top partner

for CFD

Altimmune (NASDAQ: ALT) and Viking Therapeutics (NASDAQ: VKTX) are a pair of biotechs planning to follow in the footsteps of Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly and develop GLP-1-targeted medicines for obesity like Wegovy and Zepbound. Both companies have a plausible pathway to continue making their investors wealthier, perhaps by quite a bit.

But which one is a better stock to buy right now? Join me in analyzing each, and we’ll figure it out together.

The case in favor of Viking Therapeutics

Of the two companies, Viking Therapeutics is slightly closer to reaching the market. Its lead candidate, VK2735, has already reported some great data from its phase 2b clinical trial, and there might be more on the way.

Long story short, the data suggest that its molecule could lead to significantly faster weight loss than the medicines currently being sold by Eli Lilly as well as Novo Nordisk, and with a comparable side effect profile. Study participants lost, on a placebo-adjusted basis, an average of 13.1% of their weight after just 13 weeks of treatment.

Additionally, there does not appear to be a plateau effect after which continuing treatment does not lead to more weight loss. So it has a pair of distinct edges that could allow it to capture market share from the incumbents even though they have a head start on the market.

Excitingly, the business also has an earlier-stage program that’s essentially VK2735 formulated as a pill rather than an injection. The early data from that program look to be in line with the performance of the injected format. In the long run, the convenience of a daily pill rather than a weekly injection is hard to overstate, and if the program continues to perform well, it could thus access a larger portion of the market than the lead candidate, not to mention one-upping Wegovy and Zepbound, which are injections.

Finally, Viking is unusually well capitalized for a biotech, with $963 million in cash, short-term investments, and cash equivalents on hand in comparison to trailing-12-month (TTM) total expenses of $114 million. It has no debt, and it’s unlikely that it will need to raise more cash to get VK2735 commercialized, assuming the late-stage clinical trials go as planned and regulators assent to commercialization afterward.

The cash cushion is also likely sufficient for it to recover after a clinical trial mishap by funding additional trials, which is a big plus.

Why Altimmune is a compelling option

Compared to Viking, Altimmune’s GLP-1 pipeline is only half a step behind. Its lead program is wrapping up its phase 2 trials right now, with a continuation onto phase 3 trials nearly guaranteed on the basis of the strong interim data.

At this stage in the game, Altimmune’s published data do not clearly indicate that its candidate causes weight loss as quickly as Viking’s, though it also appears not to suffer from a plateau effect. Patients treated with the candidate in the highest dose group lost an average of 15.6% of their mass over 48 weeks of the phase 2 study.

Still, on the basis of available data, it does have a powerful advantage that none of the other candidates or contenders can claim: preservation of muscle mass during weight loss.

In the relatively brief history of GLP-1 medicines for obesity, patients losing a lot of their lean muscle mass alongside their fat mass during their months of treatment has been a major concern. Especially for older people and those with chronic conditions, rebuilding lost muscle mass can be very difficult, and the breakdown of muscle mass can cause health problems.

The implication is that if its candidate gets approved, it will probably become the GLP-1 weight loss intervention of choice for seniors, people with muscle maintenance disorders, and people with mobility issues. In those segments, as of right now, it doesn’t really have any direct competition, and that is likely to continue. So the presence of strong incumbents isn’t a dealbreaker.

Much like Viking, it has no debt to speak of. In terms of its cash holdings, Altimmune has $182 million in cash, equivalents, and investments as of Q1. Its TTM total expenses are $89 million. It’ll need to take out some debt or issue more shares of its stock before commercializing its candidate, but it isn’t about to run out of money in the meantime.

It could make sense to buy both, but one is a bit safer

There’s nothing wrong with buying Viking Therapeutics as well as Altimmune to position yourself for upside from their GLP-1 programs. As of today, both companies have very promising candidates that have good odds of completing their final clinical trials and securing regulatory approval in the next couple of years.

But if you had to pick one, pick Viking. There are two decisive factors: Its massive war chest of cash, and its larger pipeline that includes non-GLP-1 programs.

The cash means it can survive and go on to succeed if things don’t go exactly as planned. The non-GLP-1 programs mean that it has a lifeline in the very unlikely event that serious problems are discovered that pertain to the entire class of drugs. Altimmune is all in on GLP-1, at least for now, so it’d be in a much harder place.

In practice, Altimmune is the riskier pick, but it could also have more upside in store. Viking, with its shares recently inflated by a spate of good news, will need to work a bit harder to justify its valuation, but there’s still likely plenty of upside left too.

Should you invest $1,000 in Altimmune right now?

Before you buy stock in Altimmune, consider this:

The Motley Fool Stock Advisor analyst team just identified what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy now… and Altimmune wasn’t one of them. The 10 stocks that made the cut could produce monster returns in the coming years.

Consider when Nvidia made this list on April 15, 2005… if you invested $1,000 at the time of our recommendation, you’d have $785,556!*

Stock Advisor provides investors with an easy-to-follow blueprint for success, including guidance on building a portfolio, regular updates from analysts, and two new stock picks each month. The Stock Advisor service has more than quadrupled the return of S&P 500 since 2002*.

See the 10 stocks »

*Stock Advisor returns as of July 8, 2024

Alex Carchidi has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Novo Nordisk. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read the full story: Read More“>

Blog powered by G6

Disclaimer! A guest author has made this post. G6 has not checked the post. its content and attachments and under no circumstances will G6 be held responsible or liable in any way for any claims, damages, losses, expenses, costs or liabilities whatsoever (including, without limitation, any direct or indirect damages for loss of profits, business interruption or loss of information) resulting or arising directly or indirectly from your use of or inability to use this website or any websites linked to it, or from your reliance on the information and material on this website, even if the G6 has been advised of the possibility of such damages in advance.

For any inquiries, please contact [email protected]