Last year was a solid year for many ASX stocks and 2020 was also looking pretty good until COVID-19 struck the markets in late February.

Earlier this week Reuben Adams recapped which of last year’s top mining and exploration companies have thrived or dived in 2020.

Today Stockhead has put the small cap health sector underneath the microscope. And what did we find out? Of last year’s top five, only one is sitting higher than last year.

While none were able to escape the COVID-19 fuelled selldown, all are gradually on the road to recovery.



2019: +696%

2020 (YTD): -27% 

Last year Avita began generating revenues from its skin regeneration product Recell following FDA approval in 2018.

Avita predicted another big year was in store with more Recell sales and entry into further markets, starting with outpatient burns.

The stock was hit substantially by the COVID-19 market crash but has slowly been recovering.

In April the company reported $US3.9m ($5.9m) in US sales in the March quarter, a 22 per cent rise over the prior corresponding period.

It also announced plans to formally redomicile to America, which is its most important market being the world’s largest for burns treatments. It hopes to reduce the administrative burdens and expose itself to a broader range of American investors.



2019: +414%

2020 (YTD): +0.8% 

Opthea was last year’s most successful clinical trial on the ASX. It’s anti wet-AMD (macular degeneration) drug, OPT-302, passed a clinical trial with flying colours.

It closed out the year by raising $50m for a phase three clinical trial, which was anticipated to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

But shareholders are currently awaiting the results of another phase two trial of OPT-302 — against diabetic macular edema.

Opthea announced it had completed dosing for that trial in late March and COVID-19 had not derailed its plans to begin a phase three wet-AMD trial.



2019: +387%

2020 (YTD): -2.6% 

PainChek saw a stellar rise in 2019 as its market penetration took off. But it promised shareholders more growth was to come noting it had only reached 14 per cent of the total Australian aged care market.

So far this year its client base has continued to grow, with the company reaching a milestone of 25,000 licenses under the Morrison government initiative triggering a $1.25m payment.

In the March quarter PainChek achieved growth of over 50 per cent in contracted Residential Aged Care facilities and contracted beds. It is also seeking FDA clearance for its technology.

While it took a hefty hit during the COVID-19 crash it is almost back into positive territory for the year.



2019: +311%

2020 (YTD): -18% 

The hospital tech stock is well off the highs seen last September but is still ahead of where it was when it listed via a reverse takeover.

The catalyst for growth was an increase in uptake by hospital clients, particularly in Britain.

Alcidion reported continued growth in the March quarter despite the pandemic. The company booked $4.2m in revenue from new contracts during the quarter.

In the last nine months it made $17.2m in sold revenue to be recognised this financial year, beating its total revenue in the 2019 financial year.

CEO Kate Quirke told Stockhead last month she expected further opportunities to emerge on the other side of the pandemic.



2019: +288%

2020 (YTD): -11% 

The cannabis therapeutics developer is in the red in 2020 but has been gradually recovering as it announces its latest endeavours.

In the context of COVID-19, the most important of these is its announcement in April that it was developing a therapy to treat Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). This is the key catalyst of COVID-19 deaths.

Impression also wants to test its novel cannabinoid formula against brain trauma. The company first announced its plans in March and last week reported NRL forward James Graham would take a part in testing of the drug.