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Our Top Biotech Stock Idea

Editor's note: This article is a stock pitch made by a member on CAPS, The Motley Fool's free investing community. The pitch is published unedited and is the opinion of the CAPS member whose pitch it is, in this case: zzlangerhans.

Each week, Motley Fool editors cull a top stock idea from the pitches made on CAPS, The Motley Fool's 180,000-member free investing community. Want your idea considered for this series? Make a compelling pitch on CAPS with a minimum length of 400 words. Want to follow our weekly picks? Subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on Twitter.

Company Targacept (Nasdaq: TRGT  )
Submitted by zzlangerhans
Member Rating 99.53
Submitted on Nov. 9, 2011
Stock Price at Recommendation $7.88
Targacept profile
Star Rating (out of 5) *
Headquarters Winston-Salem, N.C.
Industry Biotechnology
Market Cap $248 million
Industry Peers Human Genome Sciences (Nasdaq: HGSI  ) , Star Scientific (Nasdaq: CIGX  ) , Alexza Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ALXA  )

Source: S&P Capital IQ, Yahoo! Finance, and Motley Fool CAPS.

This Week's Pitch:

Disclaimer: Yesterday I took a major CAPS kick to the teeth when the company reported that the RENAISSANCE 3 phase III trial of TC-5214 for major depression did not meet its primary endpoint. Not only did I green thumb Targacept, but I identified it in May as a GBMB portfolio buy at 20 after it had declined from peaks near 30 over a few months. Fortunately, my skepticism over the current paradoxical strength in the broad markets caused me to place a virtual moratorium on long investments until the debt crisis in Europe has resolved. Therefore I sustained no real money losses when the share price went into the dumper.

I've long held the view that when you advise buying a stock and you end up being completely wrong, you should sit down and shut up. This is apparently a rare concept in the financial media and on blog sites like Seeking Alpha. However, CAPS is a game and I'm going to continue to play Targacept in the game, and when I rate stocks I always write a pitch. So if you believe, like I do, in the integrity of fading away quietly then read no further.

Targacept conveniently dished the bad news only a week after reporting their third quarter financial results. So we know that the company has 271M in cash, 2M in long term debt, and an uptick in quarterly burn to 9M. Meanwhile, the market cap at the close Tuesday was 254M. Yes, that's 15M below the net liquid asset balance. Now, it's not unusual for weak biotechs to be valued below cash-see Insmed and Adventrx-but there are important differences with respect to Targacept.

First is the sheer quantity of the cash. Insmed has 85M to back a market cap of 80M. Adventrx has 38M to back a market cap of 26M. Targacept has a whopping 271M in cash. Even if they maintain the higher 9M burn they have enough cash for seven and a half years of operations. TC-5214 may have brought a lot of pain today, but let's not forget it brought in 200M from Astra Zeneca [ (NYSE: AZN  ) ] in January 2010 and powered an 80M dilutive financing in May 2011.

The second issue is future prospects. Adventrx has two busted me-too cancer drugs and a cheaply acquired moonshot for sickle cell. Insmed has a phase III antibiotic on FDA clinical hold for a cancer signal in animal studies. Investors could be forgiven for thinking that these companies will simply use up their cash fruitlessly a la Myrexis. Targacept, on the other hand, has four drugs besides TC-5214 in advanced clinical trials. The most promising of these, AZD3480, is already in a phase IIb trial in Alzheimer's being run by Astra Zeneca. Phase II trials of TC-6987 in asthma and diabetes will be completed in H1 2012. And furthermore, it's important to remember that RENAISSANCE 3 was only one of four phase III efficacy trials of TC-5214 in progress. The remaining trials will provide topline data in H1 2012.

I think it would be foolhardy to ascribe much value to TC-5214, and the stock could suffer further if Astra Zeneca declines to pick up an option on AZD1446 for Alzheimer's later this year. But I've looked at this situation closely and everything about it is saying over-reaction. For some reason it reminds me of the pummeling Intermune took after the FDA rejected pirfenidone in May 2010. We know how that story turned out. Anyone could be excused for giving speculative stocks like baby pharmas a wide berth given the current imbalance between the markets and the real global economic situation. But if you're looking for something in the sector that has a good chance of bouncing back regardless of the economic headwinds, Targacept may be for you.

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The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors. Dan Dzombak did not have a position in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Pitches must be compelling, made in the past 30 days, and be at least 400 words. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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