After several years of outstanding returns for the stock market, investors may be wondering how long the good times can last. Although the market may climb or fall, individual companies will continue to innovate and grow. That’s why we asked three contributors to Fool.com to choose a stock that could take off in 2022 no matter what happens with the broader indexes.
They chose Cassava Sciences (NASDAQ:SAVA), Align Technology (NASDAQ:ALGN) and Intellia Therapeutics (NASDAQ:NTLA). Here’s why.
Jason Hawthorne (Cassava Sciences): Estimates for the global Alzheimer’s disease market are all over the map. But they are all large. Estimates peg the opportunity at between $5.7 billion and $25 billion by 2027. That’s why investors are so quick to bid up the prices of biotech stocks that hint at success in treating the disease. Yet, the past decade has been littered with failures. Even heavyweights like Pfizer, Merck, Eli Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson have tried — and failed — to develop a drug that helps patients. Aduhelm, Biogen‘s treatment for the disease, remains controversial after being approved earlier this year. Phase 3 trials for it were originally halted due to futility.
Cassava Sciences is one of the latest companies attempting to curb effects of Alzheimer’s. And it has a unique approach. Its simufilam aims to stabilize a scaffolding protein in the brain. The hypothesis is that the misfolding of this protein is related to inflammation and the accumulation of amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s. Early results were promising and the National Institutes of Health has awarded grants totaling more than $5.5 million in the past two years.
Despite being up more than 600% in 2021, shares are down more than 60% since mid-August. That’s because a citizen’s petition was filed by the former head of neuroscience research at two large pharmaceuticals and a cardiologist who had shorted the stock. The petition alleges some of the images in the foundational research behind Cassava’s drug candidate were manipulated. Although a highly regarded scientist who specializes in identifying manipulated images cited numerous issues spanning more than a decade of work, several scientific journals have said they see no evidence of fraud or manipulation. The back and forth has led to wild swings in the stock price.
Still, an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is hanging over the company. One thing that is not in dispute is the safety of simufilam. Setting aside whether it works or not, no one is alleging it is unsafe. While the SEC investigates the allegations the company is forging ahead with phase 3 clinical trials. The first began in October and will run for 52 weeks. That means 2022 could offer data that makes the skeptics’ arguments moot.
The prospect is far too risky for my taste. And there are enough questions to prevent me from recommending it even as a speculative play. However, if Cassava posts undeniably positive results in treating Alzheimer’s disease in 2022 — which is a possibility — don’t be surprised to see shares rocket back to previous highs or beyond.
Rachel Warren (Align Technology): If you’re looking for stocks on track to soar in 2022 and beyond, you certainly don’t have to look far. One lesser-known healthcare stock that investors should be taking a second look at right now is Align Technology.
If you’re not familiar with the medical device company, you’re likely familiar with one of its most well-known products: the clear plastic aligner system Invisalign. A popular orthodontic solution often used in lieu of traditional braces, to date, Invisalign aligners have been used by over 11 million people globally. The company is also known for its iTero mouth scanners, which it says have been used in nearly 50 million scans around the world, as well as CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) software, which providers use to design and manufacture all types of dental products.
In Align Technology’s most recent quarter, its total net revenue jumped nearly 40% year over year to reach approximately $1 billion while its net income soared 30% year over year to $181 million. Broken down by product segment, the company’s Clear Aligner revenue soared 35% year over year, while revenue derived from its imaging systems and CAD/CAM services jumped 57% from the year-ago period. Invisalign sales continue to be the company’s primary source of revenue, and totaled nearly $838 million in the third quarter. The remaining $178 million in revenue came from its imaging systems and CAD/CAM business segment.
Commenting on the company’s third-quarter financial results, CEO and President Joe Hogan noted, “For Q3 we shipped to a record 85.5 thousand doctors in the quarter and reached 11.6 million Invisalign patients cumulatively.” This most recent quarter wasn’t an anomaly. Over the past five years alone, Align Technology has grown its annual revenue and net income by 129% and 836%, respectively.
Not only that, but the stock has jumped by nearly 600% during the same trailing-five-year period. If you’re looking for a high-growth healthcare stock with a portfolio of lucrative, in-demand products that can keep generating high levels of balance sheet growth for years to come, Align Technology is one to add to your list of potential buys.
Intellia is leading the pack for CRISPR delivered inside the body
Steve Ditto (Intellia Therapeutics): 2021 was an undeniably bad year for many biotech stocks. While the S&P 500 returned 29%, the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF dropped more than 20%. There were lots of macro reasons for the poor performance including the uncertainty around political efforts to address drug pricing and industry regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although those fears have diminished somewhat, the carnage is still being felt in many portfolios.
One notable exception to the trend was Intellia Therapeutics, which closed the year up 117%. The reason for its outperformance is pretty clear: In a June 26, 2021, press conference, Intellia and its partner Regeneron (NASDAQ:REGN) announced “the first-ever clinical data supporting safety and efficacy of in vivo (in the body) CRISPR genome editing in humans.”
Until that point CRISPR gene editing had been used ex vivo (outside the body). Working outside the body means a patient’s cells are extracted, which often requires chemotherapy or radiation. The cells are then edited in a lab and reinfused into the body which depletes the patient’s immune system and becomes very expensive because of the time and complexity.
With Intellia’s early evidence CRISPR technology can work inside the body and avoid the complicated process, the entire gene editing field is headed toward in vivo applications — and Intellia is leading the pack. Intellia is now moving forward rapidly with other key pipeline candidates including NTLA-2001, which is being expanded to include patients with ATTR amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM).
For investors, Intelllia’s progress is notable since it will provide a larger study population to determine if similar results can be achieved in a more complex and more prevalent condition while still resulting in a good safety profile.
On the Q3 earnings call, Intellia management committed to sharing interim clinical data from NTLA-2001 in the first quarter of 2022. These updates could provide a catalyst for the stock if results in the larger populations mirror the results of the June announcement.
Many investors may be asking themselves if this is a stock that could rocket again in 2022. The short answer is yes. The CRISPR revolution is just getting started, Intellia is a market leader, and the potential for big jumps on positive news is certainly possible. Healthcare investors with a long-term buy-and-hold approach should consider getting on board now.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.