Top Biotechs Set to Win in the War on Cancer

Tuesday saw the wrap up of the 2013 European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) conference in Amsterdam, which featured key data from several of the companies covered by the biotech analysts at UBS. While the UBS team came away from ESMO with a much clearer picture of the competitive positioning and clinical profiles for many of the drugs from companies under their coverage, on balance this year’s ESMO meeting was much less stock-moving event than in years past.

One thing from the conference was extremely evident. The biotech sector remains catalyst-rich for the remainder of 2013, with key data readouts at several upcoming conferences to impact shares. In a new research report, UBS highlights the top names in the biotechnology world making huge strides to bring an end to a disease that killed almost 600,000 people in the United States alone in 2012.

BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. (NASDAQ: BMRN) is a leading company in the battle against breast cancer. It also is floated often as a potential takeover candidate. The company announced encouraging results from an ongoing phase I/II study on its oncology candidate BMN 673. BioMarin presented the data at the European Cancer Congress in the Netherlands. The study is evaluating BMN 673 in patients suffering from solid tumors. The Thomson/First Call price target for the stock is $80. BioMarin closed Wednesday at $75.09.

ImmunoGen Inc. (NASDAQ: IMGN) also focuses on breast cancer treatment with its targeted-antibody payload, or TAP, technology, which allows chemotherapy toxins to hop aboard an antibody and be released when they come into contact with a targeted cancer cell that exhibits a specific protein signature. The end result is the destruction of cancerous cells without harming healthy cells that do not possess this protein signature. The consensus price target for this fast-rising name is $17. The stock closed at $17.05.

Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ARIA) is a favorite stock at UBS and also was upgraded to Buy this week at Oppenheimer. Ariad has one of the strongest product pipelines, which is expected to drive growth in the near term. The company is focused on treatments for lung cancer. The consensus price target for this top mid-cap name is $26. Ariad closed Wednesday at $18.67.

Medivation Inc. (NASDAQ: MDVN) is a leader in prostate cancer drugs and treatment. One out of every six men in the United States ultimately will have the disease in one form or another. The company is waiting on final results from a critical ongoing phase 3 trial with partner Astellas on the cancer drug Xtandi. The drug will be used as a pre-chemo prostate therapy. The consensus price target for the stock is placed at $70. Medivation closed Wednesday at $58.97.

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) is the biotech giant leading the search for cures for ovarian cancer. The company recently completed its previously announced tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of common stock of Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ONXX) for $125 per share in cash. This is a huge step for Amgen in increasing its cancer drug portfolio. The consensus price target for the stock is $124, and investors are paid a 1.6% dividend. Amgen closed Wednesday at $113.06.

Celgene Corp.‘s (NASDAQ: CELG) Abraxane is coming on strong, with regulatory approval for treating metastatic breast cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer, with a very high mortality rate. Pomalyst, which Celgene launched earlier this year, adds to the company’s multiple myeloma lineup. The consensus price target for this top name is $155.50. Celgene closed Wednesday at $155.93.

Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) remains a leader in the HIV/AIDS drug market. Atripla and Truvada are juggernauts. Stribild, which gained U.S. approval in August 2012, should be Gilead’s next HIV/AIDS blockbuster. This product strength has helped the company stay on track with its lymphoma drug idelaisib, its first entry into cancer drugs. Hematologic cancers are among the hardest of all to treat in the patient population. The consensus price target for this leading name is $72. Gilead closed at $62.40.

The battle to defeat cancer is an ongoing avenue for almost every major biotech and biopharma company. Huge strides have been made, and the survival rates from even the deadliest forms of the disease have skyrocketed. Cancer treatment is very expensive, and the companies with the top drugs are realizing tremendous revenue streams from their products. That will only continue as new treatments are approved.