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Hot Biotech Stocks Traded by Hedge Funds in First Quarter

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Noteworthy hedge fund trading in biotech and drug stocks, culled from the 13F filings for the first quarter: [Hedge funds and mutual funds that manage more than $100 million are required to disclose their equity holdings, options and convertible debt on a Form 13F filed SEC within 45 days of the end of a quarter. Funds aren't required to report short positions betting on declines. Since we're already midway through the second quarter, these positions in biotech and drug stocks may already have changed.]

  • Things that make you go "Hmmmm…." SAC Capital picks up a new, 1.2 million-share position in Ardea Biosciences (RDEA) during the first quarter. On April 23, AstraZeneca (AZN) announces the acquisition of Ardea for $1.3 billion.
  • RA Capital, savvy Boston investors who are particularly fluent in the hepatitis C drug market, established a new position in Biocryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX) with a 3 million-share pickup. Biocryst's experimental BCX5191 won't be entered into human studies until later this year, but the drug belongs to the same "nuc" class as Gilead Sciences' (GILD) GS-7977.
  • Amylin Pharmaceuticals (AMLN) was a popular stock to buy in the first quarter with rumors swirling around a sale of the diabetes drug company to a Big Pharma suitor. Hedge funds Healthcor Asset Management, Calamos Advisors and Tang Capital and RedMile Group were just some of Wall Street's investor pros establishing new positions.

    Not all investors are waiting around to see if Amylin is sold. Millennium Management and SAC Capital both disposed of sizeable stakes in the company during the quarter. The two funds likely took profits from the run-up in Amylin's stock price since the takeout rumors first surfaced on March 28.

  • Human Genome Sciences (HGSI), locked in a takeover fight with partner GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), showed similar pattern of opportunistic hedge fund buying and selling. Perhaps most notable is Adage Capital's liquidation of its entire 3.85 million-share position in Human Genome during the January quarter.
  • Orbimed Advisors, with a healthcare portfolio valued at more than $3 billion, initiated new positions in Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX), ImmunoGen (IMGN), Neurocrine BioSciences (NBIX) and Array Biopharma (ARRY) during the January quarter. Orbimed also bought new shares of Chemocentryx (CCXI), which went public in February.

    Biotech stock positions exited by Orbimed, as of March 31, include Pharmacyclics (PCYC), Grifols (GRFS), Intermune (ITMN) and United Therapeutics (UTHR).

  • Amarin (AMRN) expects an FDA approval decision on its prescription-grade fish-oil drug AMR101 on July 26. Ahead of that all-important catalyst, Millennium Management, SAC Capital and Sectoral Asset Management added significantly to their existing stakes in Amarin. New positions were established by Brookside Capital and Apex Capital.
  • YM BioSciences (YMI) received some Boston hedge-fund love in the first quarter. RA Capital and Adage Capital each bought 2.3 million and 2 million shares respectively. The same cannot be said for Balyasny Asset Management, which dumped 2.7 million shares of YM Bio during the quarter. The fund still retained a small 350,000-share stake as of March 31.
  • Mutual fund giant bought 4.15 million shares of Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) during the first quarter, a new position in the obesity drug company. Mutual funds still greatly outnumber hedge funds on Arena's holders list, as of the end of the first quarter. More hedge funds may have been short Arena heading into last week's FDA advisory panel.

    Arena announced a new stock offering Tuesday night, so that deal coupled with the likely approval of lorcaserin in the near future is going to change the company's shareholder mix.

  • The same can be said for Vivus (VVUS), which received a positive FDA panel vote for its obesity drug Qnexa in February and expects a final approval decision on July 17. New and upsized stakes in Vivus were taken by Passport Capital, Caxton Associates, Eagle Asset Management and Federate Investors. Significant sellers in the quarter included Chilton Investment, Suttonbrook Capital and Orbimed Advisors.
  • Questcor Pharmaceuticals (QCOR) was mired in some controversy over its drug marketing practices early this year that dropped its stock price (since recovered and more.) For some hedge funds, Questcor's dip was a buying opportunity. Adage Capital and Visium Asset Management took new 1.7 million- and 1.4 million-share positions in the company during the quarter. Orbimed bought 1.5 million shares to significantly expand its existing stake.
  • Tang Capital, a sometimes activist hedge fund, established new stakes in Amylin, Spectrum Pharmaceuticals (SPPI) (1.8 million shares), Alexza Pharmaceuticals (ALXA), Vanda Pharmaceuticals (VNDA) and Biosante Pharmaceuticals (BPAX) during the first quarter.
  • --Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.



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    Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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