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These Were the 5 Top Genetics Stocks of 2020

By Alex Carchidi - Dec 31, 2020 at 6:26AM

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Investors in fast-moving biotechs made out like bandits.

Genetics is a high tech, research-intensive business. Between the complexity of the science and the demands of the clinical trials and regulatory approval process, it's also quite risky -- but the rewards can be immense.

Many genetics companies spent the year working on the projects that might become their first sources of revenue. The market reacted to their every peep, and there's a good chance that several of these stocks will have another bumper crop year in 2021.

A scientist references a gene sequence on a computer.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Co-Diagnostics

Selling coronavirus diagnostic tests is big business, as shown by the 990% rise of Co-Diagnostics ( CODX -0.83% ) this year. With quarterly revenue growth exceeding 52,559% year over year, it's easy to see why the market was so enthusiastic about the company. Moving forward, it will penetrate foreign markets like India, selling tens of millions of its molecular test kits in the process.

Furthermore, Co-Diagnostics is moving quickly to develop new genetic tests that can detect viral mutations for the laboratory research market, ensuring that it will stay relevant through next year and beyond. Investors should look forward to another great year in 2021, with the caveat that it'll be tough to grow nearly as quickly as it did this year now that the testing market is significantly more crowded with competitors.

2. Arcturus Therapeutics

Arcturus Therapeutics ( ARCT 0.29% ) surged nearly 300% in 2020 by advancing its mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine program, which should enter phase 2 of its clinical trials in the first quarter of 2021. Though its candidate isn't as closely watched as several of the other leading contenders, there's a lot riding on its success. Like many biotech companies, it doesn't have any products on the market or any recurring revenue to speak of. That might change next year if its vaccine is proven effective. But, the early signs don't look good. A recent clinical update showed that its candidate might not be as protective as the other mRNA vaccines that are already approved for sale.

Investors can take heart in the fact that with just over $307 million in cash, Arcturus has enough gas in the tank to explore a few options for boosting the vaccine's efficacy. Until then, they can sit pretty on the stock's growth this year. If you're interested in investing, the only thing to do at the moment is to watch for clinical trial updates to see how its core project is advancing.

3. Moderna

Given how many hopes were riding on its coronavirus vaccine candidate, you shouldn't be surprised to see Moderna ( MRNA 1.40% ) on this list. With growth of around 467%, Moderna will likely turn a profit for the first time next year as its vaccines are sold at mass scale. But, its stock may not be able to keep up with the valuations that 2020 built with hype.

Whether its first earnings reports in the new year will herald a reckoning is anyone's guess. Nonetheless, in the long-term its older pipeline projects will start to come to fruition. Some of those have the potential to be hugely disruptive, like its personalized cancer vaccine collaboration with Merck. Others, like its cytomegalovirus vaccine, may not make a big splash. Investors should watch the company's pipeline updates carefully, not to mention its earnings reports. There's every indication that its vaccine will be a big moneymaker, potentially to the tune of $32 billion in 2021. So, the real question is: What management will choose to spend the windfall on?

CODX Chart

CODX data by YCharts

4. Inovio Pharmaceuticals

Inovio Pharmaceuticals ( INO -5.27% ) grew by 173% this year thanks to its coronavirus vaccine program. Like Moderna, Inovio's pipeline also has a smattering of lesser-known vaccines in development, none of which garnered the market's attention very much. Until this year, that is. Once the U.S. government's vaccine accelerator program invested in Inovio, it quickly entered the spotlight.

There's reason to be excited about Inovio moving forward, too. In mid-December, it announced that the government had taken an interest in developing a DNA-encoded monoclonal antibody therapy for COVID-19 using the company's technology. Likewise, its vaccine administration device developed with public funding may be key to its future success. Still, its coronavirus programs need to be proven definitively in clinical trials next year if its stock is to grow any further, and doubts remain about the viability of its DNA-based vaccines.

5. Fulgent Genetics

Thanks to hot demand for its coronavirus diagnostic products, Fulgent Genetics ( FLGT -4.66% ) grew by 280% in 2020, and its management increased its full-year revenue guidance by $100 million in November. Its revenue expanded by more than 880% in the third quarter compared to 2019, and the company is firmly profitable. Plus, its $2.74 million in debt barely holds a candle to its trailing revenue in excess of $135 million. There's a lot for investors to like, to say the least.

There's more to the company than its coronavirus tests, however. It also offers genetic testing for a handful of hereditary cancers and other disorders. Further investment in expanding its market penetration with these products will help to keep the company's momentum next year and beyond. In the meantime, investors can look forward to the next quarterly earnings report, which almost certainly will have even more good news.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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Stocks Mentioned

Co-Diagnostics, Inc. Stock Quote
Co-Diagnostics, Inc.
CODX
$8.36 (-0.83%) $0.07
Merck & Co., Inc. Stock Quote
Merck & Co., Inc.
MRK
$73.16 (-0.99%) $0.73
Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Stock Quote
Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
INO
$6.26 (-5.27%) $0.35
Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
MRNA
$305.70 (1.40%) $4.21
Fulgent Genetics, Inc. Stock Quote
Fulgent Genetics, Inc.
FLGT
$79.66 (-4.66%) $-3.89
Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc. Stock Quote
Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc.
ARCT
$37.83 (0.29%) $0.11

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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