Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News
Companies Saw the Bottom Drop Out of Their Stock Prices
Even in a year where biotech and pharma stocks scaled new heights—for most of 2015, at least—a fair number of publicly traded companies watched their stock prices fall. Most of the firms showing the sharpest drops lost much more of their value in 2015 than the 10 companies appearing a year ago on GEN’s List of Top 10 Wall Street Losers of 2014.
The difference can be seen most dramatically in the 10th-ranked companies of both years: The company at the bottom of the 2015 List lost 81.9% of its share price during the year, compared with 57.2% for the number-10 company of 2014 (the 10th-ranked company on GEN’s 2013 List lost 61.9%).
If there’s any consolation from making this List, it’s the potential of listed companies to stage comebacks strong enough to make the following year’s GEN List of Top 10 Wall Street Winners. Two of the 10 companies that gained the most in stock price during 2015 spent the previous year being ranked as “Wall Street Losers.”
Following is a list of 2015’s top 10 worst stock performers—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 31, 2015, and December 31, 2014; the percentage of change between the closing prices; and an explanation for the companies’ share slump this past year.
Most of the companies that lost on Wall Street during 2015 are up-and-comer featuring small cap to mid cap stocks. Their share prices typically plunged in value as a result of some sort of bad news, such as the failure of clinical trials or entire clinical programs, to layoffs and restructurings, ratings downgrades by analysts, or sudden exits for top management.
Not included on this list are companies that went public during 2014, as a result generating less than a year’s share-price data. Also not included are companies that carried out stock splits, since the resulting adjusted closing prices showed much smaller year-to-year losses for investors. As a result, this List did not include two companies that otherwise appeared to show dramatic price drops: Aeterna Zentaris, which consolidated its shares at 100-to-1 to regain compliance with NASDAQ rules; and NovaBay Pharmaceuticals, which carried out a 1-for-25 reverse stock split in December to meet listing standards of the NYSE MKT exchange.
#10. Discovery Laboratories
Dec. 31, 2015: $2.94
Dec. 31, 2014: $16.24
% Change: (81.9%)
It was mostly downhill for the company after reaching its year-high price of $25.20 on March 11. Two days later, the company said it would restructure its business to focus on developing aerosolized KL4 surfactant for respiratory diseases, starting with AEROSURF® for respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants—while seeking a “strategic alternative” to developing SURFAXIN® (lucinactant). Shares briefly rallied to $20.16 until April 16, when the company said it would cease commercialization of SURFAXIN, touching off a 19% one-day drop in share price, to $15.68. Shares also tumbled 40%, to $3.92, on November 12 following release of Phase IIa results for AEROSURF. The company highlighted the compound’s potential to decrease nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) failure and the need for intubation at higher doses. But an investor presentation also noted that more significant adverse events occurred in the AEROSURF arm (15) than the control arm (9), with comparable nCPAB failure rates in both arms (20/40 for AEROSURF, 21/40 in control). At SeekingAlpha.com, contributor “Modis” said those statistics prompted it to sell its shares.
#9. Avalanche Biotechnologies
Dec. 31, 2015: $9.52
Dec. 31, 2014: $54.00
% Change: (82.4%)
The company’s worst day was June 16 when shares plummeted 56%, to $17.05, following the release of clinical trial results that didn’t meet expectations. The company said a Phase IIa study of its AVA-101 gene therapy for wet age-related macular degeneration met its primary safety endpoint and improved BCVA with fewer Lucentis rescue injections than a control. But treated patients also showed increased retinal thickness while controls showed reduced thickness, an outcome that disappointed investors and some analysts: Chardan Capital analyst Gbola Amusa briefly downgraded the company’s shares from “neutral” to “sell.” Five weeks later on July 23, co-founder, CEO and President Thomas W. Chalberg, Jr., Ph.D., resigned. And on August 14, shares fell about 28%, to $10.01, after the company postponed a Phase IIb trial in favor of more preclinical studies for AVA-101 and another wet AMD gene therapy candidate, AVA-201. However, the company is raising its bet on gene therapy, saying February 1 it plans to acquire Annapurna Therapeutics.
