Throughout Thursday’s US session, a number of development stage biotechs took low double digit hits, and remain down as we head into the final session of the week. Some of the companies in question, however, don’t look to have any real fundamental drivers behind their declines, and as such, might represent an opportunity to get in to an oversold opportunity. Here are three to keep an eye on as we head into March.
Spark Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:ONCE) lost a little over 10% of its market cap on Thursday, having opened the session at $38.06 and closing for $34.18. The decline comes off the back of a week of strength, and so may just represent a correction on these gains. For those not familiar with the company, it’s a circa $1 billion gene therapy play, with a current pipeline focus of ophthalmic conditions. Specifically, it’s lead candidate is SPK-RPE65 – a late stage candidate for a rare blinding condition called inherited retinal dystrophy. The drug has both breakthrough and orphan designation from the FDA, is backed up by a host of pivotal trial data suggesting efficacy and tolerability, and the company expects to submit a Biologics Licensing Application (BLA) to the FDA before the year is out. Essentially, Spark is on the edge of commercialization in for a drug that meets an unmet need, and its available at a 10% discount to yesterday’s open and a 56% discount to 2015 highs. There’s no real capital risk at this stage – the company had just shy of $300 million at last count cash on hand, and a further $15 million set to realize as cash and cash equivalents this quarter on the back of a December milestone payment. Of course, there’s the risk that the FDA may not take favorably to SPK-RPE65 – a risk that would set Spark back half a decade as it shifts to focus on alternative indications or molecules, but in the grand scheme of development stage biotech, that risk looks small based on supporting clinical data. One to watch.
Five Prime Therapeutics
Five Prime Therapeutics Inc’s (NASDAQ:FPRX) pipeline is not as developed as teat of Spark, but the real value in its pipeline is rooted in the big name partnerships that the company has chalked up over the last few years. Its two lead candidates are FPA008, a CSF1r antibody target with an tow lead indications – rheumatoid arthritis and a variety of cancers in combination with Opdivo; and FP-1039, an FGC ligand trap candidate with an NSC lung cancer and a mesothelioma (also a type of lung cancer) indication. Both drugs are in phase Ib trials, and as mentioned, benefit from development funding through two key partnerships – Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (NYSE:BMY) for FPA008 (as you might have guessed, for the Opdivo oncology indications), and GlaxoSmithKline plc (ADR) (NYSE:GSK) for the lung cancer indications.
Just as with Spark, the capital risk on this one is relatively small. The company had $517 million cash on hand at the end of last year, and expects to spend no more than $120 million ($90 million operating activities and $30 million tax expenses) throughout this year.
There is slightly more risk associated with its pipeline than there is with Spark, purely rooted in the fact that bot its lead candidates are only in phase Ib trials, and will have to undergo trials with a much expanded patient population if they are to get to the point where an NDA is suitably backed up for FDA consideration. Having said this, with the big name collaborations in place, and the potential for an expansion of these collaborations based on Five Prime’s preclinical molecule discovery platform, the risk is somewhat mitigated.
The company had a great end of 2015, picking up strength on its partnerships and trial data throughout December, but currently trades at close to a 10% discount to Thursday’s open price and a more than 25% discount to highs reached mid-December. Again, at its current price, and ahead of a number of key 2016 milestones, the company is one to watch going forward, and might represent an oversell opportunity as we head into next week.