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By Lynn Saylor

High volume, high beta biotechs have been the plaything of hedge funds and day traders/program traders for years. Below is a list of the best performing, high beta biotechs on the year, thus far. We always keep an eye on these sorts of tickers, as they often provide for a way to make a quick and often substantial profit.

Below is a list of five stocks that match many of our criteria for good day trades and/or catalyst/event trades. It includes several key data that would allow one to begin to understand the larger picture with the companies and how their stock trades/behaves once a large and hopeful retail presence appears and, consequently, a handful of individuals and entities with large interests and simple agendas (usually to make as much money as mathematically possible within a predetermined, yet flexible timeframe) make a grab for them.

1. Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:KERX) - Beta 3.2

52 Week Low: $2.38

Last Close: $4.97

1 Week Price Change: 20.63%

4 Week Price Change: 57.78%

12 Week Price Change: 108.82%

YTD Price Change: 96.44%

Relative Price Change: 58.95%

From the company:

Keryx Biopharmaceuticals is focused on the acquisition, development and commercialization of medically important pharmaceutical products for the treatment of life-threatening diseases, including cancer and renal disease. Keryx is developing KRX-0401 (perifosine), a novel, potentially first-in-class, oral anti-cancer agent that inhibits Akt activation in the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, and also affects a number of other key signal transduction pathways, including the JNK pathway, all of which are pathways associated with programmed cell death, cell growth, cell differentiation and cell survival.

Click to enlarge images

Chart

With 71.02M shares out, Keryx currently has a market cap of $352.98M. Institutional ownership stands at 30%, with the short interest as of 02/29/12 being 11.54M shares. The average analyst price target is $8.00.

Click on the tables to see current stock data
Data

2. Dynavax Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ:DVAX) - Beta 2.76

52 Week Low: $1.82

Last Close: $4.64

1 Week Price Change: 5.69%

4 Week Price Change: 13.73%

12 Week Price Change: 40.61%

YTD Price Change: 39.76%

Relative Price Change: 21.12%

From the company:

Dynavax Technologies Corporation is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that discovers and develops novel products to prevent and treat infectious and inflammatory diseases. Our clinical-stage product candidates include:

We have programs partnered with pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline. Our European subsidiary Rhein Biotech manufactures hepatitis B surface antigen for HEPLISAV. With 20 years in business, Rhein Biotech also provides integrated product development services to enable its partners to bring products to market.

Chart

With 155.82M shares out, Dynavax currently has a market cap of $722.98M. Institutional ownership stands at 85%, with the short interest as of 02/29/12 being 17.04M shares. The average analyst price target is $6.00.
Data

3. Sunesis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:SNSS) - Beta 2.1

52 Week Low: $1.08

Last Close: $2.50

1 Week Price Change: 2.88%

4 Week Price Change: 42.86%

12 Week Price Change: 110.08%

YTD Price Change: 113.67%

Relative Price Change: 58.95%

From the company:

Our highly experienced cancer drug development organization is committed to advancing our lead drug candidate, Vosaroxin, through clinical trials. Vosaroxin is currently being evaluated in our Phase 3 VALOR trial, a multi-national, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, pivotal trial of vosaroxin in combination with cytarabine in patients with relapsed or refractory AML. The VALOR trial is designed to evaluate the effect of vosaroxin in combination with cytarabine, a widely used chemotherapy in AML, on overall survival as compared to placebo in combination with cytarabine. The trial design was based on compelling results from Phase 2, where strong remission rates, low all cause mortality and long leukemia free survival were observed, leading to promising survival outcomes.

Chart

With 46.82M shares out, Sunesis currently has a market cap of $117.05M. Institutional ownership stands at 54%, with the short interest as of 02/29/12 being 1.73M shares. The average analyst price target is $5.00.
Data

4. Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:OREX) - Beta 1.95

52 Week Low: $1.28

Last Close: $4.89

1 Week Price Change: 4.94%

4 Week Price Change: 33.61%

12 Week Price Change: 203.73%

YTD Price Change: 203.73

Relative Price Change: 167.02%

From the company:

Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the treatment of obesity. Our lead combination product candidates targeted for obesity are Contrave (naltrexone SR/bupropion SR) and Empatic™ (zonisamide SR/bupropion SR). With more than 75 million Americans now considered to be obese, there is a paramount need for new interventions that address this growing epidemic. Obesity is linked to many serious medical conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some forms of cancer and depression. Today, obesity has a greater impact on the development of chronic medical conditions than does daily smoking or alcoholism. According to the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS), approximately 300,000 deaths per year in the United States (U.S) are associated with this chronic disease. In addition, obesity and its co-morbidities are believed to cause significant added cost to the health care system. In 2000, the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity estimated the overall economic costs of obesity in the U.S. to be $117 billion.

Chart

With 61.29M shares out, Orexigen currently has a market cap of $299.69. Institutional ownership stands at 73%, with the short interest as of 02/29/12 being 546M shares. The average analyst price target is $6.00.
Data

5. XOMA Corporation (NASDAQ:XOMA) - Beta 1.89

52 Week Low: $1.10

Last Close: $2.19

1 Week Price Change: 3.3%

4 Week Price Change: 46%

12 Week Price Change: 92.11%

YTD Price Change: 90.43%

Relative Price Change: 79.12%

From the company:

XOMA's world-class monoclonal antibody technologies have contributed to the development of marketed biologics with a total of more than $1 billion in annual sales and for which XOMA received substantial royalties. The company also has a strong track record of product discovery and development collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and the U.S. government, and has licensed certain of its fundamental technologies to numerous pharma and biotech companies.

XOMA Chart

With 68.04M shares out, XOMA currently has a market cap of $149.01M. Institutional ownership stands at a mere 4.21%, with the short interest as of 02/29/12 being 273,222 shares. The average analyst price target is $4.25.
Data

Source: 5 Best Performing High Beta Biotechs

Additional disclosure: We may choose to initiate a short-term long position in KERX within the next 72 hours.