Jefferies Top Biotech Stocks to Buy

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The world of biotechnology investing is a constantly evolving and changing one. While disease for the most part does not change all that much, the manner in which it can be treated does. That creates a world of investment possibilities, with a higher risk tolerance often required for the volatility that is inherent in the sector.

In a new research report, the biotechnology analysts at Jefferies have presented their top biotechnology stocks to buy. They present investors the best names in their universe, which range from mega cap market leaders to small cap contrarian picks. One theme that is consistent in their analysis is a focus on late-stage pipeline potential. Here are the top seven biotechnology stocks to buy at Jefferies.

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Array Biopharma Inc. (ARRY) is a small cap stock to buy with huge potential. CNBC's Jim Cramer was pounding the table on the stock recently. The company reported positive phase 2 data for its experimental drug ARRY-502, used for the treatment of mild to moderate allergic asthma. CEO Ron Squarer said about the treatment: "We were excited by its potential to become the first new oral medication for asthma patients since Singulair was introduced over 15 years ago." He also said:

Despite the availability of treatment options the ongoing burden of asthma remains extremely high. This is partially due to a large proportion of patients not being well controlled on current medications and due to poor compliance with inhaled drugs. By some estimates as many as 80% of asthma patients are poorly controlled at this time.

Marketed by Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK), Singulair had global sales of $3.8 billion in 2012. A competing product offered by Array would be huge for the company. The Jefferies price target is $8. The Thomson/First Call estimate is also $8. Array closed Friday at $5.53.

Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB) has been hit hard during the recent market sell-off. The company is projected to have only a 10% increase in earnings. The biotech's results have varied widely, sinking 7% in the fourth quarter, but then rebounding 41% and 26% in the next two periods. The Jefferies analysts see a scenario where sales of Biogen's top drug, Tysabri, for treatment of multiple sclerosis, could double. The Jefferies price target for this top large cap stock is $266. The consensus target for the stock is placed at $263. Biogen closed Friday at $234.80.

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Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. (CBST) has used acquisitions to bolster its outstanding portfolio of antibiotic drugs. The company also has four phase 3 pipeline products in development, which could boost sales and earnings dramatically. If the phase 3 trials for CXA-201 prove successful, the Jefferies team sees a 19% potential upside from current valuation. The price target for the stock is posted at $70, the same as the consensus price objective. Cubist closed Friday at $65.94.

Incyte Corp. (INCY) is Jefferies' top mid-cap pick, as the analysts remain encouraged by the Jakafi launch trajectory in myelofibrosis and believe the combination of positive data for Jakafi in polycythemia vera (PV), the potential for a better-than-expected launch in PV and emerging excitement surrounding the company’s new solid tumor initiative anchored by Jak 1/2 inhibition and its IDO inhibitor could generate significant share appreciation for the stock in the next year. Jefferies also thinks that Incyte could become one of the leading biotech players in immune checkpoint targets for cancer, one of the most exciting new areas of cancer research. The price target for the stock is $44. The consensus target is listed at $39.50. Incyte closed Friday at $37.05.

Medivation Inc. (MDVN) is a leader in prostate cancer drugs and treatment. One out of every six men in the United States ultimately will have the disease in one form or another. The company is waiting on final results from a critical ongoing phase 3 trial with its partner Astellas on its cancer drug Xtandi. The drug will be able to be used as a pre-chemo prostate therapy. The Jefferies price target for the stock is $66, while the consensus price target for the stock is even higher at $70. Medivation closed Friday at $50.97.

NewLink Genetics Corp. (NLNK) is expected to release additional data to support the impressive findings in years prior, regarding both pancreatic and non-small cell lung cancer. Back in late September, NewLink gave investors a taste of what may come when the company announced that its HyperAcute immunotherapy platform produced a better-than-expected response in the treatment of both diseases. Jefferies has a $29 price target for the stock. The consensus target is posted at $26.50. The Jefferies target is the highest on Wall Street. A trade to its objective would represent a 60% gain from current levels. NewLink closed Friday at $19.26.

Synta Pharmaceuticals Corp. (SNTA) is another small cap that is Jefferies' ultimate contrarian call. Some 48% of the company's stock is sold short, and Jefferies thinks Synta may be one of the most undervalued names in the entire biotech sector. The company's lead drug, ganetespib, is an unpartnered small-molecule Hsp90 inhibitor in phase 3 trials for second-line lung cancer with pivotal expected this time next year. The 500-patient phase 3 GALAXY-2 trial is now enrolling and includes criteria to screen only for chemo-sensitive patients. The analysts expect positive results. In addition, ganetespib has shown single-agent activity in breast cancer, which Jefferies views as adding upside estimates, with four of 16 triple negative breast cancer patients achieving an objective response. The Jefferies price target for the stock is a gigantic $22. The consensus is at $16. A move to the Jefferies target would represent a gain of well over 200%. The stock closed Friday at $6.45.

The Jefferies stocks to buy range from the biggest and perhaps best of the mega caps to small caps with huge upside potential. The advantage of being able to place stocks in a portfolio that match an investor's risk profile is key. Owning Biogen, Amgen Inc. (AMGN), Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD) or any of the top large cap names provides more safety. Swinging for the fences with an aggressive play like Synta can really bring home the trader's dream if it comes in. Biotech investing provides both avenues.

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