Achillion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ACHN) has made many investors happy so far in 2019. As of market close on Wednesday, the stock was up nearly 75% year to date. 

The drugmaker had a chance to improve on that performance on Thursday. Achillion announced its first-quarter results before the market opened. Here are the highlights from the company's update.

first quarter key on keyboard

Image source: Getty Images

By the numbers

There was no reported revenue for Achillion in the first quarter. As a result, the company again lost money. But the situation is getting better. 

The company's GAAP net loss in the first quarter was $18.96 million, or $0.14 per share. This reflected an improvement from Achillion's result in the prior-year period when the company announced net loss of $20.59 million, or $0.15 per share. Analysts were expecting Q1 adjusted loss of $0.14 per share.

Probably the best news for Achillion was that its cash position continued to look great. The company reported cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities totaling $254.1 million as of March 31. Achillion's cash stockpile stood at a little under $271 million at the end of 2018.

Behind the numbers

Achillion's bottom line improved in Q1 because the company's spending fell. Total operating expenses declined 5.4% year over year to $20.6 million.

General and administrative expenses were 14.3% lower than in the prior-year period due to decreased noncash stock-based compensation combined with decreased legal fees related to intellectual property. Achillion's restructuring charges in the first quarter also were much lower than in the same period in 2018.

However, the company's research and development (R&D) costs increased. Achillion spent $14.8 million on R&D in Q1, compared to $14 million in the prior-year period. This increase was primarily due to higher clinical trial costs related to clinical trials for experimental drugs ACH-4471 and ACH-5228.

Achillion also had some other notable developments in the first quarter. In January, the company announced Nicole Vitullo was elected as the chair of the board of directors. Also, Brian Di Donato was elected as senior vice president and CFO in February.  

In addition, the company completed enrollment in its phase 2 clinical trial of ACH-4471 for paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH, a life-threatening blood disorder) in combination with Alexion's Soliris (eculizumab). Achillion has 24 patients enrolled in this clinical study as of May 2019.

Looking ahead

CEO Joe Truitt was pleased with Achillion's first-quarter results. He also mentioned several things investors can look forward to in 2019. Truitt noted that interim data from the phase 2 clinical trial of ACH-4471 has been accepted for presentation at the New Era of Aplastic Anemia and PNH meeting in Napoli, Italy, on May 17.

Achillion plans to meet with the FDA in the fourth quarter of 2019 to discuss advancing ACH-4471 to a pivotal phase 3 clinical study. The company also hopes to file for approval to begin clinical testing in the U.S. of its next-generation oral factor D inhibitor, ACH-5228, in Q4. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.