In the last five months, Avacta (LSE:AVCT) shares have jumped nearly 173%. But this doesn’t tell the full story of this pharma stock. Despite the recent surge, this FTSE AIM share is still down 8.5% over the last 12 months and 3.9% in 2022. This price action points to a volatile asset that rises and falls rapidly with the market. So what’s the reason behind this new spike in interest and should I invest in this medical research stock? Let’s find out.
The rise and fall of Avacta shares
The pandemic-driven pharma boom is well documented. But Avacta was a huge winner, thanks to its timely antigen test kits that were effective detection tools. Its shares rose an astronomical 1,125% between March 2020 (when Covid was first declared as a pandemic) and May 2021.
But the rise of variants meant the efficacy of the results dropped, causing the company to pull its test kits from the market in early 2022. Subsequently, the Avacta share price fell 86% to 42p.
However, in recent weeks, this pharma stock has made a big comeback. Here’s what happened and my verdict on the stock.
Avacta is still primarily a clinical-stage biopharma firm with a focus on cancer detection and treatment. While it has a few other divisions, its most promising oncology treatments are still under development.
Right now, oncology is one of the fastest-growing medical sectors. The market for such treatments is growing at a compound annual rate of 9.6%, which will generate $292.8bn by 2028.
And a recent update from the board showed some significant developments in bringing these cancer treatments to market. While it will still take a decade before Avacta’s new AVA6000 chemotherapy system reaches the market, the prospects are promising.
The innovative treatment focuses on reducing the toxicity of chemotherapy on healthy cells by strengthening its tumour-targeting properties. This is done with the help of a protein marker that’s present in high amounts in cancerous cells.
The update shows that the treatment will move to Phase II by the second half of 2023. This was earlier than first expected and shows me that Phase I dose escalation data has been favourable so far.
At the same time, the company also rolled out updates on several key partnerships. Its ongoing relationships with LG Chem Life Sciences and Daewoong Pharmaceuticals both received positive updates. Results from these partnerships are expected to boost the disease detection product line of Avacta over the coming decade.
Concerns and verdict
Positive business developments and the UK market rebound have triggered this recent jump in Avacta shares. But I don’t think the current growth rate can be sustained without visible financial results. Even if trials are completed, bringing new cancer treatments to market is no easy task. It could take years to reach profitability.
And financially, the firm is still loss-making, recording a pre-tax loss of £29m last year. This makes this AIM share a very speculative investment. The market is volatile right now and further economic distress in the UK could cause the FTSE 100 and other indexes to tumble. And while its future looks promising, I’ll wait for Avacta shares to show signs of sustained growth across the rest of 2022 before I consider a small investment in 2023.