The initial public offering market in the U.S. has had a slow year so far. As of last week, only 34 IPOs had been conducted, vs. 72 at the same time last year, MarketWatch noted.

One sector that saw some deals get done early in the year was biotech. In fact, by mid-February, the only companies to have come public in 2016 were from this sector: Proteostasis Therapeutics (PTI) - Get Report , AveXis  (AVXS) , BeiGene (BGNE) - Get Report and Editas Medicine (EDIT) - Get Report . Even so, they were propped up by strong interest from insiders, and some other biotech companies have had to scrap their IPOs or cut their price ranges to get deals done, FierceBiotech reported.

Should you consider biotech IPOs? Or should you invest in the broad sector or more established biotech outfits. Or are there better places for your money elsewhere? Let's survey the recent biotech IPO landscape.

Biotechs Slightly Under the Weather

Over the past couple of months, biotech IPOs seem to have caught a cold, with names like GenSight, Bavarian Nordic, and BioCardiascrapping their deals and other companies lowering their price ranges. Two names in the latter group are Netherlands-based clinical-stage immuno-oncology company Merus (MRUS) - Get Reportand Seattle-based preclinical biotech firm PhaseRx (PZRX) . Despite having the backing of Novartis (NVS) - Get Report , Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - Get Report and Pfizer (PFE) - Get Report , Merus raised only $55 million vs. its earlier target of $100 million.

The relatively smaller PhaseRx, which develops treatments for inherited enzyme deficiencies in the liver, raised $19 million by issuing shares at the lower end of the $5-$7 range. The original expectation was for $30 million.

PhaseRx which currently has a market cap of more than $62 million, plans to direct the funds raised to increase research in its targets for inherited enzyme deficiencies in the liver, and also understanding urea cycle disorder, which may cause the presence of excess ammonia in the blood. The company, which has mainly been backed by private placements, is also looking to push manufacturing.

Sequential Improvement

While year-over-year figures show a significant shrinkage in the overall number of IPOs, sequentially, the market is showing signs of improvement.

Dealogic says 25 IPOs were recorded so far in the second quarter of 2016, up from the nine deals of the first quarter of the year, MarketWatch reported.

The newest kid on the IPO block is Moleculin Biotech (MBRX) - Get Report. Although the company raised $9.2 million against its original expectation of $12 million, the shares were priced at the higher side of its pricing range at $6. The Houston-based firm will likely use the funds for further clinical trials of its leukemia-treatment drug, Annamycin.

While some biotech firms have been having trouble, others like American Renal Associates Holdings (ARA) - Get Report and Intellia Therapeutics (NTLA) - Get Report are doing well.

Massachusetts-biotech firm Intellia was initially looking to raise $85 million to boost development of its CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. However, the gene editing company has raised $163 million through the deal, with the likelihood to raise another $16 million in overallotment shares this month. Furthermore, at $18, the shares priced at the high end of the proposed range. The company's current market cap exceeds $1 billion.

Intellia and other gene-editing companies such as Editas and privately-held CRISPR Therapeutics are all working towards finding a way to cure genetic diseases by treating mutations in DNA.

While these companies are still in very early stages of development to determine profitability, their area of expertise could prove to be "game-changing," according to experts. Investors looking to reap market-beating gains over the long haul should focus on the most innovative companies in their respective niches, and this description fits biotechs in the vanguard of gene editing.

If the latest string of IPOs, or even small- and micro-caps are not your cup of tea, consider a biotech sector ETF or some more-established stocks.

Over the last year, the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) - Get Report has lost 22%, but since its mid-February lows -- when almost the entire market was seeing red -- the fund has recovered by more than 15%. Analysts are expecting a turnaround, too. This ETF is a good place to look if you want to make a broad bet on the sector.

According to Stifel Nicolaus portfolio manager Chad Morganlander, Amgen (AMGN) - Get Report could continue to successfully grow sales and dividends and expects the stock to hit $200, representing upside of more than 25%.

Another stock believed to be undervalued is Gilead Sciences (GILD) - Get Report . With its leadership in Hepatitis C and HIV medication, and with robust acquisition plans, Gilead seems set for gains.


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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.