3 Health Care Companies I'm Watching Today

The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is upon us. The event brings out a wide range of health care companies, strutting their stuff and flipping their presentation slides. Three companies stand out for me on Monday's schedule: Rigel (NASDAQ: RIGL  ) , Vertex (NASDAQ: VRTX  ) , and BioMarin (NASDAQ: BMRN  ) . The first two suffered drug setbacks in late 2012 that will increase focus on this year's plans. BioMarin has regulatory events and a new trial coming up.

Here's what to watch for in these presentations.

Rigel
Rigel's a clinical-stage drug developer, so it's all about the pipeline, which saw a significant disappointment last month. Shares plunged upon trial results for rheumatoid arthritis treatment fostamatinib, a partnered project with AstraZeneca. The drug bested placebo in its phase 2b trial but underperformed AbbVie's best-selling Humira. Phase 3 studies are under way with results to report in the first half of the year. Regulatory filings to the Food and Drug Administration should come later in the year.

Two more drugs matter for Rigel right now. The allergic asthma inhalant R343 entered phase 2 trials in the third quarter of last year. Results should report in mid-2013. R343 could become a competitor for the injectable Xolair from Novartis and Roche subsidiary Genentech.

R333 should also report phase 2 results this year. This drug treats a form of lupus that affects the skin. The market is limited but fairly clear of competition.

Vertex
Vertex already released an overview of its 2013 strategies. It's a smorgasbord of information, but here's a nibble.

Cystic fibrosis treatment Kalydeco will undergo multiple phase 3 trials this year with the goal of expanding its indications. Pipeline hepatitis C project VX-135 will also receive the multiple study treatment, but in phase 2.

These projects carry importance because of Vertex's bad autumn. In its November quarterly filing, the company reported a 40% year-over-year revenue drop for hepatitis C drug Incivek. The hep C market is getting crowded, and more favorable competitors are coming up the pipes. Vertex's pipeline projects could help plug some of these losses.

BioMarin
BioMarin's in a better position going into the conference. The orphan-drug-focused company has four products on the market that continue to have revenue growths. Then there are the pipeline prospects.

Regulatory fillings will begin early this year for GALNS, a treatment for the rare genetic disorder Morquio syndrome. Positive late-stage trial results sent BioMarin shares soaring more than 30% in November. Next in line is the PKU treatment PEG-Pal, due for an FDA meeting soon and a phase 3 initiation later in the year.

Come back tomorrow
Consider this the taste test of these pharmaceutical presentations. Return tomorrow for in-depth looks at each company, what they said, and what it means for 2013.

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