Now that the biotechnology sector is well on its way to bouncing back after bottoming in May 2018, investors may feel like they missed out. The fears that previously plagued biotech stocks are no longer as big a threat. The government is no longer putting companies hiking drug price in their cross-hairs, at least not for now. This favorable environment should help biotech firms carry out their plans for the rest of the year.
So, if you’re interested in getting into biotech stocks, where should you begin?
Well, here is a list of seven great options to get you started.
Opko Health (OPK)
OPKO Health (NASDAQ:OPK) fell by over 20% in the last month after the SEC suspended trading in the stock on Sep. 11. The regulator asked the company to provide information related to the securities lawsuit against OPKO’s Chairman and CEO, Phillip Frost. On Sept. 7, the SEC charged the CEO and others with a stock promotion scheme.
Despite this distraction for the company, the value of the business could improve if RAYALDEE, which treats patients suffering from secondary hyperparathyroidism, is a commercial success. The FDA approved the drug, which works by raising 25-hydroxy vitamin D and lowers parathyroid hormone levels in patients with chronic kidney disease.
In the second quarter, prescriptions for the drug rose 36% from Q1. OPKO expanded its sales team to 64 representatives, a move that helped drive that growth. The drug is now available to 83% of the overall insured population. Adoption, reimbursement and growing awareness of the drug through the marketing efforts from the sales team will drive sales higher.
Operationally, improving collection yield and cutting the accounts receivable balances and DSO will eventually help the bottom line.
Exelixis (NASDAQ:EXEL) lost half its value in 2018. The downtrend started when Roche and Exelixis ended Roche’s Phase 2 MODUL study. This included Exelixis’ COTELLIC (cobimetinib) for patients suffering from CRC or metastatic colorectal cancer. The negative developments will hurt future earnings, which is why the stock continued to fall with no “bottom” in sight.
In its second-quarter report, released on Aug. 1, the company reported earnings of 28 cents a share on revenue of $186.1 million, up 88%. Both numbers beat consensus estimates and yet the stock continued falling.
EXEL is looking to complement its cabozantinib development activities. Still, management sees healthy growth for this business, even after factoring increased competition. It is developing potential new indications for cabozantinib, be it single agent or in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors. It is seeking collaborations with early stage biotech this year and beyond, keeping its financial risks low.
Geron Corporation (GERN)
Geron Corporation (NASDAQ:GERN), whose shares rallied to $6.99 recently only to pull back, made only $210,000 in revenue in its second quarter. This biotech’s potential lies in its imetelstat drug, which is being tested in two randomized clinical trials. The drug is a potential treatment for patients with metastatic breast cancer and also a “maintenance treatment following a platinum-containing chemotherapy regimen in patients with NSCLC.”
On Sept. 13, GERN stock fell in the double-digits and gave up over 20% gains intraday after markets worried over Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) continuing with imetelstat. In its presentation, JNJ appeared more likely to continue, since it mentioned the Myelofibrosis-treating drug as a 2019-2021 potential filing (slide 15).
The irrational drop in GERN stock in so short a time may have created an entry point. When JNJ added imetelstat on its compassionate use list and, together with Geron, spent four years planning for its use, chances are good JNJ remains committed to the project.
Amicus Therapeutics (FOLD)
Amicus Therapeutics (NASDAQ:FOLD) is not having a good year, after falling by a third from its yearly high. The company won the FDA’s approval for Galafold (migalastat), a drug that treats adult patients with Fabry disease, an inherited disorder. The approval, posted on Aug. 10, sent the stock lower in what could have been a “sell on the news” event.
Markets may have shifted their concerns over the launch risks. But Amicus already hired and trained a full launch team.
With over 3,000 diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. and Japan and a peak worldwide TAPP (Total Amenable Patient Population) of 4,200–6,000, FOLD stock could recover as revenue from drug sales grows steadily in the years ahead.
Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR)
Nektar Therapeutics (NASDAQ:NKTR) recovered from its lows in July, topped around $70 by the start of the month, only to close recently at $58.33. Last month, the company reported revenue of $1.09 million, up sharply from $34.59 million last year. EPS totaled $5.33. These solid numbers should have sent the stock higher but markets may have expected more or, once again, sold on the news.
Nektar has an excellent future ahead. Its pipeline of I-O candidates beyond NKTR-214 includes NKTR-262, which studies TLR-78 agonist. Nektar — 255 looks at an IL-15 candidate that stimulates both NK-cells and memory T-cells.
At the end of 2019, Nektar will report the first data for NKTR-214. This study will enroll patients who have relapsed to at least two prior lines of therapy but have no more than three prior treatments. That is just one of the studies I mention. Nektar is embarking on the initiation of 20 registrational trials with NKTR-214 and will initiate trials for other targeted therapies and I-O therapies. The company is a strong believer of the molecule as a central therapy in immune-oncology.
Wall Street analysts are bullish on NKTR stock. From the four analysts (tracked on Tipranks.com) offering a price target, the average is $92 a share, which would give investors 58% in upside.
Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG) did not fall big like the other picks but is still stuck in a range and is down 16% year-to-date. Valuations are very compelling as shares trade at a 24 times earnings and 8 times forward earnings. Much of Celgene’s deep future value depends on management accelerating its next innovation cycle.
Ozanimod and fedratinib regulatory submissions are on track, so expect at least two blockbusters adding to Celgene’s revenues. The company reported two positive Phase III trials — MEDALIST in MDS and BELIEVE in beta-thalassemia. If approved, patients suffering from chronic anemia have a treatment option.
In the second quarter, Celgene reported a 17% year-on-year growth in net product sales. Earnings rose 16% in that period. Management raised its revenue forecast to $15 billion, up from $14.8 billion. It now expects net sales of REVLIMID, a drug treating multiple myeloma, to top $9.7 billion, up from a previous guidance of $9.5 billion.
Investors seeking a slow, steady biotech stock should consider Celgene.
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY)
The round trip from $90 in August to $120, and back to $94 on Sept. 18 should pique investor interests. Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALNY) rose after the European Commission approved ONPATTRO (patisiran), a drug that treats adults afflicted with hereditary transthyretin-mediated (hATTR) amyloidosis.
Investors sold ALNY shares in the last week after the company failed to win the FDA’s support for the cardiac indication. The full manuscript, entitled ‘”Effects of Patisiran, an RNA Interference Therapeutic, on Cardiac Parameters in Patients with Hereditary Transthyretin-Mediated Amyloidosis: an Analysis of the APOLLO Study,” will be published in Circulation.
Patients suffering from neuropathy will be prescribed this medicine. The heart block is not a major risk for those taking the drug. With the stock nearly 40% below its yearly high, biotech investors may want to pick up some ALNY stock.
As of this writing, Chris Lau did not own any of the shares mentioned in this article.