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Last week bluebird bio Inc. (NASDAQ:BLUE) released its second-quarter earnings report. As is common, the biotech's management held no conference call; since its revenue only comes from collaborators, there isn't much to be said. For the record, the company had $1.6 million in revenue in the second quarter, compared to $4.9 million in the year-ago quarter, with the decrease due to a change in the collaboration agreement with Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG) last July.

While revenue is essentially meaningless, the earnings report offers a good opportunity for investors to check in and see what Bluebird has in store for the rest of the year.

Bluebird results: The only metric that really matters


Q2 2016 Actuals

Q4 2015 Actuals

First Half 2016 (Decrease)

Cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities

$779 million

$865.8 million

($86.8 million)

Data source: bluebird bio press release.

What happened with Bluebird this quarter?

  • The company made progress toward having commercial manufacturing for its Lenti-D and LentiGlobin treatments up and running by the time the drugs are approved. The company signed an agreement with Swiss contract manufacturer Lonza, which has been doing its manufacturing for the clinical trials, to build out manufacturing to commercial scale.
  • At the ASH Workshop on Genome Editing, bluebird bio presented data for its megaTAL genome editing platform, which it got in the 2014 acquisition of Precision Genome Engineering. Bluebird is making progress on the platform, increasing accuracy of the targeting, but didn't disclose when megaTAL-based drugs might get into the clinic.
  • Its drug bb2121, which is licensed to Celgene, gained orphan-drug designation for multiple myeloma. The FDA designation offers a few perks like tax credits and a waiver of the marketing application fee.
  • At the cash burn rate from the first half of the year, Bluebird has about four and half years of cash remaining.

Looking forward

While the first half of 2016 has been fairly sleepy for Bluebird, the news flow should pick up in the latter half of the year.

The biotech indicated that it still plans to update investors on process tweaks to improve its gene therapy LentiGlobin this year. The therapy works for some patients with thalassemia and sickle cell disease, but it's believed that higher expression is needed to cure harder-to-treat patients in both diseases.

The biggest chance for stock-moving news will come in December, when the company presents updated clinical data for LentiGlobin at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting. Data from more patients will help determine what fraction of patients LentiGlobin can treat; we'll also get an update on the patients who were treated early in the clinical trials to confirm that the treatment really is a cure.

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