On Wednesday, as the market traded mostly flat, there were several biotechnology stocks that broke into a new range with heavy trading volume and/or key developments. These companies were of different sizes and of different platforms in terms of clinical development. In fact, the only real similarity between these companies is that each moved on Wednesday. Therefore, I am taking a look at these five stocks, and trying to determine if any are worth considering for long-term investment.
Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) took off and traded higher by yet another 5% on Wednesday, adding to its now 14% gain since October 8. Shares of the biotech stocks have traded higher for a couple reasons: First, it initiated a Phase 1 trial for APD811 for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, thus strengthening its pipeline. Second, investors are optimistic thanks to better-than-expected initial sales of VIVUS' (VVUS) weight loss drug, which is already available to patients via a mail-order program. Some investors believe that, due to the marketing benefits of Arena's drug, Belviq, VIVUS' success could be an indication of what's to come for Arena's weight loss product. With the stock trading at $9.85, it's still priced more than 30% off its 2012 high, following the announcement of its approval. With ARNA now trading higher, it is possible that its rally could last and continue with even larger gains.
Clinical phase company, InterMune (ITMN), traded higher by nearly 10% with heavy volume on what looks like a technical rally. The stock had traded with a 10% loss over the last month, continuing its loss even after its product, Esbriet, was approved in Canada earlier this month for the treatment of mild to moderate idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in adults. It can be implied that its gains on Wednesday may be a reverse after the stock was oversold. However, there was news that Deerfield Management increased its stake in the company, by a significant margin, which may have also contributed to the rally. ITMN is an extremely oversold stock, having lost more than 60% of its value during the last year alone. With that in mind, I am not sure that its 10% gain is an indication of a change in the direction of the stock. With no other significant news I can ascertain, I believe it's a technical rally, which I try to avoid chasing.
Galena Biopharma (GALE) rallied 6.5% on Wednesday on what also appears to be a technical rally. The stock had traded with a lot of volatility over the last two months, between a range of $1.80 and $2.00, but on Wednesday broke through this range on heavy volume, and traded considerably higher. This marks the first time since the end of Q1 that GALE has traded over $2.05, and has done so with much less volume. Back in Q1, GALE was trading with volume of 5, 10, 20, and even 30 million shares trading hands per day. Shortly thereafter, it fell pretty hard in Q2 to a low of $1.10 after reaching highs over $3.00. The stock has since recovered, slowly but surely, at a much more moderate pace, and almost under-the-radar. My opinion is that investors are preparing for final data from its Phase 2 trial of NeuVax for breast cancer in Q4, and that the rally makes sense considering the upside of the company. At its current price, the company is valued at $140 million. Galena is a Phase 3 company with a product that was successful in Phase 2 trials, and could enter a massive market to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer, if successful in its ongoing Phase 3 trial. With that said, I am not surprised at its rally; I anticipate a slow and steady rally over the next year, as the company's valuation reflects the company's potential with its product, NeuVax.
Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (PPHM) traded higher by more than 20% after the company provided an update on corporate activities. Peregrine announced that it replaced its prior loan facility with over $14 million in financing proceeds that were received since the end of September, and that it continues to grow its manufacturing business. The reason this provoked such a large gain is due to the previous rumors that the company would have trouble in finishing clinical studies after defaulting on nearly $16 million. Consequently, some found this news on Wednesday encouraging, or as a sign that its financials aren't as suspect as previously thought. Though keep in mind, this is a company that has lost more than 80% of its value in less than a month. The company's announcement of "major discrepancies" has appropriately been priced into the stock, and perhaps the news on Wednesday is the start of a new beginning for this company. In any case, considering all that's occurred I would personally wait. In my opinion, shares will be trading lower again soon and provide for lower entries for those wishing to open a position in this controversial biotech. There are just too many questions left to be answered.
OncoSec Medical (ONCS.OB) has rallied 80% in the last month alone with a gain of 25% on Wednesday. The company had announced that it would be presenting preliminary data for its Phase 2 Merkel cell carcinoma trial on October 26 and that it would be presenting Phase 2 data on its metastatic melanoma trial on November 15. This is what led to most of its gains during the last month. However, on Wednesday the company announced that it received authorization to CE mark its proprietary gene and drug delivery platform, OncoSec Medical System (OMS). This medical system is used for both the company's ImmunoPulse and NeoPulse systems, which is a form of immunotherapy and chemotherapy, respectively. The company's device uses electrical currents to create pores in the cells of cancer tumors as a form of targeted therapy. The company has been under-the-radar, but now appears to be trending higher, with data presentations expected to begin next week. I think it could be a promising stock to watch, as the market is obviously expecting good results-and judging by its earlier trials, the data could very well lead to larger gains. With the company's shares now trading at elevated levels, investors are advised to perform considerable due diligence to ascertain their own risk/reward for this budding biotech.