We’re counting down 2016’s five top-performing biotech stocks and exploring possible catalysts for their stock movement.
The NASDAQ is known as the high tech hub—so it’s no surprise that so many biotechnology companies are listed here. It may not have the prestige of the New York Stock Exchange, but the NASDAQ is known as growth central where every year, select companies show massive gains.
(Of course, others crash and burn. But that’s a story for another day.)
We’re counting down 2016’s five top-performing biotech stocks and exploring possible catalysts for their growth. In a sector that ranges from stem cells and vaccines to nutraceuticals, it can be hard to get your bearings. It’s our hope that this article provides a sense of biotech’s diversity—not just in the companies themselves, but also the possible drivers of growth.
Top-performing biotech stocks on the NASDAQ
- CoLucid Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:CLCD)
- Exelixis (NASDAQ:EXEL)
- Albireo Pharma (NASDAQ:ALBO)
- ARIAD Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARIA)
- Array BioPharma (NASDAQ:ARRY)
1. CoLucid Pharmaceuticals
CoLucid Pharmaceuticals takes the top spot for 2016, with year to date (YTD) gains of a whopping 322.34 percent. The company primarily works on migraine therapies—a competitive market to be sure. Still, CoLucid seems to be coming out ahead, given its soaring share price.
That performance can be attributed to a number of major announcements the company made this year. In May, for example, it began a second phase III trial of lasmiditan, its lead product candidate. The company also reported strong financial results: it ended Q3 2016 with $100.2 million in assets, a significant increase from the $64.5 million it reported at the end of 2015.
But the major stock movement happened in September, when CoLucid announced that lasmiditan had met primary and secondary endpoints in the SAMURAI phase III trial. Share price rose 91.65 percent on the heels of that news.
In the silver medal spot, there’s Exelixis—a genomics company that develops drugs and plant biotechnology. It has seen its value grow 246.83 percent YTD. The reason?
Exelixis announced positive results from a number of clinical trials this year—including the METEOR phase III trial of cabozantinib, which examined the drug’s efficacy in treating advanced renal cell carcinoma. Shortly after, Exelixis filed a Marketing Authorization Application for this product, which was subsequently approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Following that news, the FDA granted priority review to the tablet form of cabozantinib—then approved it in April 2016.
Now, the company is embarking on several trials that explore how cabozantinib works in conjunction with other drugs, as well as its efficacy in treating hepatocellular carcinoma. Initial results have been promising.
3. Albireo Pharma
The NASDAQ’s third place medalist? Albireo Pharma, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing therapies for orphan pediatric liver diseases and gastrointestinal disorders. It formed this year, following a merger between Biodel and Albireo, and began trading under the symbol “ALBO.”
YTD, Albireo’s stock has climbed 155.89 percent.
Part of those gains resulted from stock movement on on November 15, 2016, when share price rose 12.54 percent. That morning, Albireo announced major news: its lead product candidate, A4250, was accepted into the EMA’s PRIME program, which will theoretically expedite the review and approval process.
The drug candidate has also been granted orphan drug designation in the United States.
4. ARIAD Pharmaceuticals
ARIAD Pharmaceuticals is dedicated to discovering new cancer therapies. And even though the company is up 115.68 percent YTD, this year hasn’t been just rainbows and butterflies for ARIAD.
The biotech saw its shares plummet in late October, after Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Elijah Cummings raised questions about its prices for a leukemia drug, iclusig. There were four price hikes for this drug in 2016, bringing costs close to $200,000 a year.
Still, the story wasn’t enough to keep ARIAD’s stock down for long. In November, the company announced additional data on its investigational drug, brigatinib—and the stock rose 23.3 percent.
5. Array BioPharma
Sliding into fifth spot is Array BioPharma. Another oncology-focused company, Array BioPharma currently has three cancer drugs in development: binimetinib, encorafenib and selumetinib, a joint venture with AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN).
Array BioPharma’s stock is up 91.82 percent YTD. That’s impressive, considering the company had to discontinue a key trial this year.
But Array BioPharma also had plenty of positive data to report: in June, for example, they announced that binimetinib met its primary endpoint in the phase III NEMO study. And at the end of the month, they filed a new drug application for binimetinib with the FDA, which was accepted in September.
Array BioPharma was also able to share good news about encorafenib—used in conjunction with other medications, this drug improved progression free survival in patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma.
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Data for this article was retrieved using The Globe and Mail’s market data filter on November 30, 2016. Only companies with a market capitalization greater than $50 million are included.
Securities Disclosure: I, Chelsea Pratt, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.