What happened

Shares of the clinical-stage biopharma Anavex Life Sciences (AVXL -4.03%) rose by a stately 17.4% over the course of January, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The biopharma's shares have been charging higher of late thanks to positive late-stage results for its Alzheimer's disease candidate, Anavex 2-73 (blarcamesine).

On Dec. 1, 2022, Anavex announced that blarcamesine hit both its co-primary and a key secondary endpoint in a placebo-controlled 509 patient phase 2b/3 study. The company said it intends to discuss these results with regulators in the U.S. and elsewhere soon.   

So what

The big deal is that blarcamesine is an orally administered drug, which may confer certain competitive advantages over Eisai and Biogen's twice-monthly intravenous Alzheimer's therapy Leqembi. That said, Anavex's double-digit upturn on this positive clinical update was still rather subdued relative to the enormous commercial opportunity inherent in this underserved indication. 

The long and short of it is that Wall Street clearly has doubts about blarcamesine's clinical profile. An Alzheimer's disease drug with a fairly clean safety profile and a disease-modifying capability, after all, could easily generate over $5 billion a year in annual sales. However, Anavex's market cap following this clinical update currently sits at a meager $916 million. This massive valuation gap speaks volumes about the doubt surrounding this experimental Alzheimer's drug. 

Now what

Is Anavex stock worth buying right now? It all depends on your take on blarcamesine's prospects. If this oral Alzheimer's treatment does make it to market, Anavex's shares might be one of the biggest bargains in biotech in a very long time.

Speaking to this point, H.C. Wainwright & Co. reiterated its $50 price target on the stock in the wake of these positive late-stage results. That price target implies an upside potential of 325% from current levels. 

Perhaps most curiously, though, Wall Street doesn't appear to be assigning much, if any, value to Anavex's other clinical activities. The biotech has ongoing clinical trials in multiple high-value indications such as Rett syndrome and Parkinson's disease.

Based on the wide spectrum of price targets on this stock at the moment, it doesn't appear that many analysts have factored these additional indications into their valuation models. That fact is a testament to Wall Street's considerable doubt about Anavex's platform.

And short-sellers have clearly taken this doubt to heart. At last count, Anavex was one of the most heavily shorted biotech stocks in the market.

All that being said, this biotech stock does have a handful of uber-bullish supporters on Wall Street. Time will tell who is right about this battleground stock.