Biotech is always a wild ride, as MannKind Corporation (NASDAQ:MNKD) investors can attest. Just a year ago, Afrezza, the company’s brainchild, was poised to be a blockbuster drug as the first inhalable form of insulin for adults with diabetes. However, it seems that Afrezza failed to gain traction in the market. To make matters worse, MannKind announced yesterday that Sanofi, a partner in developing the drug, is terminating its agreement.
In light of this disappointing news, yesterday Cory Kasimov of J.P. Morgan reiterated an Underweight rating on MannKind without a price target. The analyst refers to Sanofi’s termination of the deal as “dreaded yet anticipated.” He is not surprised by the news because Afrezza has had a “relatively dismal launch to date with $5.5M in aggregate sales in the first three quarters of 2015.”
Looking forward, Kasimov does not believe MannKind can pursue a “viable path forward for Afrezza.” He continues, “With little hope for resuscitating Afrezza and a dismal balance sheet (net debt), we see MNKD in an increasingly precarious position.” Effectively, the analyst believes the drug will be abandoned. He explains, “Sanofi, who was a best-case partner for the product, is just the latest major diabetes player to throw in the towel on inhaled insulin, and we don’t see any other relevant companies stepping up.”
Aside from Afrezza, MannKind has its proprietary Technosphere platform. Kasimov explains that this platform provides methods of pulmonary administration for therapies that are normally administered via injection. While the company is exploring the use of this platform is other assets aside from Afrezza, Kasimov believes it is still in its infancy and therefore does not assign value to it.
Kasimov has a history of being bearish or cautious on MannKind, earning him a 100% success rate recommending the stock with a +70.9% average return per MNKD rating.
Separately, Joshua Schimmer of Piper Jaffray also voiced his bearishness on MannKind as he maintained an Underweight rating on the stock and further slashed his price target from $1.50 to a mere $0.05 after the company hosted a conference call yesterday evening. The analyst also lowers his Afrezza sales estimates “to reflect MNKD’s lack of experience and ability to fund a sales force,” as well as removing his EU estimates.
In the conference call, MannKind voiced its confidence that Afrezza can thrive without Sanofi. There was not a Q&A session offered at the end of the conference call, leading Schimmer to believe that the company has enough cash to finance itself for one year. He does not think another company will step up to help finance Afrezza launch efforts, leaving MannKind with the challenge of “[curtailing] spending substantially and simultaneously [driving] higher adoption and enthusiasm, despite having no meaningful commercial capabilities and experience.” He acknowledges the possibility of Afrezza becoming an “ultra-premium product with a massive price increase,” but he does not see how such a product would gain traction due to cheap alternatives.
Schimmer does acknowledge a glimmer of hope, explaining that if MannKind can successfully launch Afrezza without over spending, there could be “meaningful upside” from his price target.
Schimmer has been bearish or neutral on MannKind since 2009, earning a 60% success rate making recommendations on the company with a +42.9% average return per MNKD rating.
According to TipRanks, 1 analyst remains bullish on MannKind, 3 are bearish, and 1 is neutral.