And they’re off to the races. All three of the major U.S. stock indexes popped on Monday after biotech company Moderna reported its experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced encouraging results in its Phase 1 trial, with it appearing to be safe and able to generate an immune response against the virus.
While the news has inspired optimism among market watchers, one investing guru is saying slow your roll. Billionaire Steve Cohen told the employees of his investment firm, Point72 Asset Management, to use caution amid the market’s slight rebounds from low points.
In a note to his staff, Cohen wrote, “Markets don’t come back in a straight line; after an earthquake there are tremors. We need to continue to be disciplined. We are seeing plenty of opportunities to generate returns, but I don’t want us taking undue risks.”
Using what’s known as a multi-strategy approach which involves stock market investments as well as global investments in several asset classes all at once based on macroeconomic trends, Cohen is considered one of the best in the business. The legendary stock picker has the track record to back up his reputation.
Taking a page from Cohen’s playbook, we scanned a recent 13F filing disclosing Point72’s recent buys and found three healthcare stocks that looked promising. After running each through TipRanks’ database, we learned that some Wall Street analysts are also avid fans of the Buy-rated tickers.
Targeting the critical signaling pathways in cancer, Verastem is developing a diverse portfolio of small molecule drugs that could potentially stop the disease in its tracks. Based on this pipeline that includes phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) inhibitors, some see significant gains in VSTM’s future.
Cohen is among those that have high hopes for this healthcare name. Pulling the trigger on VSTM for the first time, Point72 purchased more than 6.1 million shares. The value of the firm’s new holding comes in at over $16 million.
Meanwhile, five-star analyst Alethia Young, of Cantor Fitzgerald, cites recently released data on VS-6766 and Defactinib in ovarian and non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) as the major component of her bullish thesis. For ovarian cancer, a 67% response rate was seen in six patients in the KRAS subgroup.
The candidate also demonstrated activity in a subgroup of NSCLC KRAS G12V patients, with it producing a 10% response rate in the overall KRAS group of ten patients treated in the combo study. This suggests that G12V was the main driver of the effect. Young added, “In addition to the investigator run NSCLC cohort, VSTM studied G12V in another seven patients achieving a 57% ORR.” Additionally, while toxicities related to MEK/RAF and FAK were expected, the go forward dose appeared to be tolerable.
Expounding on the implications of the data, Young said, “We find these data encouraging based on current market cap size since they have found likely two indications in subgroups where the monotherapy or combinations are active. We wonder if there will be questions around not seeing activity in the broader KRAS NSCLC subgroup, but overall we think this early signal in a hard to treat KRAS subgroup population is positive.”
It should also be noted that challenging experiences with PI3K delta have created some headwinds, but Young still thinks the commercial potential for these therapies is underappreciated by investors. “Verastem’s Copiktra is approved for CLL and FL/SLL, which are two large markets. Our doctor checks suggest that PI3K is a viable class certainly in relapsed or refractory patients,” she stated.
Bearing this in mind, Young left an Overweight rating and $6 price target on the stock. Should this target be met, a twelve-month gain of 233% could be in store. (To watch Young’s track record, click here)
Looking at the consensus breakdown, 2 Buys and 1 Hold add up to a Moderate Buy analyst consensus. At $4.50, the average price target implies nearly 149% upside potential. (See Verastem stock analysis on TipRanks)
Amicus Therapeutics (FOLD)
Focused on delivering high-quality therapies for people living with rare metabolic diseases, Amicus Therapeutics takes its place at the forefront of the space. With a jam-packed development pipeline, it’s no wonder FOLD has scored fans.
Cohen’s firm just gave the healthcare stock a nod of approval. Acquiring a new FOLD holding, Point72 picked up 2,242,900 shares valued at $20,724,000.
Turning now to the analyst community, FOLD has received significant support. One of the analysts in its corner is Leerink's Joseph Schwartz, who points out that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, FOLD exceeded expectations for Q1 2020 revenue thanks to high pt. demand. The five-star analyst also noted, “Favorable reimbursement dynamics also continued to tailwinds for Galafold sales in Q1 2020. As strong adoption of Galafold continues, FOLD management reiterated that revenue continues to track towards full-year 2020 guidance of $250 to $260 million.”
