I’ll readily admit that I’ve picked some supposed growth stocks in the past that didn’t deliver much growth. The good news, though, is that my winners have far outpaced my losers over the long run.
One of my mistakes has been to rely on wishful thinking. I’ve bought stocks that had potential but weren’t anywhere close to being profitable yet and had valuations that weren’t easily justified. A smarter approach, based on my experience, is to insist on potential, profits, and a reasonable price tag. My top growth stock to buy right now — Vertex Pharmaceuticals(NASDAQ: VRTX) — has all three in spades.
Money from monopoly
Vertex will soon report 2023 revenue that is expected to be in the ballpark of $10 billion. The big biotech will probably post a profit for the year of around $3.6 billion. And it will almost certainly add to the cash stockpile of $13.6 billion — including cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities — that it had on hand at the end of the third quarter of 2023.
You could say that Vertex is rolling in “monopoly” money. The company enjoys a monopoly in treating the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis (CF) with its CFTR modulator therapies. No other drugmaker is even close to being in a position to compete against Vertex in the CF market. Vertex expects to report 2023 full-year revenue of $10 billion — nearly all of the total stemming from its CF franchise.
Vertex isn’t resting on its laurels, though. It’s close to announcing late-stage results for a new combination CF therapy featuring vanzacaftor. This triple-drug combo could offer patients greater efficacy than the company’s already approved CF products along with a more convenient once-daily dosing. Because it has a significantly lower royalty burden, the vanzacaftor triple could also become Vertex’s most profitable CF therapy yet.
There are still more than 5,000 CF patients who can’t benefit from CFTR modulators, and Vertex is working with Moderna to develop a messenger RNA (mRNA) therapy (VX-522) that could help these patients.
Treating (and curing) other diseases
Vertex’s CF franchise gives it the profits that I like to see in a growth stock as well as further growth potential. However, a much greater opportunity for the company lies in expanding beyond CF.
We don’t have to wait on pins and needles for this expansion to begin. Vertex and partner CRISPR Therapeutics have already won regulatory approvals in the U.S. and U.K. for Casgevy in treating sickle cell disease and transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia. Actually, this gene-editing therapy effectively cures the two rare blood disorders in many patients. Goldman Sachs analysts think that Casgevy can achieve peak annual sales of roughly $4 billion.
Vertex expects to soon announce results from late-stage studies of VX-548 in treating moderate to severe acute pain without opioids Previously reported clinical data give investors reason to think those results will be positive. If approved (as Vertex expects will be the case), VX-548 should have a massive commercial opportunity because it doesn’t have the nasty side effects and addictive nature of opioids. The company is also evaluating the experimental drug in treating peripheral neuropathic pain, which represents another big market with unmet need.
Looking just a little further down the road, Vertex could have yet another huge blockbuster on its hands. The company is currently evaluating inaxaplin in a pivotal clinical study targeting APOL1-mediated kidney disease (AMKD). This disease affects an estimated 100,000 patients worldwide compared to 92,000 patients affected by CF. Inaxaplin could become the first drug to treat the underlying cause of AMKD if it’s approved.
There’s a chance that inaxaplin won’t win approval. However, the fact that Vertex is advancing the experimental drug into phase 3 testing, combined with the company’s successful track record with late-stage programs, gives me a high level of confidence about the drug.
Vertex’s pipeline also includes several promising early stage programs. VX-993, like VX-548, is a non-opioid painkiller. VX-670 targets the underlying cause of myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), a type of muscular dystrophy. VX-880 and VX-264 are experimental cell therapies that hold the potential to cure type 1 diabetes. Such early stage pipeline candidates are naturally riskier than late-stage programs. But Vertex doesn’t need all of them to be successful to deliver tremendous growth over the next decade.
An attractive valuation
Even though its share price has doubled since the beginning of 2022, Vertex stock is cheap when its growth prospects are considered. Its price-to-earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio is only 0.61. A PEG multiple below 1.0 is typically viewed as an attractive valuation.
You might call the attributes I’ve identified for great growth stocks as the “three Ps”: potential, profitability, and price. In my opinion, Vertex delivers on these “three Ps” more than any other stock around.
Should you invest $1,000 in Vertex Pharmaceuticals right now?
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Keith Speights has positions in Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends CRISPR Therapeutics and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool recommends Moderna. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.