What happened

Shares of Editas Medicine (NASDAQ:EDIT) were tumbling 16.3% as of 11:28 a.m. EST on Monday. The biotech made several announcements prior to its presentation at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference on Wednesday. The update that likely most rattled investors was that Editas' chief scientific officer, Charles Albright, is leaving the company to pursue another opportunity.

So what

Biotech stocks that have soared as much as Editas has (it's up more than 180% between Dec. 1, 2020, and Jan. 8, 2021) often fall on any hint of bad news. And the departure of Albright as chief scientific officer can certainly be viewed as bad news for Editas.

DNA image over an outstretched hand

Image source: Getty Images.

Albright has been with the company since 2016. That might not seem like a long time, but it makes him one of the most tenured members of the company's executive team. The exit of the top scientific leader for a clinical-stage biotech can raise questions about the prospects for its pipeline candidates.

But it's important to consider Editas Medicine's other announcements today. The company reported that the Food and Drug Administration has cleared the way for it to begin a phase 1/2 study evaluating EDIT-301 in treating sickle cell disease. The experimental gene-editing therapy will become Editas' second program in clinical testing.

The biotech also stated that it plans to accelerate enrollment in the phase 1/2 study of EDIT-101 in treating the rare genetic eye disorder Leber congenital amaurosis 10 (LCA10). It expects to report initial results from the study by the end of this year.

Now what

Editas Medicine's shares could remain volatile. The good news, though, is that the company appears to be on track to advance its pipeline nicely in 2021.  

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