Biotech Movers and Shakers: Akebia Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:AKBA) and Clovis Oncology Inc (NASDAQ:CLVS)

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With earnings season now in full swing, there’s no shortage of volatility and data-driven action in the markets. Here’s a look at two of the week’s most active stocks in the biotech space, alongside an analysis of what’s driving the momentum.

Akebia Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:AKBA)

First up, Akebia. At market open on Friday, May 6, 2016, Akebia sold for a little over nine dollars a share. On record volume, however, the company sold off throughout the session to $8.30 – a nearly 9% decline across the period. The action came on the back of the company’s latest financial release – Q1, 2016 – and it looks as though there’s further downside on the cards as we head in to the US open this week.

So what made market selloff? In its financial report, Akebia recorded a loss of $.70 per share – $25.8 million – down on the $10.7 million net loss recorded in the same period a year earlier. R&D costs came in at a little over $20 million, and cash on hand amounted to $217 million. The net loss was down expectations, and this is why the company sold off, but in the grand scheme of things, Akebia is in a pretty strong position. Cash will carry it through to the middle of next year, and with a late stage trial set to begin both in Europe and the US before in the year, upside catalysts should be thick and fast.

For those not familiar with Akebia, the company is a development stage biotech with a kidney disease focus, based out of Massachusetts. Its leading technology is pretty interesting, in that it uses a replication of our body’s natural response to high altitude to target conditions like the above-mentioned kidney disease. Whether the approach will become a valid regimen going forward remains unclear, but if it does, Akebia could use the technology to target a whole host of currently unmet needs in the healthcare space. One to watch going forward, no question.

Clovis Oncology Inc (NASDAQ:CLVS)

This one is an interesting one. At the end of last week, Clovis announced that it was stopping the enrollment of its league long cancer candidate, and trimming down its workforce to the tune of 20 or 30 job losses. The decision came on the back of a recent meeting with the FDA, during which (apparently) the latter made it pretty clear to Clovis that – in its current form – the above-mentioned candidate, Rociletinib, wouldn’t be approved. Why is this interesting? Because we would expect some level of decline as a response to the news. Instead, however, Clovis is up on its Friday open. The company kicked off the session at just shy of $12.60 a share, and closed out for $13.11 – a nearly 4% increase across the period. Chances are, expectations of the agency’s turning down of Rociletinib weighed on sentiment across the last few months (the company is down nearly 15% on its April highs) and the latest announcement has offered a little bit of reprieve on this weight purely based on expectation affirmation.

As things move forward, we may see some strength as the company shifts its focus.

From a financial perspective, and just as with Akebia, Clovis is pretty strong.  The company has a little over $445 million in cash, cash equivalents and available-for-sale securities as of the end of the first quarter, 2016, and expects this to last until at least mid-2018.  It’s got an ongoing rolling NDA in an ovarian cancer indication, and a US launch of a PARP inhibitor scheduled for sometime before the end of this year. Again, Clovis is very much one to keep an eye on. If the company can get its development program back on track (which it shouldn’t have any problem doing given current conditions) then it will likely recover its lost market capitalization before the third and fourth quarters complete.  Upset catalysts include the already mentioned product launch, and the agency acceptance of the individual elements of its Rucaparib (the PARP we mentioned earlier) NDA.

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