Buying growth stocks in an election year is generally ill-advised. During the 2016 presidential election cycle, growth stocks, on balance, dramatically underperformed the broader markets, whereas value stocks as a whole produced market-beating returns on capital. Going one step further, some growth-oriented subsectors such as biotech were flat-out taken to the woodshed over the course of 2016, thanks to the economic and regulatory uncertainties stirred up by the rancor of presidential politics.

The point is, investors arguably shouldn't initiate a new position in a growth-heavy equity in the midst of a politically charged market without a well-defined major catalyst firmly etched into the calendar. This group of equities, after all, comes with the inherent disadvantage of having to swim against the current of presidential politics and all that comes with it.  

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Fortunately, there are a select few growth plays that meet this rather high bar. The biotech stocks Amarin (NASDAQ:AMRN) and Heron Therapeutics (NASDAQ:HRTX) both have a strong chance of doubling in value in 2020, regardless of how the political landscape evolves in the meantime. Here's a brief rundown of the essential points investors need to consider about each of these promising growth plays. 

Amarin: One last hurdle

Wall Street's current consensus 2020 price target for Amarin has its shares rising by an astounding 86% over the next 12 months. However, this stately price target might still be missing the mark by a country mile. Underscoring this point, investment banking firm H.C. Wainwright has significantly deviated from its peers on this equity by issuing a gob-smacking $51 price target on Amarin's shares. For those of you keeping score at home, Wainwright is basically calling for the biotech's shares to more than quadruple in value in 2020. 

What's all the fuss about? Amarin is slated to do battle with the Food and Drug Administration's Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee on Nov. 14. The question at hand is whether the company's prescription omega-3 treatment, Vascepa, is truly a quantum leap forward in the treatment of patients at risk of cardiovascular disease, despite being on statin therapy. The FDA is expected to hand down its final ruling on the matter by Dec. 28, according to a recent investor presentation. 

While the FDA is unpredictable by its very nature, Vascepa seems to have an excellent shot at grabbing this high-dollar indication based on its unprecedented cardiovascular outcome trial results. The big deal is that lipid-lowering medications -- especially those aimed at treating underlying cardiovascular disease -- are some of the best-selling pharmaceutical products of all time. Pfizer's Lipitor, for instance, has racked up well over $100 billion in cumulative sales over its life cycle. Vascepa, for its part, may even surpass Lipitor from a total sales standpoint. 

Stated bluntly, Amarin's shares will surely be off to the races in 2020 if Vascepa clears this last regulatory hurdle. 

Heron: A small-cap stock with mid-cap potential 

Every year there's a biotech stock that mounts a furious comeback. Heron Therapeutics is poised to be that stock in 2020. 

The lowdown is that Heron's shares crumbled this year in response to the FDA rejecting its experimental pain medication HTX-011. On Oct. 1, Heron reported that it successfully refiled the drug's regulatory application with the FDA and that it is slated for a truncated six-month review cycle. In short, HTX-011 could be on the market by the third quarter of 2020. 

Why should investors stand up and take notice? Although Heron's anti-nausea medications have started to show signs of life after a sluggish start, HTX-011 is the drug that should put the company on the map. Novel pain medications are worth their weight in gold because of their long commercial shelf lives and the well-documented need for non-opioid painkillers in the acute setting. At a minimum, HTX-011 should be able to generate several hundred million in sales per year and might even achieve blockbuster states late in the next decade.

Wall Street, in turn, expects Heron's shares to more than double in value over the next year, with some analysts even calling for the biotech's stock to rise by a jaw-dropping 306% from current levels. While naysayers may call these price targets unrealistic, the fact is that Heron will almost certainly turn into a buyout target if HTX-011 gets the green light from regulators next year. There is a huge demand for these types of drugs in the world of big pharma, and it's no easy feat to development one on your own. It's far easier to simply pay up to acquire one that's already on the market.