Two Biotech Companies Rated Strong Buys for the New Year
Analyst recommendations can be great indicators of a company’s potential. Against the current backdrop of market uncertainty in the biotech space, a highly recommended company can provide a certain level of risk mitigation, and some well needed stability. Here’s a look at two companies that analysts rate as strong buys right now.
Ascendis is a Danish biotech that you can pick up an exposure to in the US via NASDAQ. The company has a range of indications for a few different types of drugs, but they all revolve around its core technology – TransCon. TransCon is a pretty simple system, which involves an unaltered formulation of a traditional drug being enclosed in what the company calls a TransCon carrier – essentially it’s a C-shaped casing that is designed to release the drug it encloses under and specific temperature and PH conditions. This design translates to an extended, sustained delivery, while maintaining the safety and efficacy profile of the drug being delivered, as there is no reformulation. The company is targeting arterial hypertension, ophthalmology and diabetes with the tech, but its primary and lead indication is growth hormone deficiency (GHD). We got top-line from a phase II in pediatric GHD earlier this year, suggesting efficacy won’t be a problem and reaffirming the safety profile of the delivery system. A multi center Phase III is set to kick off before mid-2016, and should complete within 6 months. Ascendis also completed a phase II for the adult patient population in GHD, but as yet we’ve not got word on when it plans to initiate anything pivotal.
So why do analysts like this one? Well, an approval in the GHD space would open it up to a multi billion-dollar market, and would see the company introduce the world’s first sustained delivery GHD pill. It has a couple of high profile partnerships with industry behemoths Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) and Roche Holding AG’s (OTCMKTS:RHHBY) Genentech, and about $130 million cash on hand against a burn rate of circa $8 million a quarter. With a market cap just just of $18, down on its $19 IPO and a 19% discount on 2015 highs, it looks cheap at current prices.
We covered this company early last month, when Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE:BMY) announced it had gained clearance for a $350 million upfront deal that saw BMS pick up global rights to Five Prime’s lead candidate, FPA008. The drug is what’s called a CSF1R inhibitor, and is one of the most promising candidates in immuno-oncology, a space that has been at the forefront of biotech investing for the past couple of years, and still draws a lot of attention as its component therapies mature towards commercialization. Since that event, we’ve learnt that the company has dosed its first patient in a secondary, phase I trial with a gastric cancer indication, and Five Prime’s third quarter numbers hit press. When it comes to dev-stage biotechs, net earnings are relatively unimportant – it’s capital on hand that counts. Clinical development is drawn out and costly, and investors will often focus on a company’s the ability to fund the process ahead of its bottom line. From this perspective, and as a direct result of the already mentioned BMS deal, Five Prime looks attractive. At September 30, 2015, the company had a little over $36 million cash on its books. Factor in the $350 million upfront from BMS, and a few million in net receivables, and Five Prime won’t be far off $400 million in the bank. With a burn rate of between $10-20 million, this gives it a run rate of at least five years. Obviously, costs will increase as the company’s pipeline matures, but its still a strong position to be in in – especially in this space. Five Prime’s current market cap sits at $1.18 billion – just 3% off all time highs, but there looks to be plenty of upside on offer going forward as we get interim analysis of the company’s maturing pipeline throughout 2016.