Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Shares of Esperion Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ESPR), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapies to treat high levels of cholesterol and other metabolic diseases, rocketed higher by 14% on Wednesday after receiving positive commentary from Wall Street investment firm UBS.
So what: According to Andrew Peters, the analyst at UBS that initiated coverage on Esperion with a "buy" rating and a $140 price target (implying 51% upside from Tuesday's closing price), Esperion's experimental midstage LDL-lowering cholesterol drug ETC-1002 could help deliver more upside based on its encouraging results released last month.
In that phase 2b trial, ETC-1002 met its primary endpoint of an incremental dose-dependent reduction in LDL-cholesterol levels of 17% and 24% at the 120 mg and 180 mg doses, respectively. It also demonstrated a 30% reduction in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in coronary disease.
Peters believes ETC-1002 could improve upon the existing use of statins and could compete with developing PCSK9 inhibitors which are expected to come to market later this year. Peters notes that it's possible Esperion's share price could extend beyond $140, but it would take some pretty incredible phase 3 results.
Now what: Put plainly, Wall Street and investors can't seem to get enough of Esperion at the moment -- and who can blame them? The company's midstage results were very strong, and if these LDL-lowering figures carry over or improve in phase 3 trials, Esperion could easily be sitting on a drug capable of $1 billion or more in sales.
Generally speaking, most clinical-stage companies tend to trade in the neighborhood of two to three times peak annual sales of their lead drug at the high-end. With ETC-1002 bringing in $1 billion-plus by most analyst estimates, you can see where additional market value upside could come into play with Esperion valued at $2.1 billion at Wednesday's close.
There's also the potential that Esperion could be a buyout candidate. Big Pharma is struggling to find ways to grow as their established product portfolios deal with patent exclusivity losses. An experimental drug like ETC-1002 could be a nice addition.
I, for one, am not a fan of chasing a company higher following analyst commentary, because analyst commentary is most often geared toward the short-term. However, even a modest pullback could be enough to get more risk-willing but high-growth investors intrigued. I'd certainly suggest Esperion remain on investors' radars for the time being.