Editor's Note

The bird flu is back and rapidly expanding with the most human cases on record. Scientists have been tracking the bird flu since it first appeared in the headlines in 2013. It was rarely transmitted to humans and only about 100 cases were reported. That has changed significantly.


NEW BULLISH Plays

BCRX - Biocryst Pharmaceuticals - Company Profile

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biotechnology company, designs, optimizes, and develops small molecule drugs that block key enzymes involved in the pathogenesis of diseases. The company markets peramivir, an intravenous neuraminidase inhibitor, which is approved for uncomplicated seasonal and acute influenza in the United States and Canada under the name RAPIVAB, in Japan and Taiwan as RAPIACTA, and in Korea as PERAMIFLU. It also has various ongoing development programs, including BCX7353 and second generation oral inhibitors of plasma kallikrein for hereditary angioedema; and galidesivir, a broad spectrum viral RNA polymerase inhibitor that is indicated to treat filoviruses, as well as forodesine, an oral purine nucleoside phosphorylase inhibitor for use in oncology. It has collaborative relationships with Mundipharma International Holdings Limited for the development and commercialization of forodesine; Shionogi & Co., Ltd. and Green Cross Corporation for the development and commercialization of peramivir in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea; Seqirus UK Limited for the development and commercialization of RAPIVAB worldwide, except Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Israel; and the University of Alabama at Birmingham for the development of influenza neuraminidase and complement inhibitors. Company description from FinViz.com.

BioCryst produces drugs and vaccines that treat or prevent the flu. They have a novel new drug called Rapivab that is used to treat viruses. They also have a new broad-spectrum antiviral for use against Ebola, Zika and the Marburg virus, among others. Whenever bird flu or swine flu headlines appear, BioCryst shares tend to rise because of their vaccines and treatments.

The current bird flu is H7N9 and a new version just appeared called the Yangtze River Delta lineage. This particular strain is highly contagious and jumps human to human. The virus has changed into a "high path" virus as opposed to a "low path" virus. That means it spreads faster inside the body and causes more damage. More than 41% of people infected eventually die.

The number of cases per year dating back to 2013 were in the 100-200 range and mostly in China. In the last several months with the outbreak of this new strain more than 460 cases have been confirmed. Remember, more than 41% die. This is the worst bird flu season on record.


Normally the bird flu is confined to mainland China. However, because there are open air fowl markets in China, the flu can be picked up by any migratory bird and spread around the world.

In early March, a form of H7N9 was discovered at a Tyson chicken farm in Tennessee. This was the high-path form. The farm was quarantined and the entire flock of 55,000 chickens was destroyed. The problem is that the infection was caused by a wild bird that contaminated the flock. Since the virus does not impact the birds, nobody knows if the flock is contaminated except they are constantly checked with blood tests. Once they find one chicken is infected it is too late.

In the U.S. bird farms are supposedly "bio-secure" to isolate the chickens from wild birds. Normally that works in most cases. However, the virus still makes it into the population unless extreme measures are taken.

The key to this position is that there will likely be more H7N9 headlines in the U.S. because the possibility of further farm contamination is too great. This is not one bird that flew from China and contaminated one farm. Birds carrying it fly north across Russia to Alaska infecting other birds as they go. Once in Alaska they are pushed south by the winter weather and everywhere they stop, other birds are infected. There is no telling how many thousands or even millions of wild birds are infected in the U.S. already because it does not affect their health. They are passive carriers.

When new headlines appear, it will boost stocks that have vaccines and treatments against exotic viruses like Ebola, Zika, etc. Those treatments will not specifically work against the bird flu other than as a broad-spectrum antiviral. However, the stocks will rise on the expectations.

BCRX spiked to $9 on the news of the farm in Tennessee and should move higher on their own even if there are no further headlines. The potential for the H7N9 contamination to be limited to just one farm is highly doubtful.

Earnings May 29th.

We have to buy the stock because the option premiums are inflated due to the expectations of another significant spike. I looked at buying a longer strike out in June but the spreads are too wide. If you buy that call you have to hold it or lose half your premiums if stopped out.

Buy BCRX shares, currently $8.85, initial stop loss $7.85.
No options due to price and spreads.



NEW BEARISH Plays

No New Bearish Plays