Time to Evolve: 3 Synthetic Biology Stocks to Sell Off Now

Stocks to sell

The synthetic biology boom of the pandemic era has become a synthetic biology bust. Many synthetic biology stocks promised the moon and delivered mud. It’s an evolving stock market and it’s time to sell the stocks that have no hope of recovery. Many companies that are currently beaten down still have much further to fall.

The sell-off in synthetic biology stocks has revealed that there were many overvalued synthetic biology stocks with no revenue and no profit. With borrowing costs on the rise as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, these companies now have no hope. While there are still many companies doing wonderful research, a clear-headed investor has to know when to unload their losers. And many of these synthetic biology companies are never coming back up.

It can be easy to look at a stock’s previous highs and think that their current price is a bargain. But there’s no guarantee, and very little likelihood, that any of these stocks will ever reach their highs of 2 years ago again. The pandemic brought about a market where any and all biology companies were bought up to giddying highs. But the stock market has evolved and investors must evolve with it.

Here are 3 synthetic biology stocks you’ll want to sell, since they have no hope left of making you money.

Beyond Meat (BYND)

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Synthetic biology can turn plants into a burger, but it can’t yet do so profitably. Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) brought to market a healthier, plant-based alternative to the common patty. But it has done so by burning through investors’ cash, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

It was sometimes thought that Beyond Meat’s patties could lure away carnivores through economics as well as taste, as plant-based meat was supposed to be cheaper. A quick trip to my local grocery store has shown this not to be the case. And a phone call to friends around the country shows it isn’t a local issue.  Beyond Meat patties remain stubbornly more expensive than real meat. And a look at Beyond Meat’s financials shows that cutting prices won’t fix the company’s issues.

Beyond Meat’s Q1 2023 earnings report shows a loss from operations of $58 million dollars. Considering the company only made $92 million dollars in revenue, that’s not a good ratio. And revenue has declined year over year, down from $109 million dollars in Q1 2022. And cost of goods sold is $86 million dollars, very close to their total revenue for the quarter. If Beyond Meat lowered costs to compete with real meat, they’d be selling their product for less than it costs to make it. A poor financial decision for any company.

For any food company, scaling is key, and Beyond Meat will try to save itself through economies of scale.  But they may not even have time. With $258 million dollars in cash and cash equivalents, they have less than 5 quarters to figure this out before they run out of cash. And even then, revenue is dropping as customers switch to cheaper, real meat. This is one synthetic biology stock to unload before the collapse.

Codexis (CDXS)

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Codexis (NASDAQ:CDXS) is a synthetic biology company making enzymes to produce all kinds of products. Their claim to fame is their CodeEvolver platform they use to create and optimize new enzymes. Codexis uses directed evolution to help optimize its products, letting biology do the hard work of finding the most efficient enzyme possible. In theory their highly efficient enzymes should let them make products very cheaply.  But in practice, not so much.

Codexis is currently spending almost $3 dollars for every $1 dollar it brings in revenue. With Q1 2023 total revenue of $13 million and a loss from operations of $24 million, things are not moving in the right direction. And the situation is only getting worse, revenue collapsed year over year from $35 million in Q1 2022. Like Beyond Meat, Codexis has very little time to figure things out. Their $102 million dollars in cash and cash equivalents gives them about 4 quarters of runway before they run out. The likely scenario for a company in this position is to sell shares to raise money, but that will only collapse the stock price and leave current investors holding the bag.

Codexis is a company where the science is interesting but the business is failing. As much as I hate to say it I don’t see a way for their science to save them. Codexis was hit hard by the post-pandemic sell-off in synthetic biology stocks, and has lost over 90% of its value since its highs. But that doesn’t make it a bargain, it can still lose another 90% before final collapse.

Gevo (GEVO)

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Gevo (NASDAQ:GEVO) is a renewable energy and biofuels company focused on using isobutanol.  Isobutanol is claimed to be far superior to ethanol as a fuel source. And it can also be used as a feedstock to create a number of other products. Gevo produces isobutanol using genetically engineered yeast and proprietary technology. This all sounds like the perfect dream of a biotechnology company, a melding of synthetic biology and sustainable fuel. But Gevo has little to show for it.

Gevo’s Q1 2023 earnings report showed total revenue of just $4.1 million dollars. Cost of revenue was $4.4 million dollars, so Gevo is forced to sell its product for less than it costs to make it. Furthermore, Gevo’s loss from operations is growing year over year, from $16 million in Q1 2022 to $21 million in Q1 2023. Gevo is heading stubbornly in the wrong direction, becoming less profitable even as it spends $5 dollars for every $1 dollar it makes.

Gevo’s one bright spot is its cash pile. With $324 million in cash and cash equivalents, Gevo is in no danger of going bankrupt any time soon. But that’s little comfort when earnings are negative and trending worse. And with oil prices still staying stubbornly flat, the economic argument for Gevo’s isobutanol-based products isn’t materializing. Gevo can likely continue to limp on for a good while yet, but it will likely never again reach its 2021 highs. And that makes it a stock to unload if you have it, so you can buy a better stock.

On the date of publication, John Blankenhorn did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

John Blankenhorn is a neuroscientist at Emory University. He has significant experience in biochemistry, biotechnology and pharmaceutical research.

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