Additionally, Schwartz argues that in the last year, FOLD has increased its focus on cost management while still remaining committed to developing its product candidates, helping the company “turn a corner.” As part of this strategy, more cost saving initiatives have been put in place to mitigate any impacts from COVID-19, allowing its cash runway to extend through the second half of 2022.
Most exciting for Schwartz, though, is that Phase 3 PROPEL for AT-GAA, its “crown jewel”, remains on track and manufacturing and supply is intact globally. Adding to the good news, AT-GAA was granted a rolling BLA submission, which is set to start in the second half of this year. This means that top-line data could be released in the first half of 2021.
As the development of FOLD’s gene therapy portfolio is also progressing, with it planning to have clinical development, manufacturing and regulatory discussions for both the CLN6 and CLN3 Battens gene therapy programs, the deal is sealed for Schwartz.
To this end, Schwartz maintained an Outperform call and $19 price target. This target conveys his confidence in FOLD’s ability to climb 51% higher in the next year. (To watch Schwartz’s track record, click here)
What does the rest of the Street think about FOLD? It turns out that other analysts also have high hopes. With 5 Buys and a single Hold, the word on the Street is that this stock is a Strong Buy. In addition, the $20.58 average price target puts the upside potential at 65%. (See Amicus stock analysis on TipRanks)
Last but not least we have Insmed, which works on developing effective therapies for patients suffering from serious and rare diseases. While COVID-19 has weighed on the company, there are major catalysts on the horizon that could potentially fuel upside for shares.
Point72 takes its place on the bulls’ side. Boosting its holding by a whopping 1,283%, the firm snapped up 3.3 million shares. As for the value of this new addition, it lands at $53.4 million.
Like Cohen, H.C. Wainwright analyst Andrew Fein is optimistic. “In spite of investor uncertainty associated the with COVID-19 pandemic, we view the apparent progression of all pipeline programs in lieu of such headwinds as positive for the stock,” Fein commented.
Looking specifically at ARIKAYCE, growth has slowed as a result of the public health crisis, but the five-star analyst argues that several factors suggest the momentum for sales growth will persist. These include the submission of an NDA in March in Japan, which boasts the largest diagnosed MAC lung disease population, and the pending EU marketing authorization. This would set INSM up for a Germany launch by year-end, followed up by a UK launch shortly after.
The most noteworthy potential catalyst in terms of prescriptions and determining treatment duration, though, will be updated guidelines from both the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA). It also doesn’t hurt that there’s a peer-reviewed paper offering solutions to address the adverse events that are sometimes witnessed with ARIKAYCE use and a patient reported outcome (PRO) tool for ARIKAYCE in non-tuberculosis (NTM) disease is being developed, with the trial kicking off in the beginning of the second half of 2020.
Fein added, “Insmed announced that it has not yet observed any disruptions in the supply chain for ARIKAYCE production and should be able to meet global demand through 2022...Insmed believes that the current climate is causing a bolus of patients, which could lead to a major upswing in patients being treated with ARIKAYCE in 2H20.”
If that wasn’t enough, Brensocatib, formerly INS1007, is on a clear path to Phase 3 trial initiation in bronchiectasis and is being studied in severe COVID-19 patients. “We feel the development of Brensocatib remains promising as we recall the announcement that AstraZeneca decided to exercise the first option to advance Brensocatib development in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma patients,” Fein noted. Treprostinil Palmitil, previously INS1009, could also see Phase 1 initiation in pulmonary arterial hypertension in the second half of 2020.
Based on all of the above, Fein reiterated his Buy rating and $52 price target. Given this target, shares could skyrocket 103% in the next twelve months. (To watch Fein’s track record, click here)
With only Buy ratings assigned in the last three months, 6 to be exact, the message is clear: INSM is a Strong Buy. The $47.83 average price target is less aggressive than Fein’s, but it still leaves room for 87% upside potential. (See Insmed stock analysis on TipRanks)
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