB) system to co-express membrane-bound IL-15 (mbIL15) and a CD19-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). The article, titled “Tethered IL-15 augments antitumor activity and promotes a stem-cell memory subset in tumor-specific T cells,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

Using the SB system, researchers generated genetically modified T cells that preserved stem-cell memory (TSCM) by co-expressing the CAR with a fusion variant of IL-15. These engineered T cells were effective in treating established CD19+ leukemia in mice by facilitating the long-term persistence of TSCM cells sustained by signaling through mbIL15. These findings provide for a translational pipeline of immunotherapies with improved potential by combining mbIL15 and T cells with diverse specificities.

“The ability to generate CAR-T cells with preserved stem-cell memory is a novel strategy for promoting long-lived persistence and effectiveness of immunotherapies for the treatment of patients with cancers. Producing this rare, but highly desirable, T-cell subset has historically been a challenge,” said Laurence Cooper, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of ZIOPHARM and an author of the publication.

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR), dropped -1.11% and closed at $32.82 in the last trading session. The last trading range of the stock ranges between $32.28 and $33.12. The company’s Market capitalization is $3.42 Billion with the total Outstanding Shares of 103.91 million. First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) recently declared an acceleration of Series 6 production into 2018, with about 3 Gigawatts of production expected in 2019. Over the course of 2017 and 2018 the Company’s existing production facilities will be converted to Series 6 production and the current Series 4 product will be phased out. As a result of the change in roadmap the Company will cancel its Series 5 product.

“The acceleration of the Series 6 roadmap is an important development for First Solar,” said Mark Widmar, CEO of First Solar. “Following the completion of an internal review process to evaluate the best competitive response to address the current challenging market conditions, we have developed plans that will facilitate us to more quickly begin production of our Series 6 module. Although the decision to accelerate our Series 6 roadmap requires a restructuring of our current operations, we expect the transition to Series 6 will facilitate us to maximize the intrinsic cost advantage of CdTe thin-film technology as compared to crystalline silicon. Recent steep module pricing declines require us to evaluate all components of our cost structure and streamline our business model to best position the Company for long-term success.” Resulting from the transition to Series 6 from Series 4 and other competitive factors, the Company anticipates to incur restructuring and asset impairment charges of $500 to $700 million, which includes a cash impact of $70 to $100 million. The charges are anticipated mainly in 2016 and are comprised of the following:

$475 to $585 million, counting asset impairments related to Series 4, Series 5 and stored manufacturing equipment, and charges for cancellation of open purchase orders. The cash impact is anticipated to range from $50 to $70 million.

Up to $80 million for a non-cash impairment of goodwill

$10 to $15 million in cash severance charges, expected mainly in 2016

$15 to $20 million of other charges, expected mainly in 2017

These pre-tax restructuring and asset impairment charges are expected to have an offsetting tax benefit of $50 to $100 million.

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