What happened

Shares of Sangamo Therapeutics (SGMO 1.57%) are on the move after the pre-commercial biopharmaceutical company held its fourth-quarter earnings call. As of 3:43 p.m. EST, the stock has gained 12.8% as investors digest the upbeat report.

So what 

Sangamo doesn't have any products to sell, but the biotech received $26.7 million from collaboration partners during the fourth quarter, which was more than twice as much as the company reported a year earlier. The company's cash balance stood at $400.5 million at the end of 2018, which should be enough to last at least a couple of years. 

Click here for the latest earnings call transcript for Sangamo Therapeutics.

Guy in a suit drawing an upward sloping chart with his fingers.

Image source: Getty Images.

A nice, long cash runway was music to investors' ears because it looks like we'll need to wait for Sangamo's hemophilia treatment programs to read out before the company shows us something can move the stock upward again. The company's zinc-finger nuclease-driven experimental therapies just aren't living up to expectations.

Earlier this month, Sangamo released data from six patients treated with its experimental gene therapy for Hunter syndrome, SB-913. This therapy inserts a gene that allows patients to produce a crucial digestive enzyme that they can't make on their own. Among the first six treated, just one from the highest dosage group showed a meaningful gain in the enzyme. Unfortunately, the same patient also showed signs of liver toxicity.

The company's Hurler syndrome candidate, SB-318, appears to have a similar problem. The first three patients dosed didn't experience a significant improvement in plasma enzyme activity, although the study's far from finished.

Now what

More clinical trial activity is expected to drive up operating expenses to somewhere between $210 million and $220 million in 2019, from just $161 million last year. On top of two hemophilia treatment candidates in clinical trials, Sangamo plans on beginning a gene therapy study with Fabry disease patients and ST-920 later this year. The company also is expected to report data from a related treatment for hemophilia B patients with SB-318. 

Sangamo's Pfizer (PFE -0.34%) partnership could take a big step later this year. SB-525 doesn't use zinc fingers, and previous results suggest it really can help hemophilia A patients produce the blood clotting enzyme they need. In 2019, the company plans to report data from eight patients in the Alta study with SB-525, which could move this stock again.

While it looks like Sangamo's zinc-finger gene therapies are finished, there's a chance that stellar SB-525 data could push the stock through the roof before the company runs out of money.