Dec. 31, 2015: $1.27
Dec. 31, 2014: $7.30
% Change: (82.6%)
Macrocure lost most of its value on August 20, when shares plunged 75% from the previous day’s close of $12.98, to $2.05 a day after the company said its lead product candidate CureXcell® would fail the Phase III MC-105 trial, assessing the compound for venous leg ulcers. Those shares had rallied briefly to $4.26 on October 27, when the company disclosed the failure of another Phase III trial (MC-102) of CureXcell in diabetic foot ulcers and said it would begin evaluating strategic alternatives. Investors responded with a selloff that sent shares tumbling 68%, to $1.65, two days later. Less than a month later, shares more than doubled from November 17, when the company revealed plans to eliminate approximately 2/3 of its staff, to November 27. During that stretch, the share price climbed 171% to $2.44 after the company announced a shakeup that resulted in a new board chairman, a new CFO and new CMO.
#7. CymaBay Therapeutics
Dec. 31, 2015: $1.69
Dec. 31, 2014: $9.83
% Change: (82.8%)
From a year’s high of $12.99 on February 18, shares spent most of 2015 skidding, starting with an 18.5% decline to $9.98 on February 24, the day the company announced results from its Phase IIb study of lead product candidate arhalofenate. The company stressed how the gout drug candidate met its primary endpoint of showing reductions in gout flare rate compared with standard-of-care treatment allopurinol—yet acknowledged that the uric acid was not reduced to below 6 mg/dl, as with allopurinol. “Not having matched the allopurinol uric acid lowering would tend to indicate that we would have a hard time competing directly with those patients that are satisfied with their uric acid lowering on allopurinol,” CEO Harold Van Wart, Ph.D., told analysts. Shares fell another 22% to $3.03 on May 8, the day after the company reported weaker-than-expected first quarter results. The company plans to advance arhalofenate into Phase III, following agreement with the FDA last month on a pivotal-phase development program.
#6. Threshold Pharmaceuticals
Dec. 31, 2015: $0.48
Dec. 31, 2014: $3.18
% Change: (84.9%)
Shares cratered 82% on December 7, after the company said its cancer compound evofosfamide failed to meet primary endpoints in two Phase III trials. The MAESTRO trial showed no statistically significant difference in overall survival between pancreatic cancer patients treated with the hypoxia-activated prodrug plus placebo, compared with those treated with gemcitabine plus placebo. The other trial, TH-CR-406/SARC021, showed no statistically significant overall survival improvement in patients treated with evofosfamide plus doxorubicin compared with doxorubicin alone in patients with locally advanced unresectable or metastatic soft tissue sarcoma. The disappointing results came weeks after Threshold inked a U.S. co-promotion agreement for evofosfamide with Merck KGaA, subject to FDA approval of the drug candidate. Eleven days after the trial failure news, the company said it would eliminate two-thirds of its workforce, leaving it with “between 20-25 remaining employees.” The stock, however, continued to decline 11% from the December 17 announcement to December 31, ending the year at 48 cents a share.
#5. Synta Pharmaceuticals
Dec. 31, 2015: $0.35
Dec. 31, 2014: $2.65
% Change: (86.8%)
Months of steady if unspectacular consistency gave way to a one-day 64% plunge in the share price, which fell to 74 cents on October 21. A day earlier, the company said it would terminate the Phase III GALAXY-2 trial of ganetespib and docetaxel in second-line treatment of patients with advanced non-small cell lung adenocarcinoma. The company cited the study’s Independent Data Monitoring Committee, which concluded the drug candidate was unlikely to show statistically significant improvement in the primary endpoint of overall survival compared to docetaxel alone. President and CEO Chen Schor added that the company would undertake a comprehensive review of its strategy. Two weeks later on November 5, the company said it would chop its workforce by approximately 60% or 45 positions, leaving it with 33 full-time employees. The news didn’t budge the share price, which closed unchanged at 65 cents the following day.
