Jefferies Sees Big Upside From 4 Upcoming Near-Term Biotech Catalysts

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If there is one area that can generate riches for speculative investors, it would have to be biotech and emerging pharma. After all, how many companies can go from nothing to billions in sales in a short time. Savvy investors are also well aware that these companies can turn a large fortune into a small fortune for those speculative investors who make the wrong moves.

Jefferies has screened through a whopping 250 notable stock catalysts that are expected to occur in the next six to 12 months from its biotech universe. Some of these companies had multiple catalysts. That generated close to 100 companies in its coverage, and then the firm narrowed its focus down to a dozen near-term catalysts coming up for this space.

According to Jefferies, these companies have a risk/reward scenario that is more attractive now with investors paying more attention to biotech. The firm also has noted a that many biotechs have significantly outperformed the market after releasing positive data in the past few months. Jefferies has a Buy rating on most of the companies covered here.

In an effort to narrow the focus, 24/7 Wall St. screened out the companies that were too small (under $300 million), and we also screened out the companies that were already too large (over $5 billion) in effort to maximize the catalyst value. When companies are too small they may only have one horse in the race, and when companies are too large they often have many moving parts that can make one event less pertinent for “catalyst investing” themes.

We also screened out the stocks with a consensus analyst target price from Thomson Reuters that was lower than the current share price, even if Jefferies was more optimistic than the average analyst. And another company was screened out because of a 10% post-earnings drop on Monday alone, which should only point out how risky and volatile biotech investing can be.

Here are four biotech stocks for which the team of analysts at Jefferies, and analysts at other firms, see big upside potential from upcoming near-term drug study catalysts.

Esperion Therapeutics

Esperion Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: ESPR) has August Phase 2 bempedoic acid “triple pill” data comparing statin plus Zetia plus bempedoic acid (the Esperion) combination versus placebo. Jefferies believes that this triple combination should look good and show clean safety and that it could show significant low-density lipoprotein (LDL) reductions greater than 50% to 60%. This would be considered a large LDL reduction benefit all in one pill, and the firm feels that this could confirm the potential opportunity for Esperion, suggesting tremendous LDL lowering in combination with other therapies down the road.

It should be noted that Jefferies only has a Hold rating on Esperion, but its $55 price target is greater than the consensus and implied upside that is higher than most firms have. Its earnings data are expected to be released on August 8, so investors who are more averse to event-driven risks should perhaps wait and see here. For an outside view: UBS reiterated its Buy rating on Esperion in June and its target price is $57.

At $46.30 a share, Esperion has a market cap of $1.05 billion, and it has a consensus analyst target price of $52.00. One issue to consider about Esperion is that its stock is already very volatile, as it has a 52-week trading range of $9.40 to $50.52.