3 Beaten-Down Biotech Stocks With Catalysts Just Around the Corner


With the outbreak of the coronavirus, volatility has become a seemingly ever-present facet of the stock market. Since the end of February, the major U.S. indexes have experienced violent swings in either direction, with these movements culminating in a circuit breaker being triggered on March 9 after the S&P 500 slipped by over 7%.

While the current economic landscape has spurred fear among investors, others view market volatility as a possible avenue to huge rewards. Pointing to the healthcare sector specifically, those ready to take on some risk cite the potential returns that can be delivered should a name inhabiting this space release positive data or receive FDA approval. As healthcare companies generally rely on these few key indicators, the results can either send shares skyrocketing or down the drain.

Bearing this in mind, we used TipRanks’ Stock Screener to identify three beaten-down biotech stocks that have significant catalysts coming up. The tool not only revealed that each of these Buy-rated tickers has attracted significant praise from analysts, all three also boast lofty upside potential. Here’s the scoop.

MyoKardia Inc. (MYOK)

This biotech name specializes in developing cutting-edge therapies for orphan cardiovascular diseases like hypertrophic obstructive and non-obstructive cardiomyopathy as well as dilated cardiomyopathy. Despite the year-to-date hit shares have taken, analysts are betting on MyoKardia ahead of an important data readout.

During the second quarter of 2020, the company is expected to release data from the Phase 3 EXPLORER trial, which is evaluating its mavacamten therapy in patients with obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (oHCM). Management stated in its Q4 earnings call that 50% of oHCM patients are treated by 2,800 cardiologists, and the company is planning on targeting this physician group. Additionally, the HCM awareness campaign, which began in November, also stands to benefit MYOK by increasing awareness of the disease, with a new online resource being added for doctors this spring.

For BMO Capital’s George Farmer, the previous mavacamten data is what has him excited about MYOK’s prospects. “We believe the primary endpoint will be met in EXPLORER for the following reasons: (1) the unprecedented efficacy profile with improved pVO2 and NYHA achieved with mavacamten in PIONEER sustained over 48 weeks; (2) the attractive mavacamten safety profile that emerged from the placebo-controlled nHCM MAVERICK trial (note here); and (3) the apparent utility of monitoring LVOT gradient in order to achieve optimal dosing in the oHCM treatment setting,” the analyst explained.

While Farmer added that the impact of mavacamten on left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) has been a cause for concern, he argues that the trial’s design to include careful dose-titration could reduce some of the risk.

To this end, the five-star analyst stays with the bulls, reiterating his Outperform rating. Along with the call, the assigned $90 price target implies that shares could climb 57% higher in the next year. (To watch Farmer’s track record, click here)

What does the rest of the Street have to say? It turns out all 7 analysts that have published a recent review see the stock as a Buy, making the consensus rating a Strong Buy. At $85.83, the average price target implies 50% upside potential. (See MyoKardia stock analysis on TipRanks)

Cara Therapeutics (CARA)

By developing a class of peripherally acting kappa opioid agonist therapies, Cara Therapeutics is hoping to provide a more effective treatment option for chronic pruritis (itchy skin). While Cara shares tumbled nearly 17% year-to-date, some biotech pros see the upcoming top-line KALM-2 efficacy data release as being a major turning point.

Back in October, the healthcare company increased the patient enrollment for the study by 20% to 430 patients at the request of an Independent Data Monitoring Committee (IDMC). KALM-2 is the second of two trials looking at the intravenous (IV) form of its CR845 drug in hemodialysis patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD)-associated pruritis, the results of which are slated for a Q2 2020 announcement.

Weighing in on CARA for Piper Sandler, analyst David Amsellem explains that the increase in the number of patients was likely due to the fact that the KALM-2 study has more patient variability because its sites are located in multiple countries, while KALM-1 was only in the U.S. “Given that CR845 was highly statistically superior to placebo in the KALM-1 study (to the tune of a very strong p-value of .000019) and that KALM-2 has essentially the same design as KALM-1 (refer to our note on 10/14/19 for more details), we would be surprised to see results from KALM-2 diverge dramatically from KALM-1,” the analyst commented.

On top of this, Amsellem also highlights the oral form of the candidate as setting the company up for serious growth. While oral CR845 failed to impress in its Phase 2 study as it missed on a responder analysis at week 12, a large and “well-powered” pivotal study could go a long way for CARA. With this in mind, Amsellem stated, “We continue to believe that both the IV and oral forms of CR845 will reach the market, driving a potentially $1 billion-plus franchise and hence transformative value creation.”

In line with his optimistic approach, Amsellem left his Overweight call and $39 price target intact. Should this target be met, a twelve-month gain of 187% could be in the cards. (To watch Amsellem’s track record, click here)

Judging by the consensus breakdown, the analyst communitity is on the same page. Given that 4 Buys have been issued in the last three months compared to no Holds or Sells, the message is clear: CARA is a Strong Buy. While less aggressive than Amsellem’s forecast, the $33.50 average price target still suggests 148% upside potential. (See Cara stock analysis on TipRanks)

Eloxx Pharmaceuticals (ELOX)

With the goal of treating rare and ultra-rare premature stop codon diseases, Eloxx has become one of the leaders in the eukaryotic ribosomal selective glycosides (ERSG) space. Even though shares suffered a beating after cystinosis data for its already approved Procysbi product was released last month, Janney analyst Yun Zhong sees a key upcoming catalyst related to its investigational candidate, ELX-02, as capable of driving a turnaround.

Zhong points out that each of the three patients in the low-dose cohort from Procysbi’s clinical study had gone through renal transplantation, with the result indicating that data interpretation from transplant patients could be difficult. In his opinion, this makes the recent sell-off of ELOX “overdone”. The analyst added, “We believe Eloxx will modify the protocol after the ongoing data review with cystinosis experts and we believe a higher dose and a younger patient population could lead to improved efficacy.”

Additionally, Zhong thinks the top-line data readout for the Phase 2 study of ELX-02 in cystic fibrosis (CF) in first half of 2020 represents a significant catalyst, stating that he doesn’t believe there will be a readthrough from the Procysbi results. It should be noted that the CF program features two Phase 2 open-label studies located in the U.S. and Israel.

With patient enrollment expected to wrap up in the first quarter of 2020, Zhong believes a positive outcome is likely. “Based on data from the Phase II study of Kalydeco in CF patients with the G551D mutation, we believe a reasonable expectation would be to see a meaningful change from baseline in sweat chloride, which will serve as the primary biomarker for ELX-02 dose selection for pivotal studies,” he commented.

This reduction in sweat chloride is essential as it could allow the candidate to progress to a pivotal Phase. Taking all of this into consideration, Zhong recommends snapping up shares on recent weakness. Along with a Buy rating, he puts a $14 price target on the stock. This conveys his confidence in ELOX’s ability to soar 344% in the next twelve months. (To watch Zhong’s track record, click here)

Turning now to the analyst community, a Moderate Buy consensus rating breaks down into 2 Buys and a single Hold. Given its $10.33 average price target, the upside potential comes in at 232%. (See Eloxx stock analysis on TipRanks)

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