Healthcare Business

The 5 Most Loved Biotech Stocks of Portfolio Managers

With the market continuing to grind higher, and the memories of the first time the Nasdaq hit 5,000 getting a fair amount of airplay and commentary, the question for most investors is where do we go now? While most agree that this is not the speculative bubble that was present in 2000, after a six-year rally, things are not cheap. A big part of the Nasdaq is biotech, and a new report from Cowen details the stocks that big money managers love and are staying with.

The market has had a flood of biotech initial public offerings (IPOs) and secondaries since the beginning of the year, and some have been dreadful. The Cowen report is a comprehensive look that they periodically do that chronicles the calls and feedback they get from hedge fund and mutual fund portfolio managers on what is known as the buy side.

Here are the five biotech stocks that buy-side managers love the most now.

Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) is a top biotech stock to buy on Wall Street, with many predicting that its Tysabri earnings will have a meaningful jump this year and beyond. Another data point that many feel could be huge will be the release of information from the company on a drug known as BIIB037, which is expected to demonstrate robust effects in early Alzheimer’s patients. Needless to say, positive clinical data from the biotech giant on Alzheimer’s could be a gigantic catalyst.

Cowen has the stock rated Outperform and has a $425 price target for the stock. The Thomson/First Call consensus price target is lower at $419.83, and Biogen closed Tuesday at $412.79 a share.

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Celgene Corp. (NASDAQ: CELG) is another of Wall Street’s top picks for this year, as many feel this large cap stock has solid upside potential for 2015 and an outstanding partnered pipeline. Some analysts think the company can grow earnings 20% or more next year and in 2016. Celgene recently provided strong guidance surrounding its Otezla launch and encouraging feedback from doctors on the potential of new triplet regimens in myeloma. Many on Wall Street see the company working to diversify away from the flagship product through the emerging inflammation and immunology franchise, as well as a rich pipeline of alliances.

The Cowen team has a $146 price target for the stock, which is rated Outperform. The consensus target is $137.54. Celgene closed on Tuesday at $118.47.

Cempra Inc. (NASDAQ: CEMP) is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company focused on developing antibiotics to meet critical medical needs in the treatment of bacterial infectious diseases. The Cowen team points out that the company is a very positive story, as many of the other players have left the antibiotic market. Solithromycin is the company’s potent fourth generation Macrolide antibiotic. The oral data in Phase 3 was out in January and was very positive. Its polymorph patent extends to 2032, which is significant. With other drugs also well along in clinical studies, the company may be a buyout target for a bigger biotech.

Cowen has the stock rated Outperform, with a price target of $35. The consensus is higher at $36.90. The stock closed Tuesday at $31.96 a share.

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Celldex Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: CLDX) is developing targeted therapeutics to address devastating diseases for which available treatments are currently inadequate. The company’s pipeline is built from a proprietary portfolio of antibodies and immunomodulators used alone and in strategic combinations to create novel, disease-specific therapies that induce, enhance or suppress the body’s immune response. Celldex recently received breakthrough therapy designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its drug Rintega.

Cowen analysts have set a $26 price target on this Outperform-rated stock. The consensus target is much higher at $34.78. Shares closed at $26.37.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN) is another top pick around Wall Street and fund managers love the company. The stock has been a performance monster over the past two years, and most Wall Street firms expect it to stay one. With treatments for everything from macular degeneration to colorectal cancer, Regeneron continues to exploit an extraordinary pipeline. Analysts are very positive on the company’s prospects for solid Eylea growth, and others on Wall Street cite Alirocumab, which is another new cholesterol drug with big expected upside. The company and partner Sanofi recently received encouraging news when the FDA granted priority review to its biologics license application for its PCSK9 antibody, Praluent. The companies are looking to get the candidate approved for the treatment of patients suffering from hypercholesterolemia.

Cowen rates the stock at Market Perform and has a $375 price target, while the consensus target is much higher at $444.45. Shares closed trading on Tuesday at $412.50. The Cowen call looks more valuation-based than anything.

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Just because portfolio managers and the buy-side accounts are in love with these stocks does not mean they are necessarily right. It does, however, give investors a look at what people who are paid to run money like and are invested in.

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