3 Biotech Stars Ready To Shine

Includes: ACHN, BIOL, SLS
by: Craig Keolanui

When the market is on the rise, it can make it a little harder to invest in more speculative stocks that often have high or even inflated valuations. Several biotech stocks can still offer potential that can override any downturn or sideways movement in the market. The following three stocks have plenty to offer in the not so distant future and are poised to pop at any moment.

First up in this evaluation is the least expensive but certainly high in potential Galena (GALE). The market for breast cancer is enormous and Galena has tons of potential in NeuVax for preventing the recurrence of breast cancer. Galena is bargain priced at $2.10 (March 27th) a share and has a market cap just under $175 million. The 52-week high of $2.45 a share is well within reach and with over $35 million in cash to start the year, Galena has plenty of cash at hand. The quarterly burn rate was brought down to just under $4 million last quarter and with NeuVax in phase III trials, there is money to get through the FDA approval process. Galena also just bought the rights to sell Abstral Sublingual Tablets in the US for an upfront fee of $10 million with another $5 million due after the first 12 months. The European market for Abstral, a fentanyl product for cancer pain, produced sales of $54 million in 2012, leading all European competitors. This will give Galena revenue and more stability along with recent coverage initiated from Needham & Company with a buy and $3.50 a share price target. This now gives Galena a total of 7 analyst buy recommendations without any hold or sell recommendations.

Galena has a phase III trial with NeuVax which is based on the E75 peptide for the treatment of preventing the recurrence of breast cancer. Galena also is developing Folate Binding Protein-E39 for preventing the recurrence of gynecological cancers like ovarian and endometrial adenocarconimas. This protein is currently in phase 1/2 clinical trials. The purchase of Abstral from Orexo AB (Sweden) gives Galena a drug for fast and effective cancer pain treatment that has already been approved by the FDA for use in the US (2011).

If you are looking to catch a rising star sooner than later, then Biolase (NASDAQ:BIOL) looks like a perfect candidate. Biolase has a market cap just over $120 million and yet revenues came in around $60 million and even close to $20 million last quarter alone. This quarterly revenue figure represents growth of over 56% for the last three quarters and a similar trend is evident with Biolase profits. Three quarters ago, Biolase had a loss of almost $2 million and this last quarter (ending December 2012), a small profit of over $1 million was realized. Need even more good news? Biolase has virtually no debt and in two years turned a negative stockholder equity of just over $3 million into what is now almost $12 million in positive equity. Biolase shares currently trade at $3.84 (March 27th) a share with a 52-week high of $4.92 and a one year target of $5.22. If Biolase can keep growth going, the current share price will be extremely undervalued. Last quarter's revenue beat the street's expectations and Biolase recently received an upgrade by Northland Capital to outperform with a price target of $7 a share. Current coverage by three analysts have two experts recommending a strong buy and one a buy with no holds or sell considered.

Biolase develops, manufactures and markets lasers for medical use and dental applications here in the US and other international markets. Medical applications are focused on soft tissues, pain therapy and other therapeutic applications. Dental laser systems are for use in everything from teeth whitening to complex surgical applications. Biolase also markets and distributes extra-oral and intra-oral imaging devices for use in the dental industry.

Biolase might have a proven product and strong growth, but if you are looking for more potential for a bigger payoff down the road, Achillion (NASDAQ:ACHN) might be the ticket. Achillion is attempting to tackle patients infected with Hepatitis C (HCV), with or without risk factors such as Cirrhosis, and even the HIV virus. The potential marketplace for treating patients infected with HCV and HIV is about $30 billion alone. There are only a few competitors, Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) with Sofosbuvir (phase III) being the most prominent, and all of these are major companies. Achillion, $8.82 a share, (March 27th) can compete quite favorably with the big boys after just raising over $133 million with a stock offering that didn't drop the share price significantly and even left them with about $211 million in cash to burn. Achillion did burn through just under $48 million in cash last year and should be able to easily follow through with its trials and have money for marketing too. On top of all that, Achillion has virtually no debt, a modest market cap of $702.5 million, a 1-year price target of $14.27 a share and 12 buy or strong buy analyst recommendations. Almost 90% of Achillion stock is currently held by institutions, which is also not a bad thing to add. There might be lots of risk, but this stock could easily triple if FDA approval is secured for its lead HCV drug candidate, Sovaprevir.

Achillion has three primary clinical trials going on with Sovaprevir, a NS3 protease inhibitor in phase IIa clinical trials for Hepatitis C (HCV), being its lead candidate. Another phase IIa trial is going on for drug candidate ACH-3102, a NS5A inhibitor, for combining with ribavirin for suppressing the HCV GT1b virus. Another candidate, ACH-2684, a protease NS3 protease inhibitor is in phase I trials. Achillion also has a pipeline of antibacterial product candidates with ACH-702 leading the pack for the treatment of dermatologic and ophthalmic infections and ACH-2881 for the treatment of more serious resistant bacterial infections.

Investing in biotech stocks always carries great risk, but that risk might not be so great with Biolase. Galena and Achillion might have high risk, however, the financial windfall that an FDA approval would bring to either is hard to downplay. Biolase has technology for the future and Galena and Achillion are ready to make the future better for many inflicted people. It just depends on what you are looking to add to your portfolio.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in BIOL over the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.