3 Quiet Biotechs Ready to Make Some Noise in 2017

Published: Jan 04, 2017

3 Quiet Biotechs Ready to Make Some Noise in 2017 January 3, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

There are plenty of “brand name” biotech companies out there that everyone interested in biopharma knows about—Shire , Gilead Sciences , Genentech , Biogen and so on—but there are several smaller biotech companies that investors may not have heard of that are worth checking out. Keith Speights, writing for The Motley Fool, takes a look at three.

1. Akebia Therapeutics

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Akebia Therapeutics focuses on developing therapeutics based on the biology of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) biology. Most recently, on December 20, 2016, the company announced it had signed a collaboration and license deal in the U.S. for vadadustat, with Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. of Japan. Vadadustat is being developed to treat anemia associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD). The drug is also in two late-stage trials for that indication.

Under the deal, Akebia received $265 million in committed funds in addition to various development and commercial milestones that could exceed $1 billion.

Speights writes, “The reason I like Akebia is the tremendous potential for vadadustat. Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) such as Aranesp and Epogen are currently the standard of care in treating anemia related to chronic kidney disease. The problem with ESAs, though, is that they can increase hemoglobin levels too much.” Trials so far have suggested vadadustat can raise hemoglobin levels while staying within targeted levels.

Akebia is currently trading for $10.47.

2. Synergy Pharmaceuticals

Based in New York City, Synergy Pharmaceuticals had good news in December. On December 9, the company announced positive topline results from one of two pivotal Phase III clinical trials of plecanatide in patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C). On December 22, it announced positive topline results from the second trial of plecanatide for the same indication.

In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to make a decision on January 29, 2017 regarding plecanatide for chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC). Speights writes, “My hunch is that Synergy will get a thumbs up from the FDA. Two late-stage clinical studies of plecanatide in treating CIC showed positive results. Another long-term open-label safety study also found low adverse events and low discontinuation rates for patients taking the experimental drug. I think that, if approved, plecanatide should be a big winner for Synergy.”

Synergy is currently trading for $6.22.

3. Exact Sciences

Located in Madison, WI, Exact Sciences markets Cologuard, the first and only FDA-approved stool DNA noninvasive colorectal cancer screening test. The diagnostic screening test appears to be gaining traction in the market, currently covered by insurance plans with more than 153 million subscribers, up significantly from 50 million covered patients six months ago.

Speights writes, “Exact Sciences’ efforts to promote Cologuard should be another important factor that helps improve financial results. The company is actively working to engage and educate physicians about its test. As more physicians are informed about Cologuard’s accuracy and convenience, sales should pick up. In addition, Exact Sciences has launched direct-to-patient marketing campaigns (including national TV advertisements) that should build patient awareness—another key way to boost sales.”

Exact Sciences is currently trading for $13.47.

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