#4. Repros Therapeutics
Dec. 31, 2015: $1.21
Dec. 31, 2014: $9.97
% Change: (87.9%)
Investors sent shares falling 56%, to $2.08, on October 29, the day the company announced the cancellation of a planned November 3 meeting focused on its enclomiphene product candidate (formerly Androxal) by an FDA advisory committee. A month later on December 1, shares suffered another single-day drop of 27.5%, to $1.74, after the company disclosed it had received from the agency a “Complete Response Letter” recommending that Repros conduct an additional Phase III study or studies to support approval of the candidate, indicated for secondary hypogonadism in overweight men seeking to restore normal testicular function. The FDA also cited concerns regarding the Phase III program’s study entry criteria, titration and bioanalytical method validation. The company said in January of this year it plans to meet in February with the agency’s Division of Bone, Reproductive and Urologic Products—and that it plans to pursue a marketing authorization approval in Europe for the treatment.
Dec. 31, 2015: $1.60
Dec. 31, 2014: $13.35
% Change: (88.0%)
After shares finished 2014 by tripling to $13.35, buoyed by positive cardiac safety study results for lead candidate Pyridorin®, the company’s 2015 high came on the first trading day (January 2) at $10.68. Shares slumped to $6.26 by February 11, then rebounded to $8.70 on June 22 before a 34% drop to $5.70 on July 16. That day, the company priced a public offering raising $7.1 million net, after two earlier larger proposed offerings failed to attract enough investors. One possible reason is investor interest in other diabetic nephropathy treatments, including Phase III candidates by AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Shares fell nearly 19%, to $2.89, on November 3 after the company raised $5.5 million gross in a private placement of stock and warrants; the amount could zoom to $28.5 million if all short-term warrants are exercised. The FDA on December 14 cleared the company’s IND for Pyridorin in acute kidney injury; the drug is in Phase III for diabetic nephropathy.
Dec. 31, 2015: $0.23
Dec. 31, 2014: $2.82
% Change: (91.8%)
A pair of clinical trial failures drove down share prices during 2015. On March 24, the company acknowledged that a Phase IIa study of ASONEP™ missed its primary endpoint of statistically-significant progression-free survival in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma. Investors sent shares down 23%, to $2.52, the following day, and down another 9%, to $2.29, by April 6. Six weeks later on May 20, the company disclosed another clinical failure for another compound, saying that in the Phase II Nexus trial, iSONEP missed primary and key secondary endpoints—including statistically significant improvement in visual acuity—in patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD). The company that day also announced it would reduce its workforce and conduct a strategic evaluation of its R&D programs. That news also soured investors, which sent the share price free-falling 79.5%, to 35 cents from $1.71 the previous day; shares finished the year at 22 cents.
Dec. 31, 2015: $1.47
Dec. 31, 2014: $19.53
% Change: (92.47%) 92.47311827956989
The company’s planned merger with Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, announced November 18, capped a mostly rough year for the company on Wall Street. Shares climbed nearly 40% from the start of 2015 through March 19, when the price reached its all-year high of $27.26 on March 19. Shares fell by about half to $13.68 by April 24, then plummeted 81%, to $2.64, the next trading day of April 27, the day after the company announced the failure of MYDICAR® in the Phase IIb CUPID2 trial for systolic heart failure. The cardiovascular gene therapy agent missed the trial’s primary endpoint of statistically-insignificant improvement compared to placebo in reduction of the risk of heart-failure related hospitalization. MYDICAR also missed the secondary endpoint, time to first terminal event. After hovering in the low-$2 range, shares saw a one-day 39% drop, to $1.35, on June 26, after the company confirmed plans to suspend further development of MYDICAR and preclinical candidates that included a Stem Cell Factor (mSCF) gene therapy and SERCA2b small molecule programs. The company also hired an exclusive financial advisor and began pursuing a merger or sale—a process culminating in the announcement of the merger with Eiger, set to close in the first half of this year.