You've probably heard the old saying, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." That might be true, but when it comes to investing, smaller stocks can fall pretty hard as well. The best of them, though, don't stay down indefinitely.

Three contributors have identified beaten-down stocks of relatively small companies that could soar this year. Here's why they picked CRISPR Therapeutics (CRSP -2.60%), Exelixis (EXEL -1.00%), and Intellia Therapeutics (NTLA -3.12%).

This gene-editing pioneer could have a landmark year 

Prosper Junior Bakiny (CRISPR Therapeutics): Unprofitable clinical-stage biotech companies got hammered last year. Gene-editing specialist CRISPR Therapeutics fits that description to a T, so it got dragged down along with the broader market. The company's shares are down by nearly 25% over the last 12 months. But 2023 could prove to be a turning point. 

The company is nearing approval of its leading candidate, exa-cel. Having developed exa-cel for years in collaboration with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, the two partners finally submitted regulatory applications for the medicine in treating sickle cell disease (SCD) and transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia (TDT) in Europe and are in the process of doing so in the U.S.

CRISPR Therapeutics and Vertex project they will complete the U.S. application by the end of the first quarter. Expect regulatory authorities to not sit on their filings for too long, considering that exa-cel targets two blood-related illnesses with few effective treatment options. There is a significant unmet need here, and the commercial opportunity is massive too

If the relevant agencies approve exa-cel, which seems likely given the therapy's results in clinical trials, expect CRISPR Therapeutics' shares to jump on the news. CRISPR Therapeutics will get 40% of the profits associated with exa-cel, having sold the rights to the remaining 60% to Vertex. But that should be plenty for the mid-cap biotech.

Generating solid revenue and earnings from exa-cel would allow CRISPR Therapeutics to get the funds it needs to push its other pipeline programs through the necessary clinical and regulatory steps. In other words, the gene-editing therapy could help CRISPR Therapeutics set a solid foundation for the future. 

Solid fundamentals plus plenty of upside potential

David Jagielski (Exelixis): Shares of biotech company Exelixis have fallen around 14% in the past 12 months, and they are down nearly 25% from their 52-week high. While many growth stocks have rallied in 2023, Exelixis stock has moved up and down since the start of the year.

However, the company's fundamentals suggest that it could only be a matter of time before the stock takes off. And analysts agree: The lowest price target for the stock this year is $20, and the consensus price target is $26, implying an upside of more than 50% from where Exelixis trades today.

Exelixis has all the ingredients for what should be a strong growth stock: a top product, great margins, and plenty of free cash flow coming in. Last year, the company generated $1.6 billion in sales, with its cancer drug Cabometyx bringing in nearly $1.4 billion on its own and rising 30% year over year.

Cabometyx is approved to treat multiple cancers (including certain types of thyroid, liver, and kidney cancer). The company has trials underway, with hopes to expand the label to include even more indications. Exelixis is also evaluating zanzalintinib in a few phase 3 trials as a treatment for metastatic colorectal cancer and non-clear cell kidney cancer.

In 2022, the company reported a profit of $182 million, with a profit margin of 11%. Exelixis also generated $224 million in free cash flow. As of the end of 2022, it had $1.3 billion in cash and short-term investments. That puts the company in a solid position to continue investing in its operations and growth.

If Exelixis continues to post strong profits and cash flow, it may not be long before the stock rises in value or another healthcare company decides to acquire it. Although there's not much excitement surrounding the stock today, I think it's a great pick for long-term investors.

Wall Street thinks this stock is poised for a big rebound

Keith Speights (Intellia Therapeutics): Shares of Intellia Therapeutics have plunged close to 30% over the last 12 months. That's even with a nice surge for the gene-editing stock so far in 2023. I think Intellia could keep its current positive momentum going.

I'm not alone in that view. The consensus 12-month price target among Wall Street analysts reflects an upside potential of more than 130%. So why does Wall Street think Intellia stock is poised to rebound in such a major way?  There's a lot of excitement about the company's clinical-stage programs.

Intellia enjoyed a nice boost earlier this month after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave a thumbs-up for the company to advance experimental gene-editing therapy NTLA-2002 into a phase 2 clinical trial. NTLA-2002 could be a game-changing treatment for hereditary angiodema (HAE), a rare genetic inflammatory disorder. Intellia plans to report additional data from the phase 1 study of the therapy later this year as it moves forward with phase 2 testing. 

More good news could be on the way. Intellia should file for FDA approval within the next few months to advance NTLA-2001 into a pivotal study targeting transthyretin (ATTR) amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy. The experimental gene-editing therapy holds the potential to halt and reverse the genetic disease.

The biotech could expand its clinical pipeline in the not-too-distant future as well. Intellia hopes to file for approval in the second half of this year to begin early-stage clinical testing of NTLA-3001 in treating lung disease associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD). It also expects to wrap up activities by the end of 2023 that should pave the way for another regulatory filing to advance NTLA-2003 into the clinic for AATD-associated liver disease. 

There's still a long way to go for Intellia to be in a position to potentially launch its first product. However, the opportunities for this biotech stock are tremendous.