The ‘Uber of Biotech’ Gets Back To Work

Hilary Kramer

Hilary Kramer is an investment analyst and portfolio manager with 30 years of experience on Wall Street.

Forget the “FANG” group of the biggest technology companies. When you want pure disruptive innovation and a wild Wall Street ride, biotech remains the place to be.

I love these stocks. When they’re rallying, they’re a play on pure innovation. This is because they generate wealth for shareholders on what boils down to the confidence that medical science will keep advancing.

The upside is practically infinite. After all, most computer tools only improve life in increments, make us a little more productive day by day and expand our existing reach.

Biotech, at its most visionary, saves human lives that otherwise would be cut short one way or another. That transcends normal valuations.

Companies that develop those therapies can one day be worth the price of progress itself. And when that mood catches on, the stocks soar.

We’ve seen a few of these stocks on my Turbo Trader list soar 50 percent year to date. That’s true transformative upside. It’s exhilarating.

But, of course, when your company is built on hope, those exhilarating swings are punctuated with dizzying lurches as well. I caught those stocks on a dip and booked big profit on one position just the other day. Waiting for a cure can push our patience past the limit.

The good news is that biotech is in the sweet spot in its volatility cycle now, well off the 2018 low with another 10 percent left to run before it even tests the peak.

Momentum is on our side, but which stocks do we buy? One of my favorites, LOXO Oncology (NASDAQ:LOXO), just got acquired at a 68 percent premium. While that one made my GameChangers subscribers a lot of profit, there are more out there.

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We invest in emerging biotech all the time there. And I suspect we’re only in the opening innings of a huge acquisition boom in the space.

Big Pharma covets these technologies at a discount price. Like us, companies like Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) buy the dip.

Biotech stocks were collectively down a harrowing 38 percent from their peak just a few months ago, so there are a lot of bargains being hunted behind the scenes.

And the roller coaster continues. To buy and hold these companies, you need to be here for five to 10 years at a minimum. You basically need to be a venture capital investor or a literal “angel.”

That means knowing 80 percent of your initial bets will fail. They’ll get hung up in the regulatory process. Someone else will get to the market before them. They’ll run out of cash.

But the remaining 20 percent or even 10 percent will easily make up for the others when approval happens, and their theoretical value becomes real. Most of the industry is a long way from that magic moment.

My screen has 500 biotech companies on it. Maybe 50 are profitable. Four out of five don’t even have any real revenue yet.

They’re years from a commercial stage and a lot can happen in those years. If you have years to wait, consider these little companies.

One more thing about biotech. These aren’t giants yet. This is not a mature business, like email or web search or even social media.

Take Uber, for example. It supposedly is a $120 billion company. If and when it goes public, it will not be profitable.

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Practically nothing in biotech can match that size except Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), which easily does 60 percent more sales than Uber even dreams of and also turns 40 percent of sales into profit.

If you can buy into one $120 billion stock, Amgen has the edge. It’s big and relatively mature.

On the other hand, although Uber already has 70 percent of the ride share market sewn up, it’s only booking $14 billion a year in sales. Amgen can grow as long as we keep finding new ways to improve our health.

Did I mention Amgen has $29 billion in cash? This is practically enough to buy two top 10 biotech companies and absorb their growth.

Start at the top of the biotech food chain and work down. Then, when you have a foothold in the space, start spreading your bets to smaller companies.

Again, few will mature in the immediate future. Many will fizzle for years. Some of the most promising ones will get bought out and disappear.

But would you rather own a company that cures blindness and cancer… or a new kind of taxi? I’m all about the cures.

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