It’s been a rough year for the biotech industry, which as a whole has substantially lagged the broader market. Just look at the performance of the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF, an industry benchmark. What’s more, some biotechs have been encountering their own company-specific issues.
Two worth a closer look today are Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) and Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) whose prospects really don’t look as bad as their year-to-date performances suggest. At current levels, both Amgen and Moderna are worth investing in now. Let’s find out why.
Amgen, a leading biotech giant, has been having trouble growing its revenue. Many of its older medicines are facing competition, generic or otherwise, while newer ones aren’t yet contributing enough. In the third quarter, Amgen’s revenue of $6.9 billion grew by almost 4% year over year, which is on the upper side of what it’s recorded in the past year and a half.
However, there’s good news for the company. Amgen recently completed the acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics, a biotech focused on rare diseases, for about $28 billion in cash. The key asset in the transaction was Tepezza, the first drug for thyroid eye disease (TED) approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Tepezza has had some struggles growing sales, a problem that Horizon Therapeutics could now solve with Amgen’s guidance.
Amgen will borrow from the blueprint it used to ramp up sales of Tavneos, a therapy for a blood-vessel disease it got its hands on via the 2022 acquisition of ChemoCentryx. Realizing that awareness of Tavneos was low, Amgen implemented steps to increase the medicine’s visibility using its sales force. That’s the benefit of having the kinds of funds and sales footprints that it has, and that Horizon Therapeutics certainly didn’t before.
But there’s more to Amgen than this acquisition: The company’s biosimilar business is making strides, too. In the third quarter, the company’s Humira biosimilar, Amjevita, recorded a decent $152 million in sales — a 30% year-over-year increase — and it recently earned the first U.S. approval for a biosimilar version of Johnson & Johnson‘s immunology blockbuster, Stelara.
Amgen won’t be able to launch this product until 2025 because of a deal it signed with Johnson & Johnson. However, its efforts to become a leader in the biosimilar market and to target highly successful medicines are taking shape. And its pipeline features several dozen programs.
Finally, Amgen is an excellent dividend stock, currently yielding 3.12%. As its shares remain down, it looks like an great stock to buy right now, especially for income-seeking investors focused on the long term.
Of the many relatively small (at the time) biotechs that sought to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine back in 2020, Moderna has remained the most relevant, for at least two reasons. First, it succeeded in its quest to launch a coronavirus vaccine, and even became one of the leaders in the space. Second, the company has had solid non-COVID-related clinical progress over the past two years.
Still, the biotech’s sales are dropping off a cliff as the pandemic’s state of emergency has largely subsided. People still need its vaccines, but not nearly as much. In the third quarter, Moderna’s revenue of $1.8 billion declined from the $3.4 billion reported in the year-ago period. The vaccine maker also recorded a net loss per share of $9.53, compared to net earnings per share of $2.53 in the prior-year quarter.
Despite this glaring issue, Moderna can bounce back since the company should launch several products in the next three years. It recently started a phase 3 study for a combined COVID/influenza vaccine that could be a big deal. It’s also running a late-stage study for a personalized cancer vaccine that delivered promising results in a phase 2 clinical trial. Furthermore, Moderna sent an application to the FDA for a potential vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), after it also aced a phase 3 study in that department.
Moderna has six programs in late-stage studies, and plans to return to top-line growth in 2025 and break even on the bottom line by 2026. With this biotech stock down by 60% year to date, I think investors in it for the long haul should strongly consider adding shares.
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Prosper Junior Bakiny has positions in Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends SPDR Series Trust-SPDR S&P Biotech ETF. The Motley Fool recommends Amgen, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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