Bellicum Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:BLCM), a clinical-stage biotech, saw its shares rise in excess of 11% today on almost three times the normal volume. The adoptive cell therapy company's stock appears to be getting a lift from the recent Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) $12 billion buyout of Kite Pharma (NASDAQ: KITE), as well as management's string of healthcare investor presentations scheduled for this month.
Investors have been piling into adoptive cell therapy stocks in the wake of Gilead's buyout of Kite in the hopes of catching the next domino to fall in the chimeric antigen receptor space. And Bellicum, for its part, comes across as a particularly ripe takeover target as a result of its potent molecular switching platform, and rock-bottom valuation relative to leaders in the field like Kite. Kite, for instance, currently sports a market cap that's a hefty 24 times larger than Bellicum's.
Even though Bellicum is arguably woefully undervalued in light of its significant clinical assets in cancer and rare blood disorders, the fact remains that the company is a couple of years away from becoming a commercial operation. Its lead product candidate, BPX-501, is still several months away from a possible regulatory filing in Europe in the stem cell transplant setting, and management hasn't yet fully articulated the therapy's path toward commercialization inside the all-important U.S. market.
That's not to say that Gilead -- or one of its competitors -- won't swoop in with an offer while Bellicum's valuation remains on the low side. But there are more mature adoptive cell therapy companies available to a potential acquirer right now. So, if you're buying this stock today, you should probably be prepared to hold it until BPX-501's ongoing trials start to bear fruit. Most acquirers, after all, aren't going to be willing to pay top dollar for a clinical-stage company that isn't barreling toward a pivotal-stage readout.