The market may have caught a cold this week, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a number of attractive buying opportunities. Personally, I'm always on the hunt for a good bargain. So I view this historically ugly pullback basically as nothing more than a chance to buy some of my favorite names. Small-cap growth stocks -- especially those in the biotech space -- have my eye in particular this week.
Which names should risk-tolerant investors check out? My two favorite picks in the small-cap biotech arena right now are Bicycle Therapeutics (BCYC 2.33%) and Novavax (NVAX -1.96%). Both of these pre-revenue biotech stocks are uber-risky, but they also offer investors a reasonable shot at exponential returns on capital within an exceedingly short period of time. Here's a brief overview of each company.
Bicycle: the next step in cancer immunotherapy
Last week, I argued that the clinical-stage immunotherapy company Bicycle Therapeutics had the type of novel drug discovery and development platform that's basically catnip to top-shelf pharma companies. Yesterday, Bicycle announced a development deal with cancer giant Roche. Per the terms of the deal, Bicycle will receive $30 million up front, along with milestone payments that could total a jaw-dropping $1.7 billion. To put this figure into context, Bicycle's market cap presently stands at $267 million. The long and short of it is that the market simply hasn't discovered this hidden gem yet -- which is why I bought this grossly undervalued biotech stock late last week.
What's on tap going forward? Bicycle's platform sports a novel therapeutic modality capable of activating several types of tumor-killing immune cells. It's still early, to be sure, but if the company can validate this unique approach to building an anti-cancer immunotherapy in human subjects, the sky is pretty much the limit for this small-cap biotech stock. Roche obviously recognized this fact, given the rather generous terms of this licensing deal. The bottom line is that more licensing deals are a strong possibility in the near term, and perhaps even a rich buyout offer. Big pharma, after all, is seriously hungry for early-stage oncology companies with well-differentiated platforms like Bicycle.
Novavax: A make-or-break moment is now imminent
Novavax is a small-cap vaccine company with large-cap potential. The biotech's shares have taken flight this year thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. But that's not the real reason to consider this biotech stock right now. My own interest in this name really centers around the company's experimental flu vaccine known as NanoFlu. NanoFlu is close to producing top-line data in a pivotal trial sometime this quarter. This data, in turn, could put the biotech in direct competition with the current market-leading flu vaccine developer, Sanofi.
The big-ticket item is that NanoFlu would be in line to pursue a global commercial opportunity of $2 billion to $5 billion on an annual basis, depending on its label and geographic coverage. Novavax's market cap, by contrast, currently sits at a mere $255 million. So, to be frank, a positive trial readout would undoubtedly cause this tiny biotech stock to explode higher, perhaps even quadrupling in value before year's end.
What's the catch? My hesitation with this stock is the company's problematic operating history. Novavax has repeatedly been on the cusp of producing mega-blockbuster vaccine products, only to flat-out fail in late-stage testing. NanoFlu appears to be a different animal altogether compared with the company's prior vaccine candidates. But we have definitely heard this song several times before.
In all, I plan on buying a few shares of this high-risk, high-reward biotech stock in the days and weeks ahead. But I won't go overboard. The risk here is simply too great to build a large position as things stand now.