We're almost halfway through 2017. The overall market is performing nicely. Many biotech stocks have especially kicked into high gear recently.
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There are plenty of big biotech winners over the last six months, but none have achieved gains as impressive as Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY), Puma Biotechnology (NASDAQ: PBYI), Immunogen (NASDAQ: IMGN), Sangamo Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SGMO), and Calithera Biosciences (NASDAQ: CALA). Here's why these are the five best biotech stocks of 2017 so far.
Alnylam stock is up more than 120% year to date. The biotech experienced a huge blow in October 2016 when it had to discontinue development of RNA interference therapy revusiran following safety issues that emerged in a late-stage study. Alnylam's share price plunged on the news.
This year has proven to be much better, however. The biggest catalyst for Alnylam came from bad news for a potential competitor. Ionis Pharmaceuticals reported late-stage clinical results for inotersen that revealed some troubling side effects of the drug. Like inotersen, Alnylam's patisiran targets transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis. The biotech expects to announce results from a late-stage study of patisiran soon.
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Puma Biotechnology's shares have risen close to 180% so far in 2017. It's the biggest run for Puma since its stock price more than doubled between July and late September of last year. However, Puma later gave up all of those gains.
The tremendous spike this year stemmed from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) releasing documents ahead of an advisory committee to review Puma's experimental breast cancer drug neratinib. Those documents didn't give glowing comments to neratinib, but they weren't negative, either. Investors thought the neutral tone hinted at a positive recommendation by the committee -- and they were right. A couple of days later, the FDA advisory committee recommended neratinib for approval by a vote of 12-4.
Immunogen has racked up gains of around 180% since the beginning of the year. The biotech stock's performance reflects a rebound from a steep decline that began in July 2015.
Shares began to climb in February of this year as investors anticipated Immunogen's presentation of data at two key conferences. Immunogen received another boost in April from an analyst's upgrade of the stock. Perhaps the best news for the biotech was its announcement in May of encouraging data to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) for mirvetuximab soravtansine in treating ovarian cancer.
Sangamo Thereapeutics stock has soared around 200% so far in 2017. This marked a big reversal for the biotech, which had seen its share price fall dramatically since early 2015. At one point, Sangamo's zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) technology was at the forefront of gene editing, but other approaches such as CRISPR/Cas9 have attracted more attention over the last couple of years.
A change in strategy has put Sangamo back in the gene-editing limelight. The biotech's adeno-associated viruses (AAV) gene-therapy platform caught the eye of big pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which is also developing drugs using AAV. Pfizer and Sangamo announced a deal in May to collaborate on Sangamo's experimental hemophilia A drug SB-525. The partnership with Pfizer basically served as seal of approval for Sangamo's approach and lit a fire under the small biotech's stock.
The best-performing biotech stock of all in 2017 thus far is Calithera Biosciences. The biotech stock is up more than 340% over the last six months. Calithera's story is similar to some of the other top biotech stocks of 2017, with a steep decline in share price over the prior couple of years before the enormous comeback this year.
Calithera stock first jumped early in the year following the announcement of a partnership with Incyte to develop Calithera's arginase inhibitor CB-1158 for hematology and oncology indications. More good news came in May with another deal, an expanded collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb in evaluating Calithera's CB-839 in combination with Bristol's Opdivo in treating non-small cell lung cancer and melanoma. The two companies were already testing the combination of the drugs in treating clear cell renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer.
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Keith Speights owns shares of Pfizer. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Ionis Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool recommends ImmunoGen. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.