What happened

Shares of Coherus BioSciences (CHRS 3.11%) gained as much as 20.8% today after the company announced preliminary first-quarter 2019 sales data for its lead product, Udenyca, a version of the white blood cell-boosting blockbuster Neulasta. The biosimilar is expected to have generated in the neighborhood of $37 million in revenue in the first quarter of this year -- which also happened to be the drug's first quarter on the market.

That's a relatively impressive start for the drug and gives Wall Street confidence that the company's business model of developing biosimilars could be a lucrative investing opportunity.

As of 12:49 p.m. EDT, the stock had settled to a 9.1% gain.

An arrow hopping up shelves on a wall.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

The preliminary sales figure is the first real indicator of the commercial potential of the five biosimilars being developed by Coherus BioSciences. Due to the timing of patent expirations and licensing agreements, some of the "generics" won't be able to hit the market until 2023. But analysts expect Udenyca alone to generate peak annual sales of $1.2 billion in 2025.

In other words, waiting for the better part of a decade to commercialize the full pipeline might be worth it if Udenyca lives up to its market potential -- and investors could certainly use a big, early win. Coherus BioSciences reported an operating loss of $204 million in 2018 and combined operating losses of $771 million dating back to the beginning of 2015.

Now what

Investors have to wait for the company to finalize its financials by submitting an audited quarterly report with the SEC, but revenue in the neighborhood of $37 million for the first quarter of 2019 would be a great start for Udenyca. Management will have much more to say when Coherus BioSciences reports first-quarter 2019 operating results in the coming weeks.