BOSTON (TheStreet) --Before we plunge into 2010, let's take a quick look back at the biotech sector in 2009. It was an okay year, certainly not a great one overall. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index (NBI) closed 2009 up 16%, rebounding nicely off the March lows but still under-performing the broader indices.

The healthcare segment of the S&P 500 rose 18% in 2009 compared to the 23.5% gain in the overall index.

Biotech's performance was definitely hurt by the lagging returns of the sector's profitable, large-cap components. Only Biogen Idec ( BIIB - Get Report) (12% return in 2009) managed to close higher. Genzyme ( GENZ was the laggard with a 26% loss for the year. Amgen ( AMGN closed 2009 down 2%; Gilead Sciences ( GILD - Get Report) lost 15% and Celgene ( CELG finished flat.

The big gains in 2009 came from small-cap biotech stocks, which rebounded strongly from the huge drubbing of 2008. Vanda Pharmaceuticals ( VNDA - Get Report) was the top-performing biotech/drug stock in 2009, returning 2,150% spurred by the surprise approval of the company's schizophrenia drug Fanapt last May.

Rounding out the Top 5 best-performing biotech/drug stocks for 2009: Human Genome Sciences ( HGSI (+1,342%), Keryx Pharmaceuticals ( KERX (1,034%), Compugen ( CGEN - Get Report) (1,027%) and Opexa Therapeutics ( OPXA (900%).

On the losing side of the ledger, Repros Therapeutics ( RPRX lost 92% of it value in 2009, stung by drug development setbacks. Other big losers included Star Scientific ( CIGX (-82%), Sequenom ( SQNM (-79%), GTC Biotherapeutics ( GTCB (-77%), and GTX ( GTXI (-75%). Note: I excluded stocks traded over the counter and on the Pink Sheets from these lists.

The biotech sector enters 2010 with a lot more capital at its disposal, thanks to a plethora of fund raising during the latter half of last year. Overall, the healthcare sector raises just under $18 billion in new public equity and $49 billion in new public debt, according to CapitalIQ.

InterMune Gets Six-Month FDA Review for Lung Disease Drug

InterMune's ( ITMN experimental treatment for a fatal lung disease has been granted a six-month, priority review by U.S. drug regulators, the company said Monday.

InterMune is developing perfinidone as a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue an approval decision on May 4. Before that, the agency is likely to convene an advisory panel to review perfinidone, likely sometime towards the end of the first quarter.

Perfinidone is InterMune's next and perhaps best shot at producing a billion-dollar drug. Standing in the company's way are muddled results from two phase III studies of pirenidone in IPF -- one study positive, the other negative -- which have created uncertainty about how the FDA will view the drug's efficacy and safety.

-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston

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