A Little Risk to Rebuild Your Portfolio

No doubt the market has cost investors a lot of money over the past year and a half. The image of people too afraid to open their 401(k) statements has become cliché. And the common wisdom says that years will pass before those losses are recovered.

But that’s not necessarily the case. Speculating on the right stocks could generate sizable returns, enough to fill some of the holes this recession has poked in your portfolio. That’s one of the reasons that Cramer’s a fan of calculated risk taking. The potential payoff is significant. Speculation’s also a way to keep things interesting. Instead of banking with the usual suspects – maybe Coca-Cola , Johnson & Johnson or Apple – investors can put their money in a small up-and-comer.

So who’s the latest Mad Money Spec Friday pick? Allos Therapeutics, a biotech with a $5.64 share price and a market cap of under $500 million. Like all speculation plays, Allos has a catalyst – the probable Food & Drug Administration approval of its cancer drug – that should send the stock higher.

Allos makes an orphan drug called Pralatrexate, or PDX, used to treat peripheral T-cell lymphoma, a fast-spreading cancer that affects white blood cells. Remember an orphan drug is one that treats a very rare condition. So the FDA usually fast tracks approval, the company gets exclusivity rights to the drug, and the sales usually bring in big, big money.

Exclusivity or not, though, PDX is the only treatment for peripheral T-cell lymphoma, so there’s no competition here anyway. President Obama’s plan for Medicare, where the government will negotiate bulk drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, could hurt those with similar treatments, but not Allos. And orphan drugs in Europe, where the government already negotiates prices, usually cost the same as, if not more than, those in the U.S. Besides, PDX has been proven to extend patients’ lives. Don’t expect the White House to put a price on that.

On Feb. 4, Allos released data that showed patients who had previously not responded to treatment were responding to PDX, and for longer than expected. The stock popped as a result, and then the market’s decline took ALTH back down. Now ALTH is two points below where it was before the data release, giving investors a great entry point.

Cramer expects Allos to file for final FDA approval by the end of June, which means the drug could be on the market by year’s end. Worst-case scenario, analysts have said, PDX is available to the public by 2010. Sales for the drug could reach as high as $400 million a year, with the chance for even better numbers given PDX’s potential for off-label uses, much like Genentech’s Avastin. PDX is more potent than other chemotherapy drugs, so there’s a good chance it could treat other cancers.

Allos makes a great takeover target as well. The company’s a natural fit for any big-time firm with a blood cancer franchise, such as Celgene and Cephalon. And while M&A activity may be quiet in other sectors, it’s not in biotech. Just today CV Therapeutics got a bid.

Allos reports Tuesday, March 3, so Cramer cautioned against buying before then. The company has no sales yet, so management offer clues as to whether the company’s still on track and possibly even date-release dates on the horizon.

ALTH is a buy at $6, Cramer said, but no more. At $7, the deal doesn’t work. Investors who want in should remember to be patient and use limit orders.

Cramer's charitable trust owns Celgene and Johnson & Johnson.

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