Healthcare Business

5 Speculative Biotech Analyst Picks With Upside Targets of 100% to 400%


Investors have remained buyers of stocks throughout much of the summer, and a stronger than expected earnings season has kept the market near all-time highs. Still, the nine-year-old bull market of 2018 is acting differently than in the prior few years when investors were always rewarded for buying the dips in the market. Now investors have had to be careful about sticking with winners and avoiding losers. Those same investors are in a place of evaluating how they want their assets positioned in the second half of 2018 and beyond.

24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations each weekday. This ends up being hundreds of analyst calls by the end of each week. The goal is to find new investing and new trading ideas for our readers. Some calls cover stocks to buy, and some cover stocks to sell or to avoid.

When it comes to “buy” ratings, there are many different names and many different levels of risk and return to consider. Most stocks receiving new Buy or Outperform analyst ratings in Dow Jones industrials or S&P 500 stocks come with projected upside of 8% to 10% at this stage in the bull market.

There is another type of Buy rating that is far more speculative, one in which the projected upside can be 50%, 100% or exponentially higher. These are generally much riskier than Dow or S&P 500 stocks. They rarely come with dividends, and many of the companies have limited operating history and revenues are either small or not due for years.

The biotech industry is among the riskiest of them all for investors. It is also where investors can routinely see shares rise massively on new drug development news. Those same investors just must never forget that they may be risking their entire investment in these speculative companies.

24/7 Wall St. has identified several biotech analyst calls from Wall Street wherein the analysts are projecting upside of 100% to about 400%. Again, these are highly speculative by nature, and they should be avoided by investors who are very conservative and who are looking for stable earnings and dividends.

AcelRx Targets Pain

AcelRx Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ACRX) is a tiny company with less than a $200 million market cap. It focuses on the development and future commercialization of therapies to treat acute pain. The company also raised about $20 million in July via a secondary offering at $2.75 per share, and the stock most recently closed at $3.05 and has a 52-week trading range of $1.55 to $5.75.

Ladenburg Thalmann initiated AcelRx with a Buy rating and a $7 price target. This call for more than 100% in implied upside is actually the highest stock price target among the analysts covering the stock, and the shares had closed at $2.95 prior to the call.

BioXcel, for Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia

BioXcel Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ BTAI) was featured this week by Canaccord Genuity with huge upside among a view on the firm’s upcoming catalyst biotech picks. Canaccord Genuity’s price target of $21 was up more than 100% from the current price of $8.15.

The firm cited multiple data readouts for BXCL501 (sublingual dexmedetomidine) data from Phase 1b pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies on intravenous dex (agitation in Alzheimer’s disease/schizophrenia), which could come in the second half of 2018. They also see a Phase 2 open-label proof of concept data could readout in late-2018.

BioXcel has a 52-week range of $6.76 to $14.79 a share and a mere $127 million market cap. Its shares were unmoved on Wednesday when the call was made.

The Other Constellation

Constellation Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNST) has seen its quiet period come to an end, and the analysts began coverage on August 13. One of the firms sees a doubling of the shares. Oppenheimer began coverage as Outperform and with a $21 price target, some 100% higher than Friday’s $10.45 close.

BMO Capital Markets started it with an Outperform rating and a $19 price target, while JPMorgan started it was Outperform with a $17 price target. This new set of targets compares with a $9.85 prior closing price, so the stock did rise after the analysts issued new coverage.

The post-IPO range has been $9.00 to $12.21, and Constellation Pharma had a $269 million market cap. The company is serious about unmet medical needs in patients with cancers associated with abnormal gene expression or drug resistance.

Eiger Remains a Key Drug Pipeline Pick

Eiger BioPharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: EIGR) has been viewed positively by Wedbush Securities for quite some time, and the firm’s bullishness has remained consistent through ups and downs (even after bad news). Wedbush sees Eiger continuing to advance its pipeline and as having a healthy cash position of $73.5 million, which should fund the company through the first quarter of 2020. This includes covering the potential U.S. approval of lonafarnib for progeria, as well as the initiation of Phase 3 programs for lonafarnib in hepatitis delta, Exendin (9-39) for post-bariatric hyperglycemia and ubenimex for lymphedema. Wedbush sees multiple material catalysts expected in the second half of 2018.

The firm sees the recent pullback in Eiger as an attractive buying opportunity. Shares dipped back under $10 this week but closed Friday at $11.85. It has a 52-week range of $7.46 to $18.00 and a $162 million market cap.

The firm has a street-high target of $53, implying some 400% upside, if it is correct. The consensus target, including this sky-high target here, is closer to $30, and the lowest price target is listed as $21.

Radius Meets the RIC Report

Radius Health Inc. (NASDAQ: RDUS) was featured this past week after the Merrill Lynch RIC Report for August raised its weighting in health care to Overweight. Radius Health is among the Merrill Lynch buy ratings in health care and biotech, and the firm’s $47 price objective compares with a recent level of $20.00 a share.

That big upside is based on a probability-adjusted net present value of the company’s lead pipeline asset, abaloparatide at $26 per share, RAD1901 at $18 per share and $3 in cash per share. Radius has a $900 million market cap, and its consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $40.67.

And Others

There also were some runner-up analyst calls this week in biotech with upside that is under 100% but still rather high for speculative investors.

Corvus Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CRVS) was assumed with an Outperform rating at Credit Suisse, and the prior $11 target price was adjusted to $15. That’s more than 50% higher than the $9.70 share price after Wednesday’s call, and that was even after a 6.5% gain at the time. Corvus’s lead product, CPI-444, was said to have a clear lead in the clinic compared to competitors and was said to look like a compelling treatment for the growing market of PD-1 refractory patients. The 52-week trading range is $7.42 to $17.63, and the market cap at the time was $284 million.

Replimune Group Inc. (NASDAQ: REPL) was started with an Outperform rating and assigned a $31 price target at BMO Capital Markets. JPMorgan started it as Outperform with a $26 price target. Shares closed up 1.1% at $17.10 on Monday when the calls were made, and they ended the week at $17.44.

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