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The Essential Biotech Sector Fall Preview

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Labor Day is over and Hurricane Earl is out to sea, which means Wall Street is returning to work in earnest for the last three months of the year.

To put everyone in the right mindset, I've compiled a "Back to School" guide covering the essential information biotech investors need to profit from what should be a very busy fall season.

Before we look ahead, take a quick look at the year to date. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index (NBI), a market-cap weighted index of 125 stocks and the broadest measure of biotech sector performance, is essentially flat for the year compared to a 1% drop in the S&P 500 (see graph above).

The Amex Biotechnology Index (BTK), which equal weights 20 stocks, is up 18% for the year, although the acquisitions of index stocks OSI Pharmaceuticals and Millipore, plus the surge in Genzyme (GENZ) shares due to the Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) takeover speculation, have skewed the index higher.

The top-performing biotech/drug stock so far this year is Somaxon Pharmaceuticals (SOMX), up 245% through Sept. 2. Somaxon's stellar performance comes despite a fall in the stock's value from $10 in March to $4 in September. Somaxon wins, however, because shares traded for just a buck in January.

Rounding out the top five stop biotech stock performers in 2010 to date are Radient Pharmaceuticals (RPC) (up 192%), Idenix Pharmaceuticals (IDIX) (up 176%), Prolor Biotech (PBTH) (up 155%) and Pharmacyclics (PCYC - Get Report) (up 142%). (Stocks trading on the OTC or Pink Sheets were excluded.)

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SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG
ARNA $4.20 -0.59%
DNDN $0.06 -6.02%
IDIX $24.50 0.20%
PCYC $256.70 -0.05%
AAPL $130.35 -1.70%

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S&P 500 2,114.77 +5.85 0.28%
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