Alzheimer’s and Covid-19 developers make hay on the stock markets

Big risers include Eli Lilly, Biogen, Moderna and Biontech.

A recent analysis by Evaluate Vantage showed how stock markets bounced back in the second quarter of 2021 after a poor start to the year. Now, Vantage drills down to reveal the companies that made the most of this resurgence, and those that languished despite renewed investor enthusiasm.

The most obvious beneficiaries were developers of Alzheimer’s therapies and Covid-19 vaccines, but other groups also got carried along on a wave of renewed optimism. Meanwhile, the fallers were generally groups that experienced clinical or regulatory setbacks.

Big pharma is back

Big pharma had a good quarter, and the star performer was Lilly, which has seen its stock rocket in 2021 alongside rising hopes for its Alzheimer’s project donanemab – first with promising data in January, and then with the US approval of Biogen’s rival Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm. Lilly recently confirmed that it would file for accelerated approval of donanemab this year.

Another of the big risers, Roche, is said to be hoping for a quick nod for its amyloid antibody gantenerumab, although the company is publicly dismissing such speculation. The group has several other Alzheimer’s projects in development.

Meanwhile, Biogen has pulled itself back from the brink with the Aduhelm approval, but in terms of stock market performance the group was put in the shade by the Covid-19 vaccine developer Moderna, which has more than doubled in size this year and is now worth a stunning $94bn.

Biggest share price gainers of H1 2021
Company Share price gain Market cap gain ($bn) Market cap at June 2021 ($bn)
Big pharma
Lilly ($) 36% 58.6 220.1
Astrazeneca ($) 20% 26.1 157.3
Roche (SFr) 13% 45.3 337.6
Big drug makers ($25bn+)
Moderna ($) 125% 53.0 94.4
Biogen ($) 41% 14.5 52.1
Novo Nordisk (DKK) 23% 40.8 196.9
Mid caps ($5-25bn)
Biontech ($) 175% 34.4 54.1
Novavax ($) 90% 8.6 15.7
Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma (JPY) 53% 2.7 8.5
Small caps ($250m-5bn)
Ocugen ($) 339% 1.3 1.6
Prothena ($) 328% 1.8 2.3
Anavex Life Sciences 323% 1.2 1.6

Other Covid-19 players also did well. Astrazeneca was the second-best big pharma performer, although this was likely in spite of rather than because of its vaccine, which the group is providing on a non-profit basis. The UK company appears to have weathered the storm over the unusual blood clots linked with the jab, and saw its stock climb steadily in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, Biontech and Novavax were the top mid-cap gainers, although the latter has had issues with manufacturing and its shot is yet to hit the market despite impressive efficacy data.

Ocugen also rose strongly even though the chances of a US nod for its Bharat Biotech-partnered vaccine, Covaxin, are far from clear: the group recently said it would need to apply for a conventional approval rather than emergency use authorisation.

Going down

On the negative side of the ledger, Merck & Co’s stock dropped in January when it canned its Covid-19 vaccine candidates, while Novartis is suffering from a lacklustre pipeline and questions over its $9.7bn purchase of The Medicines Company; the Swiss group has only just resubmitted its US approval application for Leqvio, which it gained through the deal.

The Celltrion bubble has burst, while Sarepta, Amicus and Graybug all reported disappointing data, and Odonate pulled the plug on tesetaxel.

Acadia dropped after its Parkinson’s disease psychosis drug Nuplazid was rejected by the FDA in a new indication, dementia-related psychosis.

Chemocentryx also faced questions about the approvability of avacopan in ANCA-associated vasculitis following a mixed adcom vote, though some investors have renewed hope after the project’s Pdufa date was recently delayed so the FDA can review new data.

This analysis shows that, while unexpected developments can influence stock markets, the age-old fact remains that failure in the clinic, or with regulators, will be punished.

Biggest share price fallers of H1 2021
Company Share price fall Market cap loss ($bn) Market cap at June 2021 ($bn)
Big pharma
Merck & Co ($) -5% -10.0 196.9
Novartis ($) -3% -9.9 204.8
Big drug makers ($25bn+)
Celltrion (KRW) -25% -9.4 32.9
Daiichi Sankyo (JPY) -34% -30.9 42.8
Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine (CNY) -39% -20.8 67.5
Mid caps ($5-25bn)
Sarepta Therapeutics ($) -54% -7.3 6.2
Acadia Pharmaceuticals ($) -54% -4.6 3.9
Amicus Therapeutics ($) -58% -3.5 2.6
Small caps ($250m-5bn)
Chemocentryx ($) -78% -3.4 0.9
Graybug Vision ($) -81% -0.5 0.1
Odonate Therapeutics ($) -82% -0.6 0.1

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