In the must-have-done-something-right group for 2011 we have ARIAD Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ARIA), which has more than doubled its share price since the beginning of the year. Let's take a look at what the biotech was up to this year and why investors have become so excited about its prospects.

ARIAD Pharmaceuticals Stock Chart


ARIAD Pharmaceuticals Stock Chart by YCharts

That little blip in January is muted by the later run, but it's actually a one-day 30% increase, following the company's SUCCEED clinical trial living up to its name. Its sarcoma drug, ridaforolimus, which is being co-developed with Merck (NYSE: MRK), improved progression-free survival -- the time it takes for the cancer to start growing again -- by 21%.

But top-line data never tells the full story, and the stock took a breather while investors waited for the full data release. No news -- read: no surprises -- was good news at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in June, and the de-risked company was free to run again.

ARIAD dropped in August, but what didn't? Certainly a buying opportunity if you had the guts.

Ridaforolimus is furthest along and most important to ARIAD, but the oncology specialist does have other drugs in development. Data for its leukemia treatment ponatinib presented this month at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting looked pretty good to me. ARIAD is going after late-stage patients who have failed Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY) Sprycel or Novartis' (NYSE: NVS) Tasigna, or have a mutation that doesn't allow them to be treated with those drugs. It's only phase 2 data, which may -- like Seattle Genetics' (Nasdaq: SGEN) Adcetris -- or may not -- like, potentially, Onyx Pharmaceuticals' (Nasdaq: ONXX) carfilzomib -- be enough to gain Food and Drug Administration approval.

At a market cap of $1.5 billion, I wouldn't call ARIAD a steal, but there's certainly potential for another good year if the company can get one or both of its drugs approved by the FDA.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.