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Will Lumera Switch the Light On?

By Carl Wherrett & John Yelovich
March 15, 2005

There are a handful of nano companies that are currently public and possess the potential to become Rule Breakers in their fields. Lumera (Nasdaq: LMRA) is one of them, but we stress the word potential for good reason.

Lumera is developing several revolutionary products with applications in electro-optics, biodisposables, and wireless antennae. Note our stress on developing and you can see where we are going with this article. Its underlying expertise is the engineering of polymer materials at the molecular level -- in other words, using the science of nanotechnology.

Lumera announced full-year results last week and there was little in the way of surprises. Revenues were down nearly 50%, with no commercial sales of any products yet, all resulting in a $9 million loss for the year.

With $30 million in net cash, the company still has time to bring the partnerships management keeps talking about into reality and validate the technology in the eyes of investors. Right now, we only have management's word that the company has in its nano-assays a solution to the proteomic bottleneck. That is a $1.2 billion market and growing 20%+ per annum, so any breakthrough has the potential to propel this company through the stratosphere.

Not just nano-arrays

The nano-arrays are only one of several exciting developments Lumera is working on, the others being next-generation electro-optic modulators (a fancy name for switches) capable of working in the 40 Ghz range and a 'smart' wireless antenna. Again, huge markets if the company makes the breakthrough. It is these types of products and their potential that enticed Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) and Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) to become some of Lumera's early backers before it became public last year.

Since then, its share performance has been woeful, and the stock is down nearly 50% from its high. Unfortunately for Lumera in these post-Internet bubble days, the market needs to see commercial results. The days of development companies being awarded huge price-to-sales ratios or inflated market caps based solely on the promise of a technology are long gone. When we wrote about Lumera last fall, we noted that at a price of $8.05 with no commercial deals in the offing, it looked expensive. It is now $4.91 and falling into penny stock land.

Unless Lumera's technology is proven to be totally worthless, now could be a good time to take a look at it. Any concrete developments in the company's move to commercialization could begin to see it move back up the share price ladder.

Once we see partnerships materialize, we might even consider the company a true Rule Breaker in the making. Lumera's technology is disruptive; the question is, can management commercialize the science and turn the company into a Rule Breaker capable of superior investment returns?

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