Deals to acquire biotech companies topped $200 billion in 2019, nearly double the 2018 total, fueled in part by cash-rich pharmaceutical ­giants seeking to bolster their product lines as patents on their older drugs expire. Over the past five years, companies acquiring biotech firms have paid shareholders premiums averaging 60%. Three attractive biotech companies likely to be bought out this year…

Acadia Pharmaceuticals (ACAD) has a drug that has been on the market since 2016 called Nuplazid, the first and only FDA-approved medication to treat hallucinations/delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease. Nuplazid also is likely to win FDA approval to treat psychosis in Alzheimer’s patients. The company is still undervalued despite a 165% rise in its stock price last year. Recent share price: $40.79.

Esperion Therapeutics (ESPR) was founded by the same scientist who helped develop the blockbuster ­cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor. The company has completed the final phase of clinical trials needed for FDA approval of a nonstatin cholesterol-lowering drug called bempedoic acid. It works similarly to Lipitor by slowing the production of cholesterol, but the Esperion drug avoids side effects by remaining inactive until it reaches the liver, where most cholesterol is made. Since I recommended this stock in June 2018, it has gained 60%, but there’s a lot more upside left. Recent share price: $51.84.

Pacira BioSciences (PCRX) had a big breakthrough in 2011 when the FDA approved Exparel, its non-opioid, nonaddictive analgesic for pain relief after certain surgeries such as for torn rotator cuffs, joint reconstruction or hip fractures. It’s now in advanced clinical trials to gain FDA approval for use in Cesarean sections and molar extractions and in pediatric patients undergoing spinal or cardiac surgeries. Recent share price: $43.94.

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