2 Under-the-Radar Cancer Stocks That are in the Bargain Bin Right Now

Wall Street's Top Biotech Analyst Loves These 2 Life Science Stocks

August 19, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

NEW YORK -- If you’re looking to ride the oncology boom and beef up your stock portfolio with oncology pharma companies, analysts at the Motley Fool have selected two stocks, Agenus Inc. and Bellicum Pharmaceuticals , that could yield big long-term dividends based on their clinical pipelines.

Agenus Inc.

Last year Lexington, Mass.-based Agenus Inc. saw a drop in its market share, but then made a gamble after the company mortgaged revenue from some of its vaccines in exchange for $115 million in funding to advance its immuno-oncology programs. That gamble appears to be paying off as it has several checkpoint inhibitors scheduled to enter the clinic in 2017. Fool analysts said the company’s checkpoint inhibitors, including AGEN2041 and AGEN1884, each have the potential to capture hundreds of millions in sales if they pass regulatory hurdles.

Last year Agenus spent $44 million to acquire antibodies targeting Carcinoembryonic Antigen Cell Adhesion Molecule 1 (CEACAM1), a glycoprotein expressed on T cell and NK cell lymphocytes from Diatheva s.r.l., an Italian biotech company. CEACAM1 is overexpressed in melanoma, bladder, lung, colon, pancreas, and gastric cancers and has been shown to modulate innate and adaptive immune suppression in pre-clinical studies. Antibodies targeting CEACAM1 are thought to have the potential to effectively treat cancer alone or in combination with other checkpoint modulator antibodies, including those in Agenus’ development pipeline.

In June, the company announced the beginning of a Phase I/II trial of its anti-GITR agonist antibody INCAGN1876 that it is conducting with Incyte Corporation . The trial will test the safety and of the drug candidate as well as evaluate the recommended dose of INCAGN1876 in selected tumor types, including advanced or metastatic endometrial adenocarcinoma, melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer and renal cell carcinoma. Fool analysts said Agenus and Incyte are set to initiate a second early-stage trial for OX40 later this year.

In addition to its partnership with Incyte, Agenus also has a partnership with Merck, although few details have been revealed, the Fool reported.

Shares of Agenus are trading at $6.04 this morning. The stock has steadily climbed since early May, when it was trading at a low of $3.01 per share.

Bellicum Pharmaceuticals

Shares of Houston-based immuno-oncology company Bellicum Pharmaceuticals are up slightly this morning, trading at $18.66. What makes the company so attractive to Fool analysts, as opposed to companies farther along in immuno-oncology like Juno Therapeutics and Kite Pharma , is the company’s proprietary Chemical Induction of Dimerization (CID) technology. The technology is designed to make T cell therapies safer. Juno is facing a class action lawsuit over its CAR-T therapy for patients with relapsed or refractory B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia where three patients died during a mid-stage trial.

Earlier this year, Bellicum announced the first cohort of patients in its BP-004 trial had completed dosing. Patients were given doses of the company’s genetically engineered donor T cells (BPX-501) after receiving a partial T depleted haplo-identical allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (haplo-HSCT). This trial has piqued the interest of European regulators. The Fool reported European regulators are willing to forego a randomized trial of BPX-501 continues to perform well in clinical trials.

The company also has another clinical candidate, BPX-201, in a Phase I trial for the treatment of metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer.

This year the company has seen some strong growth, taking on new space and nearly doubling its number of employees.