Ionis Pharmaceuticals Showing Strong Recovery On Research Pipeline, Tweaking Price Target Higher

It’s been a wild 2018 for Jubak Picks portfolio stock Ionis Pharmaceuticals (IONS.) Right now, though, the shares are on an upward trend. That’s likely to continue with the company looking at a strong research presentation at the December 1-4 meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Diego.

As of October 11, the shares were down 20.47% for 2018 to date. As of November 27, however, a rally in the shares had taken year to date performance from that deep negative territory to a positive 1.67% for 2018.

Ionis has announced that it will present data on Ionis-TMPRSS6-L from Phase 1 clinical trials that show a reduction in plasma iron levels, the potential for the drug to correct anemia, and the ability of the company’s antisense oligonucleotides to modulate platelet levels to address cancer.

Additionally, data from a Phase 2 clinical trial presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago on November 10, showed that patients treated with AKCEA-APO demonstrated a significant reduction in elevated lipoprotein, a hereditary risk factor for cardiovascular disease that cannot be well controlled by either lifestyle modifications or existing cholesterol-lowering therapies. The results were strong enough for the company to move the drug to Phase 3 trials.

Ionis is now working with partner Novartis (NVS) on a meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the end of Phase 2 trials for AKCEA. When Novartis picks up its option to license AKCEA after the end of Phase 2 trials, it will generate a $150 million milestone payment, with 50% of that going to Ionis.

But the greater significance in the news on AKCEA is that it gives a big boost to Ionis’s next generation LICA technology. Ionis has Phase 1 studies of eight LICA drugs now underway. Ionis’s LICA technology would give the company the ability to take is antisense technology to big new markets that have been out of bounds to the company’s first generation antisense technology due to concerns over platelet levels in clinical trials.

Looking at the extremely volatile and choppy chart for Ionis, the stock looks to have bottomed on April 6 at $40.68. The shares closed at $55.44 on November 27.

I’m looking at a 99.35% gain in Ionis since I added the shares of my Jubak Picks Portfolio on May 22, 2014. I’m tweaking my target price slightly higher to $68 from the prior $65.