Shares of bluebird bio (NASDAQ:BLUE) rose over 16% last month, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The biopharma reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2018 operating results. As a pre-commercial company, there wasn't much in the way of financial numbers to review, although the business did begin 2019 with $1.9 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities.
Investors were more excited about the update on the company's late-stage pipeline. CEO Nick Leschly said he expects the company's four lead programs to have an initial filing or market launch by 2022. That could usher in a quick transition from a development-stage business today to a commercial-stage company in just a few short years.
The late-stage pipeline of bluebird bio comprises three drug candidates in four disease indications. The lead drug candidate, LentiGlobin, is being developed in two blood diseases: transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia (TDT) and sickle cell disease. An application for marketing approval to treat TDT has been filed in the European Union and a regulatory decision is expected in 2019.
LentiGlobin is followed by Lenti-D, being evaluated to treat a rare metabolic disease called cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy, and bb2121, being evaluated to treat multiple myeloma. The latter is partnered with Celgene.
bluebird bio has plenty of cash to see its lead drug programs over the finish line, although it did report an operating loss of $572 million in 2018. The $7.6 billion business can and likely will issue more shares for additional capital between now and 2022, but investors will want to see marketing approvals granted to most or all of its lead programs before getting too carried away, especially given the current valuation.