Why You Should Watch Merrimack, Exact Sciences, and Incyte Today

Today's top stories in health care and biotech.

May 1, 2014 at 9:10AM


Let's take a look at today's top stories in biotech and health care. Keep an eye out for Exact Sciences (NASDAQ:EXAS), Incyte Corporation (NASDAQ:INCY) and Merrimack Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:MACK)

Exact Sciences misses on earnings and revenue
Exact Sciences posted a wider loss per share than expected this morning and missed on revenue as well. Specifically, the company reported a loss per share of $0.23 on $300,000 in revenue. That said, you shouldn't be too focused on this loss this morning. Exact Sciences did receive a positive opinion from an Advisory Committee for the Food and Drug Administration only last March for its stool-based colorectal cancer test called Cologuard. And with peak sales estimates topping $1 billion for the test and Exact Sciences having a market cap still well below these projections, you might want to dig deeper into this potentially compelling biotech.     

Incyte Corporation also misses on earnings and revenue
Shares of Incyte are down over 5% this morning after the company reported fairly substantial misses on both earnings and revenue. Per its release, Incyte reported a first quarter loss per share of $0.21, compared to consensus estimates of $0.18. The company also reported revenue of $90 million for the quarter, which is about 8% lower than what the Street was expecting.    

On the bright side, Incyte reported 44% growth in sales year over year for its myelofibrosis drug Jakafi. Specifically, Jakafi sales came in at $69.7 million for the first quarter, compared to $48.3 million a year ago. Even so, Jakafi's quarterly sales still fell below consensus, which is probably why the stock is down in premarket trading.

Digging into the details of the release, management attributes the wider than expected loss per share to the continued commercialization efforts for Jakafi and increasing operating expenses. With Jakafi seeing strong and growing sales, there are reasons to be optimistic about Incyte's future. However, I believe the company is still valued more for the potential of its clinical pipeline, than actual sales. So, you may want to stay on the sidelines for the time being with this biotech.   

Merrimack investors are all smiles today
Merrimack is a fountain of good news today. First off, the company beat on both earnings and revenue. For the quarter, Merrimack shrunk its loss per share by 10% or $0.27 per share. Merrimack took in $13.03 million for the quarter, about a million higher than expected. 

What investors are really excited about this morning, however, is that the company reported that its advanced pancreatic cancer drug, MM-398, met both its primary and secondary endpoints in one of its study arms. Namely, MM-398 improved overall survival by 1.9 months when used in conjunction with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and leucovorin, compared to the control arm. That said, the drug did not improve overall survival when used as a monotherapy and tended to increase the frequency of adverse events. Shares are presently up over 80% on this news. 

What's my view? I think the company stands a good shot at getting MM-398 approved later this year in the U.S. as a second-line pancreatic cancer treatment. A two month increase in overall survival for this devastating disease is certainly good news and other cancer drugs have been approved for less of a clinical benefit. Overall, you may want to keep tabs on Merrimack as more details of the study become available and the commercial opportunity for MM-398 as a combo therapy becomes clearer.


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George Budwell has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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