The lack of major drug launches last year, along with disappointing quarterly results from the likes of Biogen (BIIB) - Get Report , Celgene (CELG) - Get Report and Gilead (GILD) - Get Report , dragged down biotech stocks last year. The downtrend has continued into 2016, but the turn could soon be at hand, said Paul Yook, portfolio manager for BioShares BioTechnology ETFs.
Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS, a charitable trust, owns Biogen in its portfolio.
"When you have a lack of big launches and you have missed earnings, that's going to depress the sector," said Yook.
According to Yook, the three key issues that pulled biotech down starting in mid-summer 2015 were largely disappointing major clinical trials, a record low number of FDA approvals on new drugs in 2015 in comparison to the boom in 2012 and 2013, and lastly the largest biotech players posting disappointing financial results.
As for what is going to drive biotech shares higher in 2016, Yook said balance sheets are strong with very little debt, valuations are cheap and researchers have learned from the mistakes of last year's clinical-trial disappointments.
Yook's speculative BioShares Biotechnology Clinical Trials ETF (BBC) - Get Report rose more than 5% in 2015, yet has dropped more than 34% so far in 2016. The BBC is designed to track the price and yield performance of the LifeSci Biotechnology Clinical Trials Index, which is an equal weighted index of listed biotechnology companies with a primary product offering in a Phase 1, Phase 2 or Phase 3 clinical-trial stage of development.
"There are areas like immunotherapy in the BBC, which focus on the hottest cancer technologies," said Yook. "There's gene therapy where you replace a mutated gene in a person's body and fix it. There are these hot new areas and the BBC gives you exposure only to those exciting technologies."
The BioShares Biotechnology Products ETF (BBP) - Get Report jumped more than 19% last year, but is down 23% since the start of the year. The BBP is designed to track the price and yield performance of the LifeSci Biotechnology Products Index biotechnology companies with a primary product offering or product candidate that have received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
"The BBP holds 35 stocks that are at the revenue stage; any other biotech ETF you buy is going to be a mix of speculative companies and those that are selling. Therefore, BBP gives you lower volatility," said Yook.