Banking Giant Goldman Sachs Mixed on These 3 Biotech Stocks

Biotechs represent some of the most difficult to gauge investment opportunities on the Street. This is because shares can make big moves in either direction given a single catalyst, making these stocks more volatile in nature. Having said that, more risk-tolerant investors are constantly being drawn to biotechs as the rewards can be staggering.

With investor focus locked in on the space, Goldman Sachs took a closer look at the industry as a whole, writing in a recent note to clients that the landscape is improving.

“With healthcare policy and the macro backdrop becoming less of a headwind to the group relative to the concerns that pressured the XBI in late 3Q19, we see fundamentals and stock picking returning to the forefront, supported in part by a recent uptick in M&A activity,” Goldman Sachs’ Paul Choi stated.

Against this backdrop, Choi reminds investors that not all biotech stocks are bound for greatness. Specifically, he points to 3 names with very different growth prospects, starting coverage on one as a Buy, one as a Hold and the other as a Sell.

Bearing this in mind, we used to get the full scoop on the good, the bad and the ugly of the biotech industry. Here’s what we found out.

Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals (KNSA)

Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals, which just scored an upgrade from Goldman Sachs, wants to meet the large unmet need of patients suffering from autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases. While shares have fallen year-to-date, Choi argues that the risk/reward profile looks promising ahead of key upcoming catalysts, possibly leading to a reappraisal.

Choi  highlights its pipeline as a point of strength given the significant unmet need of patients with recurrent pericarditis (RP), giant cell arteritis (GCA) and prurigo nodularis (PN).

“While we believe that investors are waiting for clinical de-risking of KNSA’s assets, we recommend positioning in advance of these 2020 events as we anticipate that more value will be assigned to the pipeline upon the data read outs, as we are optimistic regarding KNSA’s sole focus on indications with limited treatment options and comparatively low competitive intensity,” the analyst explained.

To top it off, the company is slated to release pivotal Phase 3 data for rilonacept, its most advanced asset, in the second half of 2020. Choi notes that as it received approval for CAPS (cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes) treatment and the prior Phase 2 data was favorable, “we think investors already view the Phase 3 data and potential approval optimistically and do not view the data as a large inflection point for the stock.”

He does however cite KNSA’s mavrilimumab drug for the treatment of giant cell arteritis, an inflammatory disease of blood vessels, as a possible big growth driver given the larger addressable market and commercial opportunity, modelled at about $1.6 billion peak sales opportunity.

Based on all that KNSA has going for it, Choi assumed coverage by bumping up the rating from Hold to Buy and attaching an $18 price target. This conveys his confidence in the biotech’s ability to climb 58% higher in the next twelve months.

It has been pretty quiet on Wall Street when it comes to other analyst activity. As Choi is the only analyst that has published a recommendation in the last three months, KNSA has a Moderate Buy consensus. (See Kiniksa stock analysis on TipRanks)

Magenta Therapeutics (MGTA)

Magenta, which uses stem cell biology to develop cures for autoimmune diseases, blood cancers and genetic diseases, is definitely promising thanks to its focus on the curative potential of stem cell transplants as well as on the different stages in the transplant process.

Additionally, Magenta stands to add value if it can increase the number of patients that are initially eligible for transplants as it would expand the opportunity long-term. Choi believes that the biotech could achieve this with its earliest stage conditioning program given the amount of addressable patients. These assets include C100 and C300, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for transplant conditioning, or the second step in the stem cell transplant process.

“Conditioning toxicity is responsible for up to 10% of mortality following allogeneic transplants and limits the number of patients with successful transplants, and even the number of patients initially eligible for transplant. With a targeted conditioning agent, MGTA hopes to only deplete the cell types required for a successful transplant,” Choi explained. As such, the analyst expects that early data for these programs will attract substantial investor attention.

However, Choi points out that its assets are mostly in the early stages and require further clinical validation. “In the near-term we think the early stages of its assets may limit share outperformance, especially without more visibility on the commercial potential in these populations,” he wrote.

To this end, Choi took over coverage by issuing a Hold rating and setting an $18 price target. At this target, the potential twelve-month gain comes in at 41%.

The rest of the Street’s take is more of a mixed bag. With 2 Buys and 1 Hold, the verdict is that MGTA is a Moderate Buy. However, the average price target of $19 puts the upside potential above Choi’s forecast at 49%. (See Magenta stock analysis on TipRanks)

Odonate Therapeutics (ODT)

The cancer drug maker represents the “the ugly” of the biotech sector according to Choi.

That’s not to say that the Goldman Sachs analyst doesn’t see any positives for Odonate Therapeutics. The company has gained 114% since the start of the year, with Choi adding that its tesetaxel drug in HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer appears poised for approval.

However, the headwinds facing ODT can’t be ignored. “The HR+/HER2- breast cancer market is competitive with many generic taxane and other chemotherapies currently available, which will likely limit commercial adoption, in our view,” Choi stated.

On top of this, he predicts that utilization will primarily be in the patient population evaluated in ODT’s Phase 3 CONTESSA study. This lends itself to Choi’s prediction of sales that are about 60% below consensus estimates, on average, for the first three years following the launch. As a result, the analyst remains bearish.

“Given the significant share price appreciation year-to-date, we see the valuation as stretched and look for a more attractive entry point,” Choi concluded.

Taking all of this into consideration, Choi initiated his coverage of the biotech with a Sell rating. Given the $26 price target, the four-star analyst sees 14% downside in store.

What do other analysts think? Looking at the consensus breakdown, it’s an even split. As 1 Buy and 1 Sell have been received in the last three months, the word on the Street is that ODT is a Hold. In addition, the $26 average price target indicates upside potential that’s right in line with Choi’s forecast. (See Odonate stock analysis on TipRanks)


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