Checking the Biotech Scorecard - TheStreet

As a columnist I have the opportunity to voice my opinions, but along with that license comes accountability. I've always felt that stock market columnists should post their results, good or bad, on all of their picks.

TheStreet.com

is perhaps the most transparent investor site, providing archives on every writer so that investors can go back and take a look at the picks and opinions that have been offered in the past.

In that spirit, it's about time that I review my past columns, tally up the numbers and see how I'm doing.

Since assuming coverage of the biotech sector last summer, many of my columns have been comments on news or instances when I took cautious stances. For the purpose of tabulating results, I counted only those positions on which I was clearly bullish or bearish.

The Results

Using the closing price of the stock on the day the column appeared, the average position is up 7.2%. Longs gained an average of 15.4%, while shorts are profitable by 3.5%.

If you had purchased or shorted the Amex Biotech Index on each date these columns appeared, you'd have a 4.4% loss, with a gain of 12.6% on your longs and a loss of 11.5% on your shorts. If you had simply purchased the index on July 19, the date of my first pick, the gain would be 21.4%

My columns have been far more slanted to the bearish side. Biotech is a notoriously risky sector. To post a 3.5% gain on the short side while the sector has been quite strong is something I'm particularly proud of. I hope I have been able to help investors reduce risk and still show some profits.

Let's review and update some of the winners and losers.

The Winners

The biggest winner so far has been a bearish call on

Dynavax

(DVAX) - Get Report

, with a gain of more than 37%. In October, I

took issue with the company over the timing of a stock offering. However, at that moment, I didn't make a recommendation on the stock.

It wasn't until December, after the stock popped on positive data for its hepatitis B vaccine Heplisav, that I became

bearish. I questioned the market size that Heplisav will serve and noted the expert timing of an insider's sales. In several sales in November, director Dennis Carson sold 70,000 shares at more than $9 per share.

Since then, Dynavax reported the

botched study of the allergy drug Tolamba. In the trial, participants didn't suffer any observable allergic reactions to ragweed during the allergy season. That would be wonderful if the trial had included only the patient group that was treated with Tolamba. Unfortunately for Dynavax, the patients receiving the placebo also didn't have any allergic reactions, rendering the trial useless.

BioMarin

(BMRN) - Get Report

has also been a big winner, up more than 29%. I first liked BioMarin for

technical reasons. In December, I became convinced that the

fundamentals supported the charts.

Last month, BioMarin reported positive phase III data on Phenoptin for treatment of mild to moderate phenylketonuria, or PKU. The company also retired more than $51 million in debt by converting the notes to common stock.

In August, I highlighted what I thought was a good value play.

Charles River Laboratories

(CRL) - Get Report

had been down and out because of a slowdown in its rats and mice business. I expected that a

turnaround was imminent and so far have not been disappointed.

I continue to like the group as a whole and believe it's a way to play the biotech space while taking on less risk. You certainly won't get those 50% one-day jumps in Charles River or its peers, but neither are you likely to be on the receiving end of a 50% one-day haircut.

The Losers

Since I began covering the biotech beat, I have been most vocal about

New River Pharmaceuticals

( NRPH). When I

first wrote about the company, I said the stock was overvalued and advised waiting for a better entry price. That opportunity never came.

Instead, the stock more than doubled after receiving an approvable letter from the Food and Drug Administration. On Oct. 13, I got downright bearish on the stock, quoting (and agreeing with) Dr. Harry Tracy of NI Research, who equated the stock's rise with that of

Dutch tulip prices in the 17th century.

I remain absolutely perplexed as to why the valuation of New River's stock is as high as it is. I can't imagine that a takeover will occur at this valuation regardless of how successful Vyvanse, its attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug, is. If you've been reading my rants on the subject, you know that I don't expect the drug to be much of a success because of the likely restrictive labeling it will receive from the Drug Enforcement Agency.

I can't envision Vyvanse taking much market share without any advantages that can be promoted on the label. The market, however, sees things differently and has jacked up New River shares 20% since I turned bearish.

My bullish call on

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

has also been wrong so far. The stock is off more than 8% since my

bullish column in October. At the time, I thought the stock represented a better value than biotech giants

Genentech

( DNA) and

Gilead Sciences

(GILD) - Get Report

.

I also suspected that the 2007 consensus earnings estimate of $4.31 a share was too conservative. I projected earnings per share of $4.68. Wall Street has moved in my direction, upping the consensus to $4.42. But the stock remains lower because of disappointing clinical data for colon cancer drug Vectibix and anemia drug Aranesp.

I still believe Amgen is among the best of breed in the sector and should be a core holding in any biotech portfolio. That said, my confidence level has deteriorated a bit. Should there be another setback, I will have to reconsider my thinking on the name.

In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, Lichtenfeld doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships.

Marc Lichtenfeld was previously an analyst at Avalon Research Group and The Weiss Group and a trader at Carlin Equities. He holds NASD 86, 87, 7 and 63 licenses. His prior journalism experience includes being a reporter/anchor for On24 in San Francisco and a managing editor of InvestorsObserver, a personal finance Web site. He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany. He appreciates your feedback;

click here

to send him an email.