3Q14 Stock Wrap-Up: Going big again

Winners, losers in biotech stock tiers in 3Q14

For the second quarter in a row, only the large caps finished in the black in 3Q14. In the over $5 billion segment, which was up 9%, gainers outnumbered decliners 22-9, while the decliners led in all other segments by nearly two to one, at 443-234. (see "Results by Market Cap").

Sigma-Aldrich Corp. led large caps, finishing the quarter up 34%, on the late September announcement that Merck KGaA would buy the tool company for $17 billion.

Also buoying large caps, Pharmacyclics Inc. shares rose 31%. The big gain came in late July on FDA's full approval of chronic lymphocytic leukemia drug Imbruvica ibrutinib.

Puma Biotechnology Inc.'s 261% gain, the best in the $1-$4.9 billion tier, pushed the cancer company's market cap above $7 billion. The stock nearly tripled in July on positive Phase III data for neratinib (PB272) to treat HER2-positive breast cancer.

Luye Pharma Group Ltd. boasted the second largest move in the group, ending the quarter up 68% after going public in July. The stock was up 13% in its first day trading in Hong Kong, and then jumped again in August on a deal in which Hanmi Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. granted Luye Chinese rights to Phase II cancer compound poziotinib (HM781-36B).

After posting the largest gain in the segment in 2Q14, MannKind Corp. brought up the rear with a 46% tumble in 3Q. The company hit its year-to-date peak on June 30 after the approval of Afrezza inhaled insulin; however, the stock has fallen 31% since Aug. 11, when MannKind granted marketing rights to the diabetes drug to Sanofi for $150 million up front and up to $775 million in milestones.

Leading the $500-$999 million group, Avanir Pharmaceuticals Inc. rose 111% to close out the quarter with a market cap over $2 billion. The stock rose 85% on Sept. 12 on news AVP-923 reduced agitation in Alzheimer's disease patients in a Phase II trial. Avanir already markets a different dose of AVP-923 as Nuedexta dextromethorphan/quinidine to treat pseudobulbar affect (PBA). On Sept. 24, Avanir also raised $230.2 million in a follow-on.

PTC Therapeutics Inc. rose 68% in the quarter on a steady flow of news, good for second in the group. EC granted conditional approval for Translarna ataluren to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in early August, and the company said it had completed enrollment in its Phase III trial of the compound in mid-September.

Exelixis Inc. occupied the bottom spot of the $500-$999 group, the only company in the segment to lose over half its value. The stock plunged 55% on Sept. 2 after Cometriq cabozantinib missed the primary endpoint in the Phase III COMET-1 to treat castration-resistant prostate cancer and Exelixis said it would reduce headcount by 70%.

Leading the $200-$499 million cohort, ophthalmic gene therapy company Avalanche Biotechnologies

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