Thursday, May 10, 2007

Alnylam Drops Almost 10% Following Quarterlies- A Lesson in Biotech Investment

Today, Alnylam Pharmaceutical’s stock got hammered following the release of their quarterly reports after the markets closed yesterday, with shares falling almost 10% to close at $17.56. Essentially, the report was in line with expectations and confirmed that research projects are moving forward as expected or even ahead of time, but it did not disclose a new collaboration with a strong development partner from Big Pharma or Biotech. The lack of such an announcement, which is expected by many to come “sooner rather than later”, curiously was the cause for the fall in the share price which was further fuelled by a weak overall market. Also, it is likely that market players that were “short” Alnylam before the report reduced their short position shortly before the report thus artificially “inflating” the stock yesterday to hedge for any partnership announcement. However, after this did not happen they may have decided to put renewed pressure on the stock.

Does this large drop in the share price of the leading RNAi company mean that RNAi does not work any more? Does RNAi hold no commercial value? Although this suggestion is absurd, investors that are not familiar with the technology and are seeing their investment dwindle will get their bouts of doubt and fearing further share price declines sell their shares at the worst possible time. For a biotech investment to be profitable, however, especially when investing in “unproven” technologies, it pays to do your due diligence first before buying in, make sure you are comfortable with the technology, and then set yourself targets to determine whether progress of the company/technology is in line with your expectations. Keep in mind, “unproven” technologies generating losses due to expensive research and development may be seen by some Wall Street analysts as having little to no economic value according to outdated valuation methods, and if those sentiments prevail in the market it can cause share prices to be “undervalued” until real economic profits are generated. Unfortunately, this can hurt small companies that need to raise more money to support their R&D and actually increase their investment risk in a vicious feedback loop. I should add that given this situation, this blog is a small contribution towards helping the development of RNAi Therapeutics getting the proper support it deserves by educating about its biological and potential therapeutic value.

Coming back to Alnylam- it is a special case. Only rarely in the history of truly promising biotechnologies has there been such a prominent gate-keeper in terms of IP and concentration of talent. It is also fortunate that with more than $200M in cash they have a multi-year runway ahead of them and do not have to worry too much about days like these. For the biotech novice, I would therefore recommend taking a small stake in a company like this and let it mature for at least 5-10 years. For those more confident in their biotech stock picking ability, this may be an opportunity to add a little bit more RNAi to your portfolio.

For those interested in the report, visit http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/070509/20070509006170.html?.v=1

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By Dirk Haussecker. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended for distribution to or use by any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of, or located in any locality, state, country or other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to law or regulation or which would subject the author or any of his collaborators and contributors to any registration or licensing requirement within such jurisdiction. This blog expresses only my opinions, they may be flawed and are for entertainment purposes only. Opinions expressed are a direct result of information which may or may not be accurate, and I do not assume any responsibility for material errors or to provide updates should circumstances change. Opinions expressed in this blog may have been disseminated before to others. This blog should not be taken as investment, legal or tax advice. The investments referred to herein may not be suitable for you. Investments particularly in the field of RNAi Therapeutics and biotechnology carry a high risk of total loss. You, the reader must make your own investment decisions in consultation with your professional advisors in light of your specific circumstances. I reserve the right to buy, sell, or short any security including those that may or may not be discussed on my blog.