As the year begins to come to a close, biotechnology investors are right to wonder what stocks may be worth owning as we head into 2015. We asked three of our Motley Fool analysts to tell us which three biotechnology stocks will be in their stockings this holiday season. Read on to see which three companies they chose.
Cheryl Swanson: Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) mostly marked time in 2014. That changed Tuesday, when news on its Alzheimer's drug candidate (BIIB037) spiked the stock up over 6% in one day. While the trial results were very preliminary, it was enough to get this big-cap biotech back in Wall Street's frontal lobe, and moving upward again.
Unfortunately, Alzheimer's has been a research graveyard thus far, with a daunting 99.6% clinical trial failure rate for drugs, according to Cleveland Clinic's Jeffrey Cummings. While the same embarrassing failure could certainly befall Biogen, the company has a history of successfully taking on difficult medical challenges.
Take multiple sclerosis, where Biogen dominates the $18 billion overall market. Biogen's long-term position in MS gives it strong pricing power, and this year's launch of Tecfidera secures its franchise for at least several more years.
In hemophilia, Biogen has a new drug (Eloctate) that should end up in blockbuster territory. A Reuters poll of analysts forecasts $1.5 billion in sales by 2019.
Biogen's sales growth has been impressive. Over the past six quarters, it has ranged from 21% to 51%. With its highly profitable MS portfolio, an exciting pipeline, and Eloctate as an anchor tenant in a possible hemophilia franchise, this stock should do a heck of a lot more than mark time in 2015.
Keith Speights: If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive biotech stock to buy in December, Anika Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ANIK) might be just the one for you. The company makes therapeutic products for tissue protection, healing, and repair.
Anika's trailing 12-month price-to-earnings multiple currently stands just shy of 17. That's pretty low for a biotech. But is Anika cheap for only a season or cheap for a reason?
I suspect that the current relatively low valuation is temporary. Anika's Monovisc currently is prescribed under a generic billing code. If a unique billing code is assigned by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, Monovisc revenue should get a nice bump. Anika expects that new code in early 2015.
Anika reported 24% year-over-year earnings growth last quarter. Good news from CMS could increase that pace. Adding more solid distribution partners should also help increase international sales. Anika might not remain as attractively valued as it is currently for too much longer, so this biotech could make for a nice stocking stuffer this December.
Leo Sun: Regeneron (NASDAQ:REGN) is my top pick for December. Last year, more than two-thirds of Regeneron's revenue came from U.S. sales of its eye drug Eylea. For international sales, It shares half of the profits and losses with Bayer (except for Japan, where it receives a royalty).
In 2013, Eylea sales came in at $1.88 billion, with $1.4 billion coming from the U.S. Regeneron expects U.S. sales to rise to between $1.7 billion and $1.72 billion for 2014. Eylea sales could keep climbing -- UBS analyst Matthew Harrison forecasts peak sales between $3.5 billion to $4.0 billion by 2020, based on its wet AMD (age-related macular degeneration) indication in the first half of the decade, and its recently approved DME (diabetic macular edema) indication for the second half.
Looking ahead, Regeneron's partner and major stakeholder Sanofi have several potential blockbusters in their mid- to late-stage monoclonal antibodies pipeline. Promising candidates include sarilumab, which could treat rheumatoid arthritis; alirocumab, a potential blockbuster cholesterol treatment; and dupilumab, a potential asthma treatment. These drugs, and several others, could diversify Regeneron's top line away from Eylea as sales growth slows.
Therefore, though Regeneron stock might look pricey at 145 times trailing earnings, it still has plenty of growth catalysts ahead, making it a great buy to wrap up 2014.