May hasn’t been a great month for the stock market’s largest biotechnology stocks. The industry tracking SPDR S&P Biotech ETF has given up around 7% of its value since the end of April.
Despite the downward industry trend, shares of these three biotech stocks rocketed higher last week.
|Company (Symbol)||Gain During Week Ended May 22, 2021||Market Cap|
|Annovis Bio (NYSEMKT:ANVS)||148%||$417 million|
|Agenus (NASDAQ:AGEN)||30%||$932 million|
|Alpine Immune Sciences (NASDAQ:ALPN)||1%||$286 million|
Let’s take a closer look at what drove them higher to see if there’s a chance they can do it again.
1. Annovis Bio
Shares of this biotech shot up more than 240% on Friday after the company announced a positive cognitive benefit for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients treated with its lead candidate ANVS401. The first 28 patients treated with ANVS401 averaged a 4.4 point improvement on a commonly used Alzheimer’s disease cognitive assessment test, the ADAS-Cog11.
This was the first time a new drug candidate produced such a positive result for a combined group of PD and AD patients. Since there aren’t any available treatments that address the root cause of AD and PD, ANVS401 could go on to become one of the best-selling drugs of its time if Annovis Bio can repeat these results in a much larger pivotal trial.
Shares of this biotech jumped after Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) licensed an experimental cancer treatment that still hasn’t entered clinical trials. The candidate, AGEN1777 is a TIGIT blocking antibody designed to make it harder for tumors to hide from the immune system.
Sales of Bristol Myers Squibb’s lead immunotherapy, Opdivo recently fell to an annualized $6.9 billion, but combining it with AGEN1777 could boost its efficacy and uptake. This is why the pharma giant agreed to pay Agenus $200 million upfront and a great deal more if the program succeeds.
The gains we saw from Agenus will seem trivial compared to the monster run-up that could happen if AGEN1777 goes on to earn approval. The company’s eligible to receive up to $1.36 billion in milestone payments plus a tiered royalty percentage in the double-digit range.
3. Alpine Immune Sciences
Shares of this clinical-stage biotech popped about 30% higher in the middle of last week before settling back down. Alpine Immune Sciences stock jumped in response to highly encouraging results from a human proof of concept study for ALPN-202. This is a potential first-of-its-kind cancer drug designed to combine aspects of today’s most successful immunotherapies plus a stimulating twist.
ALPN-202 is an antibody that binds to PD-L1 found on the surface of tumor cells. Then, its opposite side incites an immune system attack by binding to CD28 found on T-cells. Once it engages T-cells ALPN-202 also blocks CTLA-4, which is another pathway tumor cells use to hide from the immune system.
Early results from the first-in-human trial with ALPN-202 showed all four patients treated with a dose of 0.3 milligrams or higher remained stable. It’s early, but this suggests the treatment is working as intended. If more recent observations from the ongoing 102-patient trial with ALPM-202 fall in line with the first, this stock could climb a lot further.
While the first four evaluable patients treated with at least 0.3 milligrams of ALPN-202 were stable at observations taken in January, conditions worsened for five out of seven patients treated with lower doses. This is why expectations for ALPN-202 and enthusiasm for Alpine Immune Sciences stock sank before the week ended.
Don’t be surprised by similar deflation for Annovis Bio stock in the week ahead as investors learn more about ANVS401. The company licensed its lead candidate from Horizon Pharmaceuticals back in 2008, so this isn’t the first time it’s had a chance to shine as a potential dementia treatment.
The upfront cash Agenus received will go a long way to fund the development of new drugs rolling through Agenus’ pipeline, but further success with AGEN1777 is far from guaranteed. The experimental cancer therapy hasn’t started clinical trials yet.
A phase 2 trial that wrapped up last December failed to find significant improvements on the ADAS-Cog12 test among 24 patients treated with much higher dosages of ANVS401. It’s probably best to wait for further confirmation that the key to Alzheimer’s disease has been hiding under our noses for decades before getting excited about Annovis Bio.
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