Why NewLink Genetics Corp. Shares Swooned

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of NewLink Genetics (NASDAQ: NLNK  ) , a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing immunotherapeutic options to help treat cancer, fell as much as 13% after receiving a downgrade.

So what: Before the opening bell, research firm R.W. Baird downgraded NewLink Genetics to neutral from outperform solely on a valuation basis, while keeping its price target on the company unchanged at $40. Shares of NewLink have doubled since the year began, which R.W Baird felt was a bit excessive given its current prospects.

Now what: As always, I'd remind investors that analyst upgrades and downgrades are short-term stock drivers that rarely have any bearing on our long-term investing thesis in a company. What matters is that NewLink has two very exciting clinical studies ongoing with tergenpumatucel-L, an immunotherapy aimed at treating non-small cell lung cancer, and algenpantucel-L as a treatment for resectable and non-resectable pancreatic cancer. NewLink's two lead products work by modifying cancer cell lines to express alpha-gal, a carbohydrate that we have a natural immunity to, but that trains our immune system to attack. If successful, NewLink's therapies could be a big hit in eliminating targeted cancer cells but avoiding healthy cells. But keep in mind, though, that if even one of these therapies fail, NewLink's $1 billion valuation could just as quickly be cut. It's a company I'd certainly suggest investors add to their watchlist.

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