The Biotech sector came back to life towards the end of 2019. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index jumped up 20% between October and December, beating the S&P 500’s 9% increase. The surge, according to some analysts, is set to continue into 2020.
Washington’s lack of attention to drug pricing or Medicare for All, due to present focus on trade talks and the impeachment process, along with the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference between Jan. 13-16, which usually generates investor interest, are both seen as reasons to be bullish. Furthermore, according to Jared Holz, a sector strategist at Jefferies, the beginning of the year is a likely period for mergers and acquisitions.
“We continue to think there is much more consolidation on the horizon given the pipeline needs across large cap bio-pharma,” said Holz.
This leads us to think now is a good time for bargain hunting in the Healthcare sector. So, we dug into TipRanks’ Stock Screener to find three biotech stocks that have yet to catch up with the uptick in the sector’s fortunes, but which according to the analysts, are ready to make some upward movement in 2020. Let check out the data.
bluebird bio (BLUE)
No one is doubting the fact that gene therapy company bluebird bio has had a rough going. We’re talking about a 50% fall in the past two years. However, Oppenheimer analyst Mark Breidenbach believes that the drop presents investors with a buying opportunity.
bluebird recently presented at the annual American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference and Breidenbach was there to get the lowdown. The 4-star analyst is forecasting "blue skies” following Bluebird’s presentation.
bluebird has one product approved for patients in the EU; Zynteglo, the first gene therapy approved for transfusion-dependent β-thalassemia (TDT). Breidenbach expects “Zynteglo sales in Europe to slowly begin ramping in 2020.” Bluebird plans to initiate a rolling BLA (Biological License Application) for the treatment in the US by the end of the year.
Furthermore, the company has several drugs in the pipeline, of which data presented from its ongoing Phase 1/2 HGB-206 study of investigational LentiGlobin gene therapy for sickle cell disease (SCD), was a highlight for the analyst.
“At ASH, bluebird showcased tangible signs of progress across its hemoglobinopathy pipeline, with especially impressive results in sickle cell anemia (SCA) [...] Nine treated patients with ≥6 months follow-up showed sustained hematological improvements and a 99% reduction in serious symptoms including VOC and ACS episodes,” said Breidenbach.
A further catalyst for Breidenbach is bluebird’s partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb. The two are collaborating on a therapy candidate for patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma, and positive top-line results from KarMMa, a Phase 2 study of idecabtagene vicleucel (ide-cel; bb2121) met its primary endpoint and key secondary endpoint.
Breidenbach noted, “We expect pivotal data from KarMMa to support FDA approval of ide-cel by late 2020, and we believe new data from competing products could help calibrate expectations for its commercial potential."
As a result, Breidenbach upgraded his rating on BLUE from Perform to Outperform, alongside a price target of $135, implying upside potential of over 50%. (To watch Breidenbach’s track record, click here)
On the Street, bluebird currently has 8 Buys and 5 Hold ratings, which coalesce into a Moderate Buy consensus rating. The average price target comes in at $118.67, and represents possible upside of 36%. (See BLUE stock analysis on TipRanks)
Aridis Pharmaceuticals (ARDS)
Another company which struggled in 2019, is fellow micro-cap Aridis Pharmaceuticals. The biotech saw out the year with its share price down by 60%.
However, H.C. Wainwright analyst Vernon Bernardino believes now is the right time for investors to hop onboard. The analyst initiated coverage on Aridis shares with a Buy rating, and set a price target of $7, implying upside potential of 57%. (To watch Bernardino’s track record, click here).
So, what has piqued the analyst’s interest, then? Bernardino believes Aridis has “product candidates that present novel targets and mechanisms of action” and a clinical strategy which “is designed to achieve superiority and maximize the probability of adoption of Aridis’ fully human mAbs as first-line anti-bacterial therapies.” The analyst added, "We expect Aridis’ mAb anti-bacterial candidates to differentiate themselves through their potential to be active against antibiotic resistant strains of urgent threat bacteria.”
Aridis has several therapies in the pipeline. Its most advanced candidate is AR-301, currently in a Phase 3 trial for hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) infection and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) infection bought on by the Gram-positive bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus). Bernardino thinks the drug has potential for regulatory approval by 2022 and projects AR-301 could reach annual sales of approximately $700 million by 2030.
Bernardino further expounded, “We believe the potential for results from the ongoing Phase 3 trial with AR-301 as adjunct therapy in patients with hospital acquired and ventilator-associated pneumonia to be a positive catalyst in early 2020 is under-appreciated.”
Similarly, other Wall Street analysts like what they’re seeing. With 3 Buy ratings received in the last three months, the stock earns a ‘Strong Buy’ Street consensus. At an $18 average price target, analysts see 270% upside potential in store for Aridis. (See Aridis price targets and analyst ratings on TipRanks)
Ocugen Inc (OCGN)
It’s been a miserable 2019 for investors in clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Ocugen, which saw its stock price cut nearly 90%. The low value, though, could also present opportunity, at least according to H.C. Wainwright analyst Swayampakula Ramakanth.
Ramakanth initiated coverage on Ocugen with a Buy rating and set a price target of $1.25. Should the target be met, investors will see a solid 140% gains over the next 12 months. (To watch Ramakanth’s track record, click here)
Ocugen’s lead candidate is OCU300, a treatment for ocular graftversus-host disease (oGVHD), a condition which can cause damage to the ocular surface and tear-producing glands and has no approved therapy. The drug is currently in a Phase 3 trial and topline results are expected in 2H20. According to estimates, there are 63,000 oGVHD patients in the US, a figure expected to grow to 140,000 by 2030.
Ramakanth noted, “Given the promising data generated so far, we believe that OCU300 Phase 3 study is likely to report a positive readout, which could be a major catalyst. Additionally, OCU300 is the first and only product candidate that has received Orphan Drug Designation (ODD) from the FDA for oGVHD. We currently project OCU300 risk-adjusted revenues to reach $141M by 2030, growing from $5M in 2021.”
There is little action on the Street heading Ocugen’s way right now, with only one other analyst chiming in with a view on the micro-cap’s prospects. An additional Buy rating means Ocugen qualifies as a Moderate Buy. The average price target, though, is $1.63, and implies massive upside potential of 213%. (See Ocugen price targets and analyst ratings on TipRanks)