Biotech rides a wave of positive data
After major data readouts in 2022, Portfolio Manager Andy Acker says 2023 could be the year of new drug launches, with potentially positive implications for biotech stocks.
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- Biotech delivered a glut of positive clinical trial data in 2022 for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, pneumonia, and dry AMD, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
- With this clinical progress, 75 drug filings could be up for Food and Drug Administration review in 2023.
- Some stocks have jumped significantly on positive news, thanks in part to depressed valuations. With many biotech companies still trading below the value of cash on their balance sheets, we believe the sector’s risk/reward remains positive.
Health care industries are subject to government regulation and reimbursement rates, as well as government approval of products and services, which could have a significant effect on price and availability, and can be significantly affected by rapid obsolescence and patent expirations.
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Andy Acker: 2022, I think of, really, as the year of data, and 2023 could be the year of new product launches. So, 2022 was an exciting year for biotech because we got several things. One, we started to get meaningful clinical data in new diseases where we saw very positive data. This would include everything from dry AMD, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in the elderly, to Alzheimer’s disease, where we had positive data that was unequivocal for the first time that we could slow progression for patients with Alzheimer’s. We saw new data for obesity, reaching, I would say, new heights of weight loss up to 20% or more for patients with obesity. We saw new vaccines that can potentially improve on the standard of care for pneumonia, which is one of the leading causes of death in children, and it also affects the elderly.
Now that we have this positive data and many companies are filing for approval, 2023 could be the year where we actually get these new approvals and launches for the first time. And in fact, the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] has 75 potential new drug approvals that are pending in 2023. So, this could be one of the biggest years for new product approvals and new product launches that we’ve seen in many, many years.
I think one thing that we did see last year was that because we had just been through an 18-month bear market in biotech, many of the valuations in this sector were extremely depressed. And so then, when a company came out with positive clinical data and investors could appreciate the market potential of those drugs, we saw very substantial stock reactions. Because the valuations were so depressed and because the innovation was so high, I think that made for a very attractive risk/reward. And in fact, we still have about 200 companies that are trading below the levels of cash on their balance sheets. And so, if some of these companies are able to develop real innovation, exciting new products, exciting data, we think the risk/reward is still skewed very positively.
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