What: Shares of Intrexon (NYSE:XON), a mid-cap biotechnology platforms company that's focused on developing gene-based programs to combat serious diseases, such as cancer, tumbled as much as 22% today (and 30% for the past week) as a continuation move following the unveiling of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's drug plan last week.
So what: Fear as a whole has gripped the majority of the biotech sector, but Intrexon could find itself squarely in the crosshairs of Clinton's prescription drug reform proposal. Intrexon and its development partner Ziopharm Oncology (NASDAQ:ZIOP) are developing treatments that can turn rapidly turn off gene expression, and potentially slow certain types of cancers. Their leading collaboration is a midstage study involving Ad-RTS-IL-12 that's being tested as a treatment for breast cancer. Because these treatments are highly specialized, if Ad-RTS-IL-12 were approved by the Food and Drug Administration it would likely command a hefty price tag.
As a refresher, Clinton's proposal would cap out-of-pocket expenses for covered prescriptions at $250 per month, eliminate Medicare's inability to negotiate drug prices, and would allow cheaper medications to be imported into the United States. Viewed as one of a handful of potential frontrunners to the White House in 2016, investors are obviously fearful that prescription drug reform could become a hot-button issue in this election.
Now what: The $64,000 question is whether or not you should allow the fear that's gripped most of the biotechnology sector to get to you as well. Personally, I haven't seen anything in any lawmakers' proposals that suggest true prescription reform is coming our way anytime soon. I'm not saying that some level of reform may not be needed, but the chances of effective reform being implemented in the next year or two still seems to be somewhat of a longshot.
Instead, investors should be wholly focused on the Intrexon-Ziopharm collaboration and be monitoring the progress of Ad-RTS-IL-12, which is utilizing Intrexon's proprietary RheoSwitch technology and can regulate the timing and dose of an activator ligand. It's possible this research could represent a new and successful pathway to treating cancer, but we probably won't know a lot until we get some broader-based efficacy data in later-stage studies. For now I'd suggest watching patiently from the sidelines, but I see no harm in having Intrexon squarely on your watchlist.
Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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