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February 08, 2016

Top 10 Wall Street Winners of 2015

In a (Mostly) Record Year for Biopharma Stocks, These Public Companies Made the Most for Investors

Top 10 Wall Street Winners of 2015

Biotech stocks enjoyed a blissful 2015 marked by record high share prices and a ballooning IPO market until the threat of price curbs started driving investors away in September. [Argus/Fotolia]

  • Until the threat of price curbs started driving investors away in September, biotech stocks enjoyed a blissful 2015 marked by record high share prices and a ballooning number of initial public offerings. But the market swoon that sent shares falling late last year didn’t completely wipe out gains for stocks—at least according to the results of two key exchange-traded funds.

    The iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Exchange-Traded Fund finished 2015 at $338.33, up 11.5%—better than nothing, though not as good as the 31% gain recorded for the year as of July 20, when the fund reached its all-year high of $398.00.

    Also reaching its 2015 peak on July 20 was the First Trust New York Stock Exchange Arca Biotechnology Index Fund, which finished that day at $131.19, up 29% for the year. But at the close of trading on December 31, the NYSE fund managed a finish of only $113.02, posting a gain of just under 11% for the year. Again, it could have been worse, but it could have been much better, too.

    Eking out smaller gains were two other biotech funds, PowerShares Dynamic Pharmaceuticals Exchange-Traded Fund (reaching $69.97, up 5%) and iShares US Pharmaceuticals (reaching $161.69, up 6.8%).

    Below is a list of the top 10 best stock performers of 2015. Each item in the list presents a top stock performer’s basic information: company name; stock exchange; trading symbol; closing prices as of December 31, 2015 and December 31, 2014; percentage rise or fall in the closing prices; and brief summary of the factors accounting for company’s good fortune.

    As was the case last year, 2015’s top performers were up-and-coming companies, small- to mid-capitalization (“small cap” to “mid cap”) stocks that jumped in value as a result of marketing approvals, positive clinical trials results, or other news announcements and/or speculation about possible acquisition.

    Not included on this list are companies that went public during 2014 and, as a result, generated less than a year’s share-price data. Also not listed are companies that appeared to show even larger price gains, but only as a result of reverse stock splits.

  • #10. DURECT

    NASDAQ: DRRX

    December 31, 2015: $2.21

    December 31, 2014: $0.79

    % Change: 179.7%

    The company enjoyed a doubling of its share price between March 2 and March 30, following the announcement of its Epigenomic Regulator Program, and successful completion of a Phase I clinical trial with the program's lead product candidate DUR-928. The results of that trial caused shares to jump another 43% between May 18 and June 5, when the price reached its all-year high of $3.23. The results were, namely, favorable safety data from a multi-dose trial of DUR-928, a potential treatment for metabolic diseases such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). DUR-928 may also be a treatment for acute kidney injury (AKI) and other types of acute organ injury, the company added. DUR-928 advanced to a single-ascending-dose Phase Ib trial in patients with NASH in January of this year.

     

  • #9. Anthera Pharmaceuticals

    NASDAQ: ANTH

    December 31, 2015: $4.64

    December 31, 2014: $1.58

    % Change: 193.7%

    Shares of company stock more than doubled between May 22 and June 18, reaching $9.59 at the end of this period, two days after the company said that it had met its enrollment target for the CHABLIS-SC1 Phase III clinical trial evaluating blisibimod for the treatment of lupus. The company regained full global rights to the compound in September after its development partner in Japan, Zenyaku, terminated a collaboration to co-develop the drug there. Rather than sell off shares, investors sent them 21% higher, to $9.60, between the day of the termination announcement September 14 and September 18. Another 49% increase took place between July 9 and July 27, when shares reached their all-year high of $11.11. The surge coincided with a public offering of stock that raised net cash proceeds of approximately $26.9 million, the company disclosed in its third-quarter Form 10-Q regulatory filing. The company’s first significant stock gain of 2015 was a 25% bump, to $3.25, on February 10, the day the company trumpeted a successful completion of an interim analysis of CHABLIS-SC1.

  • #8. Intra-Cellular Therapies

    NASDAQ: ITCI

    December 31, 2015: $53.79

    December 31, 2014: $17.65

    % Change: 204.8%

    September 16 proved to be a red-letter day for the company, after it released results from the first Phase III study of lead compound ITI-007 for schizophrenia. Those results showed statistically significant improvement in patients' Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) total score at the 60 mg dose, compared to placebo, with motoric, metabolic, and cardiovascular characteristics similar to placebo. Shares nearly doubled, zooming 87% to $48.79 the day of the announcement, followed by another 20% the next day, to its high for the year of $58.62. Less than two weeks later, on September 28, the company completed a $345 million offering of common stock, generating net proceeds of approximately $327.4 million. Despite a selloff by investors, the company grew its total cash to more than $510 million—then launched a Phase III study of ITI-007 in bipolar depression on December 23, helping send shares 7% higher five days later, to $56.39 on December 28.

  • #7. Recro Pharma

    NASDAQ: REPH

    December 31, 2015: $9.00

    December 31, 2014: $2.86

    % Change: 214.7%

    Share prices more than quadrupled between March 2 and April 15, reaching $14.04. The surge coincided with Recro acquiring from Alkermes worldwide rights to intravenous/intramuscular meloxicam, a Phase III-ready, long-acting COX-2 NSAID for moderate to severe acute pain; a contract manufacturing facility in Gainesville, GA; and royalty and formulation revenue associated with the facility. Recro shelled out $50 million up front and agreed to provide Alkermes up to $125 million in milestone payments under that deal, which was announced March 9 and completed April 13. Shares of the company enjoyed two higher peaks in 2015. The price ballooned 18% between July 14 and July 21, reaching $17, four days after the company announced positive efficacy results in the Phase II clinical trial of Dex-IN, an intranasal formulation of dexmedetomidine, for acute pain in adult patients undergoing bunionectomy surgery. And from September 1 to 18, shares climbed 33%, peaking at the all-year high of $17.11, with the only clinical news during the period being data presentations at PAINWeek®, the National Conference on Pain for Frontline Practitioners, from two studies for N1539, an intravenous formulation of NanoCrystal Colloidal Dispersion® meloxicam for managing acute moderate to severe pain.

  • #6. Prothena

    NASDAQ: PRTA

    December 31, 2015: $68.11

    December 31, 2014: $20.76

    % Change: 228.1%

    Once the early-stage R&D arm of Elan before being spun off in 2012, the company three years later made a name for itself with investors. Shares surged 32%, to $38.66, on March 20, the day after the company released positive Phase I results for PRX002, a Parkinson’s disease treatment being co-developed with Roche—which will provide Prothena up to $555 million in milestone payments on top of the $45 million up-front payment provided when the collaboration began in 2013. PRX002 represents a potential advance over current treatments for Parkinson’s that manage only early motor symptoms. Between October 13 and November 27, shares rocketed 74%, to $75.31, following an accelerated clinical development timeline for NEOD001. The company began a global Phase IIb trial in previously treated patients with amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis and persistent cardiac dysfunction, while completing enrollment in an expansion cohort of a Phase I/II trial of NEOD001 in patients with AL amyloidosis and persistent organ dysfunction. Data is expected in the second quarter of 2016.

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