ARIAD's Prolific 2011

In the must-have-done-something-right group for 2011 we have ARIAD Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ARIA  ) , which has more than doubled its share price since the beginning of the year. Let's take a look at what the biotech was up to this year and why investors have become so excited about its prospects.

That little blip in January is muted by the later run, but it's actually a one-day 30% increase, following the company's SUCCEED clinical trial living up to its name. Its sarcoma drug, ridaforolimus, which is being co-developed with Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) , improved progression-free survival -- the time it takes for the cancer to start growing again -- by 21%.

But top-line data never tells the full story, and the stock took a breather while investors waited for the full data release. No news -- read: no surprises -- was good news at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in June, and the de-risked company was free to run again.

ARIAD dropped in August, but what didn't? Certainly a buying opportunity if you had the guts.

Ridaforolimus is furthest along and most important to ARIAD, but the oncology specialist does have other drugs in development. Data for its leukemia treatment ponatinib presented this month at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting looked pretty good to me. ARIAD is going after late-stage patients who have failed Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY  ) Sprycel or Novartis' (NYSE: NVS  ) Tasigna, or have a mutation that doesn't allow them to be treated with those drugs. It's only phase 2 data, which may -- like Seattle Genetics' (Nasdaq: SGEN  ) Adcetris -- or may not -- like, potentially, Onyx Pharmaceuticals' (Nasdaq: ONXX  ) carfilzomib -- be enough to gain Food and Drug Administration approval.

At a market cap of $1.5 billion, I wouldn't call ARIAD a steal, but there's certainly potential for another good year if the company can get one or both of its drugs approved by the FDA.

If you're looking for something a little less dependent on binary events for next year, check out the Fool's new free report, in which Fool analysts reveal their top pick for 2012. Just click here to grab your free copy.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Novartis. 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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