Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

These ten companies had prolonged and disastrous slumps.

2014 may have been a year of record highs for biopharma stocks, but not every publicly traded company benefited. And those that lost value in 2014 generally lost as much value as the 10 companies that made up 2013’s GEN List of Top 10 Wall Street Losers of 2013. In other words, this year’s Top 10 Wall Street Losers also dropped in value by at least more than half.

And unlike last year, the biggest loser among biopharma stocks lost more than 90% of its value year-over-year. More interestingly, last year’s biggest loser (Ariad Pharmaceuticals) may have lost 83% of its value in 2013, but this year bounced back along with its main product Iclusig, as the leukemia treatment returned to U.S. shelves with a new FDA-approved label in January, then inked a pair of overseas commercialization deals in December.

Even more interestingly, two of the Top 10 “losers” of 2013 (Amicus Therapeutics and Pernix Therapeutics) ended up on this year’s list of Top 10 Wall Street Winners.

Following is a list of the top 10 worst stock performers of 2014—the 10 biotech, pharma, tools/tech, and services company stocks whose prices fell the most during the past year. Companies are listed by name; their stock exchange and trading symbol, the closing price on December 19, 2014, and December 19, 2013; the percentage of change between the closing prices; and a brief explanation for the companies’ share slump this past year.

Most of the companies that lost on Wall Street during 2014 are up-and-coming companies, small- to mid-capitalization (“small cap” to “mid cap”) stocks. Their share prices typically plunged in value as a result of some sort of bad news, from the failure of clinical trials or entire clinical programs, to layoffs and restructurings, ratings downgrades by analysts, sudden exits for top management—and in one instance a federal investigation, despite the legal presumption of innocence. Not included on this list are companies that went public during 2014, as a result generating less than a year’s share-price data.

#10. KaloBios Pharmaceuticals


December 19, 2014: $1.70

December 19, 2013: $3.97

% Change: (57.2%)

The company’s stock lowlight came early in the year—January 30, to be exact, when the share price fell 28% to $3.33. The drop came a day after the company disclosed it was halting development of its anti-GM-CSF monoclonal antibody KB003 for severe asthma after the drug candidate failed in a Phase II study to meet its primary clinical endpoint of improvement in FEV1 compared to placebo. The share price continued to slump during 2014. On the up side, the company completed enrollment in a 180 patient Phase 2 KB001-A study targeting Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, and said in November it planned to present top-line data on that study in January 2015.

#9. Galena Biopharma


December 19, 2014: $1.57

December 19, 2013: $4.06

% Change: (61.3%)

From a high of $7.48 a share on January 16, the stock price has gone mostly downhill since then. On March 17, the company disclosed in a Form 8-K it was the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission concerning “certain matters relating to our company and an outside investor-relations firm that we retained in 2013.” Shares fell 12% to $2.82 the following day. Earlier in 2014, disclosed that the company hired an investor-relations firm to post essays presented online as objective analyses without disclosing that they were company-paid. The essays helped boost share prices, and company insiders made millions of dollars by selling their shares in January, the website reported. An internal investigation ensured, and on August 21, Mark J. Ahn, Ph.D., who initially denied any company wrongdoing, resigned as president, CEO, and director “to pursue other long held personal and professional goals.”

#8. Vivus


December 19, 2014: $3.32

December 19, 2013: $9.27

% Change: (64.2%)

While sales for obesity drug Qsymia improved somewhat during 2014, they continued to fall short of once-lofty investor expectations. On April 3, Piper Jaffray analyst Charles Duncan downgraded the firm’s rating of the stock from Neutral to Underweight, and lowered the firm’s price target from $8 per share to $3 per share. Shares closed 6% lower that day, to $5.80, and have continued to slide slowly but mostly steadily since then. Vivus is among several developers of recently-approved obesity drugs that have seen demand fall short of predictions just a couple of years back. 

#7. Aegerion Pharmaceuticals


December 19, 2014: $22.81

December 19, 2013: $64.33

% Change: (64.5%)

From a high of $73.56 on January 3, shares have fallen mostly steadily through 2014, as the company has been buffeted by several negative developments. Shares dipped 7% in February following a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter 2013 loss. Those shares continued to decline, sliding again almost 22% to $34.63 on May 7, after the company lowered its projected sales forecast range to between $180 million and $200 million, from between $190 million and $210 million. And on October 30, shares fell 41% to $20.19 after the company again lowered its product sales forecast range to $150 million-to-$160 million.

