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bluebird bio Looks for Data Ahead

By Brian Orelli, PhD - Updated May 10, 2018 at 7:04PM

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An uneventful first quarter, but the biotech has data coming later in the year.

bluebird bio (BLUE -9.61%) reported first-quarter earnings last week, but like the biotech typically does, management didn't hold a conference call, which makes the earnings release more of a rehash of the quarter than an actual update.

Bluebird results: The only number that really matters


Q1 2018

Q4 2017

Quarter-Over-Quarter Change

Cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities

$1.57 billion

$1.61 billion

($48 million)

Data source: Bluebird.

What happened with Bluebird this quarter?

  • Without any drugs on the market, revenue and earnings aren't particularly important for Bluebird. For the record, the company lost $115 million in the first quarter on a GAAP basis.
  • The cash situation is arguably more important. While the change in its nest egg looks like Bluebird is being extremely frugal, the biotech actually received an additional $48.6 million in the first quarter from its secondary offering, negating some of the cash burn.
  • The original Northstar (HGB-204) phase 1/2 trial completed two years of follow-up, allowing Bluebird to submit its marketing application for LentiGlobin in Europe later this year.
  • Given the solid data for bb2121, its anti-B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR T) therapy, Bluebird elected to co-develop the treatment with its partner Celgene (CELG).
Doctor comforting a patient

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

Nick Leschly, who goes by the title of chief Bluebird, said, "Our plans remain on track for our first regulatory filing in Europe for [transfusion dependent beta-thalassemia], we are rapidly advancing development of bb2121 for patients, and we are focused on future innovation platforms." 

Looking forward

Investors should get some data for LentiGlobin in transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia (TDT) patients at the European Hematology Association meeting, and for bb2121 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting -- both of which occur next month. But as is typical for Bluebird, the big medical meeting for data will be for the American Society of Hematology (ASH), which isn't until December. At ASH, investors can expect data for LentiGlobin in TDT and sickle cell disease as well as data for its follow-on CAR-T therapy bb21217.

This year, management also plans to lay out its plan to get LentiGlobin approved for sickle cell disease.

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