Nearly every week, a stock soars or sinks because of a Wall Street analyst's opinion. If a key analyst thinks a stock has better prospects than it did the previous week, that view often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the stock jumping. The opposite scenario frequently happens as well.
Since analysts' opinions often carry so much weight, which stocks are they most bullish about? Three stocks that Wall Street especially loves right now are Editas Medicine (NASDAQ: EDIT) , Nektar Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NKTR) , and Viking Therapeutics (NASDAQ: VKTX) . Here's why analysts think these three stocks could double your money within the next 12 months.
1. Editas Medicine
Editas Medicine is one of a handful of publicly traded biotechs that specialize in using CRISPR gene editing to treat diseases. Wall Street thinks highly of all of these stocks because of the tremendous potential of gene editing.
None of the CRISPR-focused biotechs has a product anywhere close to approval yet. However, Editas plans to begin patient dosing in the second half of 2019 for its lead candidate, EDIT-101. The gene-editing therapy targets the treatment of Leber congenital amaurosis type 10 (LCA10), the leading cause of inherited blindness. This phase 1 clinical study evaluating EDIT-101 is expected to be the first in history to test a CRISPR therapy in vivo (inside the body) in human patients.
Big pharma company Allergan is partnering with Editas on EDIT-101. The approach used with the therapy should have promise in treating other rare genetic eye diseases beyond LCA10 as well. Charlie Albright, Editas' chief scientific officer, stated at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in January that the biotech hopes to next target another genetic eye disease, Usher syndrome type 2A.
In addition, Editas has several other programs with significant potential. The company thinks its gene-editing therapies for treating rare blood diseases beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease could be best in class. Editas also is working with Celgene on developing engineered T-cell therapies to fight cancer.
2. Nektar Therapeutics
It's easy to see why Wall Street likes Nektar Therapeutics. The biotech claims one of the most attractive pipelines in the industry, with several promising programs in late-stage testing or awaiting regulatory approval.
Nektar is already making plans to launch pain drug NKTR-181. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce its approval decision on the drug by late August. Nektar CEO Howard Robin said in the company's Q4 conference call earlier this month that preparations are under way to build up inventory, engage with payers, and establish distribution channels for NKTR-181.
The biotech's immunotherapy NKTR-214 has many investors even more excited. Bristol-Myers Squibb ponied up $1 billion up front and bought $850 million of Nektar stock, with the potential of up to $1.8 billion more in milestone payments, for a licensing deal for the drug. Nektar and BMS are evaluating a combination of Opdivo and NKTR-214 in late-stage studies for treating melanoma and kidney cancer.
FDA approval for NKTR-181 could be a key catalyst for Nektar Therapeutics later this year. Data from several clinical studies involving NKTR-214 later this year should be coming later this year as well, providing more fuel to possibly cause Nektar stock to double as analysts think it will.
3. Viking Therapeutics
The consensus analysts' one-year price target for Viking Therapeutics represents a whopping 256% premium over the stock's current price. Why is Wall Street so enthusiastic about this clinical-stage biotech? Mainly because of Viking's promising candidate for treating non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
In September, Viking announced very encouraging results from a phase 2 study of VK2809 in treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Since NASH is a serious type of NAFLD and has no approved treatment, Viking's success attracted a lot of attention.
The biotech also has another potential pipeline winner with VK5211. In October, Viking reported positive results from a phase 2 study of the drug in helping patients recover from hip fracture. The company has mentioned the possibility of trying to land a partner to advance VK5211 into late-stage clinical studies while it focuses primarily on VK2809.
Viking could find itself a prime candidate for an acquisition. Several big biopharmaceutical companies are developing NASH drugs. Combination therapies could be the best approach for treating the disease, so Viking's NASH drug might be a great addition to the lineup of one of these big players.
Are the analysts right?
Wall Street analysts don't always make accurate calls. Are they right when it comes to Editas, Nektar, and Viking? My answer is both yes and no.
I don't doubt that any or all of these stocks could double. My hesitation, though, is in predicting that they'll double over the next 12 months, as several analysts think will be the case.
Keep in mind, though, that there's also a significant risk for all three of these biotech stocks. Clinical failures are all too common in the industry. As promising as the lead candidates for Editas, Nektar, and Viking appear to be now, they could wind up flopping.
My view is that these three stocks are pretty good alternatives for consideration for aggressive investors who are willing to take on a considerable amount of risk. But just like Wall Street analysts, I could be wrong. A stock with the potential to double nearly always comes with the potential for trouble, too.
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