#6. Onconova Therapeutics


December 19, 2014: $3.99

December 19, 2013: $13.48

% Change: (70.4%)

Shares sank 37%, to $8.79, on February 20 following the failure of the Phase III ONTIME trial of intravenous (IV) rigosertib in patients with higher risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) who had progressed on, failed or relapsed after prior therapy with hypomethylating agents (HMAs). Rigosertib did not meet the primary endpoint of overall survival compared to best supportive care (BSC), the company acknowledged. The company continues to study the experimental drug, saying in November that a Phase III study of oral rigosertib in lower risk MDS patients “could commence” in the second half of 2015, subject to results, funding and approvals.

#5. Prana Biotechnology


December 19, 2014: $1.87

December 19, 2013: $7.22

% Change: (74.1%)

Shares plummeted about 72%, from $9.86 on March 28 to $2.80 the next trading day March 31, after the company said its Alzheimer’s disease candidate PBT2 failed a 12-month Phase II Imaging trial by not meeting its primary endpoint of a statistically significant reduction in the levels of beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of prodromal/mild Alzheimer’s disease patients. To be fair, Alzheimer’s is a notoriously difficult indication for developing new drugs: In July, a Cleveland Clinic study found a 99.6% failure rate of clinical trials for Alzheimer's drug candidates between 2002 and 2012.

#4. Alcobra


December 19, 2014: $4.38

December 19, 2013: $18.17

% Change: (75.9%)

Company shares fell by more than half, from $14.11 on October 3 to $6.12 the next trading day of October 6. Investors took a dim view of the company excluding data from four patients with “extreme” positive placebo responses in concluding that its Phase III study of Metadoxine Extended Release (MDX) in adults with ADHD showed statistically significant improvement in symptoms compared to placebo. The company said the four showed “extremely large placebo responses that were inconsistent with what has been reported in previous ADHD trials of MDX or other agents.” In November, the company said it would launch a second adult Phase III study in 2015, and was evaluating changes to the design and monitoring of the second trial to control the unusually high placebo response

#3. Exelixis


December 19, 2014: $1.33

December 19, 2013: $5.80

% Change: (77.1%)

Company said in September it was axing about 70% of its workforce—160 jobs—following the Phase III failure of its metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) treatment cabozantinib in a study comparing the experimental drug to prednisone. Exelixis said cabozantinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, did not meet its primary endpoint of demonstrating a statistically significant increase in overall survival for patients compared to prednisone in the COMET-1 trial, according to top-line results.

#2. Cytori Therapeutics


December 19, 2014: $0.51

December 19, 2013: $2.43

% Change: (79.0%)

After rising to $3.32 on February 27, shares started a slide that was aided by an almost 15% drop (to $1.79) on August 5 when the company said it anticipated not being able to complete enrollment of the ATHENA I trial prior to the end of 2014, after enrollment in that trial and a second Phase II study, ATHENA II, were placed on clinical hold. By October, the FDA allowed enrollment to resume in both trials, designed to assess the company’s adipose-derived regenerative cells (ADRCs™) in heart failure patients with ischemic heart disease who are already receiving maximal therapy with no options for revascularization. On a brighter note, the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in December agreed to pay $2 million more toward R&D for the company’s Cytori Cell Therapy™ for thermal burn injuries, raising to $14.1 million the value of a contract option originally signed in August.

#1. Nymox Pharmaceutical


December 19, 2014: $0.47

December 19, 2013: $6.07

% Change: (92.3%)

Share price fell nearly 82% on November 3 after the company disclosed disappointing results from two Phase III trials (NX02-0017 and NX02-0018) for its benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) treatment candidate NX-1207. Both studies failed to meet their primary endpoint of statistically significant efficacy compared with placebo—though NX-1207 remains promising for low-grade, localized prostate cancer, CEO Paul Averback said at the time. Soon after, Nymox put on hold development of NX-1207 for BPH, a program stretching back to 2002, while continuing development for low-grade, localized prostate cancer.

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