The following is a review of three biotech stocks with potential for growth. Amarin (AMRN), Osiris (OSIR and Abbott (ABT) are three companies with either recent breakthroughs, a catalyst, or a possible place to ride out a coming storm.
On Tuesday May 8th Amarin released its first quarter earnings, along with a Press Release. Amarin's focus is on treating cardiovascular disease. Their drug, AMR101, lowers triglyceride levels, without significantly increasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Amarin has applied for an extension to the patent into 2030. The company also intends to test AMR101 with the popular statin drugs, which act to lower LDL levels by blocking an enzyme, HMG-COA-Reductase. LDL is a glycoprotein that carries triglycerides. The prospect of a drug combination that enables a physician to keep a tighter control over both the LDL and triglyceride levels of his patient could be significant.
In the coming months, Amarin has scheduled presentations at the National Lipid Association, along with the American Diabetes Association. AMR101 may slightly increase LDL levels, but claims to do so less than Lovanza, which has been proven to increase LDL. This brings even more value to the possibility of prescribing AMR101 with statins. The prevalence of elevated triglyceride levels among the population has been shown to be 66%. AMR101, when given with statins, may prove to lower LDL and triglycerides, two major causes of atherosclerosis and hypertension.
Short term for AMRN could show a setback to $8.40. The long term potential for Amarin is huge, with price target of $15.25, where it met a significant amount of resistance last year. Look for a response from the patent office mid-August. For more information on AMRN, check out Scott Matusow's article, along with Iggy Igette's article, here.
Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
In the current bearish market, many investors are moving money into treasuries and bonds but the biotech sector seems to be holding strong. The one-year trend line of Abbott shows a beautifully consistent increase. With a 3.28% dividend, ABT may be a better move than treasuries and bonds. For anyone unfamiliar with biotechs, this could be a great entry.
Osiris Therapeutics (OSIR)
Our friends to the north made what could prove to be a huge leap forward this past Thursday, in their approval of Prochymal. Prochymal, according to the Osiris website, is the first stem-cell product approved for use. This is a novel use of some really cool technology that has actually been around for a while. For example, in November of 2008, surgeons were able to construct a trachea from stem cells. The stem cells were grown in the shape of the trachea and the trachea was then implanted. It is still fully functional. Prochymal seeks to use this same cell growing technology in a very different way.
Graft verses host disease is a complication of transplant surgery. It occurs when the transplanted organ or bone marrow attacks the body in which it is implanted. Since no two people have exactly the same genetic make up, when lymphoblasts (baby white blood cells) are transplanted they see their new surroundings as foreign and will begin to attack the host in the absence of treatment. MHC is the receptor on cells that identifies one's cells as "self."
Prochymal is a mesenchymal stem cell that has been shown to be safe in large and small doses (high therapeutic index). Complete remission of Graft versus host disease was observed in 77% of subjects. That is very significant in the medical world. The company is also testing Prochymal in Crohn's disease, heart attack, and type 1 diabetes.
Although common opinion is that this stock is overvalued, one could make the argument that it has significant potential for growth. With the first stem cell drug approved for use in Canada, who knows what could happen here at home? The down side to this part of the biotech market is that stem-cell stocks are very volatile. The perceived market leader in the stem-cell sector, Geron (GERN), is down 64% since this time last year. They gave up their clinical trial on stem cells after regulatory problems. These same problems will likely plague Prochymal from coming to the U.S., at least for now.
Maybe it's just because I am in medical school but, to me, taking cells out of an individual's body, transplanting them into another human being, and then preventing the cells from attacking him/her, seems pretty darn cool.
Disclosure: I am long ARNA.