Healthcare Business

Merrill Lynch Top Biotechnology Stocks to Buy for Big Gains

The higher the market climbs, the harder it becomes for investors to find solid stock ideas to add or scale in to their portfolios. With the market currently teetering on what seems like an inclination for a healthy sell-off, one area continues to stand out. The biotechnology research team at Merrill Lynch has done extensive work on not only current sales figures for the top biotechnology names, but potential revenue years down the road from current and ongoing pipeline trials.

One advantage the leaders in the sector consistently seem to have is depth of research and the ability to acquire technologies they do not have. From breakthroughs in multiple sclerosis and oncology to stronger antibiotics to fight superbugs, the top stocks to buy at Merrill Lynch hold big promise for the future.

Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) is the top name to buy at Merrill Lynch. They see more upside to consensus on current products, good long-term visibility, strong competitive position and heavy biologics exposure. Merrill Lynch has a $295 price target on the stock. The Thomson/First Call estimate is much lower at $228. The Merrill Lynch price target is the highest on Wall Street.

Celgene Corp.‘s (NASDAQ: CELG) stated goal is to double its sales by 2017, and in order to achieve that, it pursues a three-way strategy: expand Revlimid, its core product, into new indications; develop new blockbusters; and build its early stage pipeline through active dealmaking. Merrill Lynch has a $143 price objective, while the consensus is right in line at $142.50.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXN) recently announced that encouraging data on its sole marketed drug, Soliris, has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) for treating patients suffering from atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS). Merrill Lynch has a $123 target for the stock, and the consensus is at $120.

Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ONXX) recently announced positive results from the phase III DECISION study on Nexavar (sorafenib) tablets in patients suffering from locally advanced or metastatic radioactive iodine (RAI)-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer. Data revealed a 41% reduction in the risk of disease progression or death for patients receiving Nexavar, compared to patients under placebo. Merrill Lynch has a $110 price target. The consensus is at $110 as well.

Gilead Sciences Inc.‘s (NASDAQ: GILD) push to develop new oral drugs for hepatitis C continues to captivate investors as shares trade at about 26 times projected earnings over the next four quarters. Merrill Lynch has a $76 target, but the consensus target is lower at $65. A move to the Merrill Lynch target price would represent a 40% gain from current trading levels.

Trius Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: TSRX) is a top small cap name at many Wall Street firms to buy. The continual need of a newer and stronger form of antibiotic has sparked several biotechnology companies to develop drugs to combat MRSA, and Trius might be on to one that could be a multibillion dollar solution. Merrill Lynch has a $12 target, the same as the consensus target.

Orexigen Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: OREX) is another small cap that is on the Merrill Lynch list of stocks to buy. One of the three players in the ongoing battle for a successful obesity drug. We recently wrote about positive clinical studies for the drugs. Merrill Lynch has $10 target for the stock, and the consensus estimate is $11.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: VRTX) got on the biotechnology map with a blockbuster hepatitis C drug. The company should be able to get revenue growing again with its cystic fibrosis franchise. It already has one drug approved, but Kalydeco by itself is only appropriate for about 4% of cystic fibrosis patients. To have Celgene-type success, Vertex needs drugs in its pipeline that are being tested with Kalydeco to be a success. Merrill Lynch has an $84 target, and the consensus is higher at $92.

We have stressed for some time now that the market is toppy and needs a breather in order to continue to march higher. Investors looking at biopharmaceutical stocks to buy may want to edge some capital in and see if a correction does not occur. Any substantial move down would provide an opportune time to add larger positions of these top names.

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