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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Ranking Cheap Biotechs

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- A large share of the email for this week's Biotech Stock Mailbag focused on my list of 10 Cheap Biotech Stocks That Could Soar.

Steve L. writes, "Thanks for the article Adam! I'm always fascinated with biotech and I tried to read and understand your articles as much as I can. I was wondering if you would offer one more advice on this article. Can you rank them in terms of their potential to succeed?"

I struggle with ranking these 10 stocks in any meaningful way because they're all so different. I chose to highlight these stocks, however, because I felt that their respective drug development programs had a viable chance for success, while fully recognizing the substantial hurdles that lay ahead. Realistically, we know that a good number of these drugs will blow up -- that's the harsh nature of the sector -- but I believe there are winners amongst these 10 stocks.

Now, which of the 10 stocks is more likely to succeed than the others? The following ranking is totally subjective and certainly subject to debate and revision.

The bottom five i.e. the highest risk, in order from most to least:

10. Athersys (ATHX) 9. Neptune Technologies (NEPT) 8. Repros Therapeutics (RPRX) 7. GTx (GTXI) 6. Celldex Therapeutics (CLDX)

The top five, again ranked most to least risky:

5. Aastrom Biosciences (ASTM) 4. Celsion (CLSN) 3. Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals (CYCC) 2. Derma Sciences (DSCI) 1. YM Biosciences (YMI)

As I re-read this ranking to myself, I can already see where some juggling of places would be justified. This is hard to do. I decided to place YM Biosciences at the top because CYT387's mechanism of action is well understood and the drug could be a viable treatment for myelofibrosis even if the controversial anemia benefit turns out to be a zero. (Just not as commercially successfully.)

Derma Sciences grabbed the No. 2 spot because it's hard to find fault with the wound-healing data from a randomized, controlled phase II study. Derma's ranking may be too high because a phase III study hasn't started yet.

Athersys and Neptune are on the bottom only both have a lot to prove and a long way to go.

If you a thoughts on how these stocks could be better ranked by risk, send me your list and I'll publish in a future Mailbag.

Chris L. asks, "Very interesting commentary on Cyclacel. When does the trial conclude?"

Cyclacel is enrolling patients in the phase III study of sapacitabine in elderly patients with acute myeloid leukemia but the company has not provided specific guidance on when it expects data to be announced. This is a study with an overall survival primary endpoint. What Cyclacel has said about timing is that an interim analysis would be conducted when 50% of the enrolled patients die.

Stock quotes in this article: YMI, CLSN, APRI, VRTX, SGMO, CYCC, DSCI 

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