As this "gray wave" matures the need for better treatments for the myriad health problems that often accompany old age only grows stronger.
And while no one has discovered a cure for Alzheimer's, cancer, Parkinson's or other ailments that come along with old age, several biotech companies are racing to cure a long list of diseases and disorders.
The prospects are certainly daunting, but the possibilities in the biotech field are literally endless-for patients and investors alike.
With that in mind, here are six biotech companies that are working on radical and revolutionary drugs.
From A TO Z: Investing in Biotech StocksAlexion Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ALXN) is a biotech company that engages in the innovation, development and commercialization of therapeutic products for treating patients with ultra-rare and severe disorders around the globe. The Connecticut-based business focuses on developing products for the treatment of diseases in hematology, nephrology, neurology, metabolic disorders, oncology and ophthalmology.
Unlike scores of other biotech companies, Alexion boasts a strong growth trend and has plenty of cash to fund its research and development.
Most recently, the cutting-edge company received FDA and European Commission approval on its marquee drug called Soliris. Developed for the treatment of a blood disorder called atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS), Soliris sales have been growing at a 45% compounded annual growth rate.
Biogen Idec Inc. (Nasdaq: BIIB) works in the worldwide discovery, development, manufacturing and marketing of therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, hemophilia and autoimmune disorders. Its key product is AVONEX for the treatment of relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS).
The company continues to advance and improve therapies for MS which afflicts roughly 400,000 in the U.S. and 2.5 million worldwide. Every week, 200 people are diagnosed with the neurological disease in America. Its MS drug Tysabri, marketed in conjunction with Irish pharmaceutical company Elan (NYSE: ELN) had sales of $1.5 billion in 2011.
The California-based established company has a number of FDA-approved drugs already in the market including Revlimid for the treatment of multiple myeloma and MDS; Vidaza for the treatment of MDS and acute myeloid leukemia; Thalomd for the treatment of multiple myeloma; and Istodax for the treatment of a specific form of T-Cell lymphoma.
In addition Celgene has a far-reaching pipeline of drugs in various clinical trial stages under the categories of hematology, oncology, inflammation and immunology.
Gilead Sciences (Nasdaq: GILD) has been working since 1987 to discover, develop and commercialize medications to advance the care of patients suffering from life-threatening diseases in areas of unmet medical needs.
In just two decades, this Foster City, CA-based company has skyrocketed to become a leading biopharmaceutical company with a portfolio of 14 marketed products and a growing channel of investigational drugs.
Growth prospects of Gilead's HIV drugs Truvada and Atripla look very promising. The company continues to expand with collaborations, by making acquisitions and introducing new products.
Rengeron (Nasdaq: REGN) works in the discovery development and commercialization of medicines for the treatment of serious medical conditions in the U.S. One of its key products is EYLEA for the treatment of neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Advanced macular degeneration is a common eye condition among people age 50 and older. It is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults.
On the list awaiting FDA approval is Aflibercept, commonly referred to as Zaltrap. Its Rengeron's protein fusion agent developed in partnership with Sanofi Aventis (NYSE: SNY). The drug aims to prevent angiogenesis of blood vessel development to tumors. The colorectal cancer therapy will hear from the FDA on Aug. 4.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: VRTX) is a major force in the biotech arena in treating cystic fibrosis (CF ), a life threatening genetically transferred disease that is the most common form of lung disease in children and young adults. On May 29, shares fell after it was reported that an experimental drug candidate called VX-809, and its newly approved CF medication Kalydeco may not be as effective as first anticipated. Full results from a Phase II study testing the combination are set for July.
Despite the setback, several analysts remain upbeat on Vertex. In a note to investors, Alan Carr of Needham reiterated his "Buy" rating with a price target of $65, a good seven points above its current level.
"While the corrected data are not as strong, our view towards commercial potential of this drug is not markedly diminished. We believe this is an exceptional patient population where there will be strong interest in early treatment initiation and a bias towards remaining on drug in the long-term, assuming the safety profile stays clean," Carr noted.
Without a doubt, biotech stocks are pushing the boundaries of medicine. But biotech investments are for the patient - great scientific discovery doesn't materialize in just one day.
Even still, as 78 million baby boomers continue to age stocks associated with health care will only become stronger. This is one wave that cannot be stopped.
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