3 Drug Stocks Climbing the Charts Today

AKCA shorts are likely feeling the heat today

by Karee Venema

Published on Oct 7, 2019 at 2:31 PM
Updated on Oct 7, 2019 at 2:58 PM

Stocks have swung lower this afternoon, as skepticism creeps in ahead of this week's U.S-China trade talks. Several individual names are making big moves, though, including rare diseases specialist Akcea Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:AKCA), drug developer Sutro Biopharma Inc (NASDAQ:STRO), and osteoporosis expert Pfenex Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:PFNX). Here's a closer look at what's moving the shares of AKCA, STRO, and PFNX.

Akcea Therapeutics Inked a Licensing Deal With Pfizer

Akcea Therapeutics stock is up 30.5% to trade at $19.75, pacing for its biggest one-day gain since March 15, 2008, when it surged 38.4%. This comes in reaction to news of a new partnership with Pfizer (PFE), with the big-cap pharma firm licensed AKCA's experimental AKCEA-ANGPTL3-LRx treatment, which is used to lower protein production in the liver. The drug is currently being tested in a mid-stage study on patients with diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Short sellers have been in the driver's seat on a stock that was down 50% year-to-date heading into today's trading -- and hit a two-year low of $13.90 just last week. The 6.02 million AKCA shares sold short account for 38% of the equity's float, or 27.6 times the average daily pace of trading. Today's sharp move higher is likely shaking some of the weaker bearish hands loose, strengthening tailwinds for Akcea Therapeutics.

Sutro Biopharma Soars on Bull Note

BTIG initiated coverage on Sutro Biopharma with a "buy" rating and a $19 price target -- a 125% premium to last Friday's close. The brokerage firm said Sutro's ability to improve "rapid DNA-to-protein cycle times of cell free biosynthesis" has resulted in high-profile partnerships. In response, STRO stock has shot up 21.2% to trade at $10.22.

Analysts are all in on the drug stock, which is now up 7% year-to-date thanks to today's bull gap. While all seven covering brokerages maintain a "buy" or better rating, STRO's average 12-month price target of $22.86 sits in uncharted territory for the stock that went public in September 2018.

Pfenex Stock Pops on FDA Nod

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfenex's osteoporosis drug, PF708, for use in patients with a high risk for fractures. The company is seeking regulatory approval to allow the bone-building treatment to be a substitute for Eli Lilly's (LLY) Forteo, and William Blair projects peak sales to top $96 million in 2021.

Against this backdrop, PFNX stock is up 7% at $7.98. The shares sold off sharply after hitting a two-year peak of $10.20 on Sept. 17, but found a foothold atop its 80-day moving average, while just below here is its 120-day moving average, which served as a springboard in the middle of the third quarter.


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