San Diego Business Journal

At the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference, major San Diego players like Illumina naturally command attention. But quietly, Mirati Therapeutics had a strong showing.

San Diego-based Mirati’s stock jumped 35.1 percent during the conference, where life sciences investors, CEOs and other bigwigs flocked Jan. 7-10.

On the eve of the event it was announced Mirati will test sitravatinib, its non-small cell lung cancer drug, in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s drug nivolumab in a late-stage trial, or phase 3. Bristol-Myers Squibb will provide nivolumab at no cost.

“This collaboration further validates the potential of sitravatinib and allows Mirati to invest in and expand the development of our clinical and pre-clinical programs,” Charles Baum, president and CEO of Mirati, said in a statement.

In addition to the partnership, Mirati won over investors with a presentation on its drug development pipeline. Taken together, its stock hit $60.79 on Jan. 10, up from closing $44.99 the Friday before the conference.

In October, Mirati’s stock sunk after phase 2 sitravatinib results. But follow-up clinical trial data in late November hit a key patient benchmark, boosting analyst Cowen Equity Research’s confidence in Mirati. Cowen issued an outperform rating on the stock shortly after the data was released.

With a $1.98 billion market cap, Mirati isn’t a lightweight. Still, the company doesn’t attract eyeballs like, say, Illumina.

The San Diego company’s J.P. Morgan presentation lacked a splashy product launch this time around. Yet Illumina’s stock still ticked up by conference end — and one analyst likes the company’s long-term prospects.

“The long-term thesis here is intact and remains compelling,” Evercore analyst Ross Muken said in a research note.