Tuesday’s Top Biotech Stories: Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Novartis, Google

Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Novartis, Google are the top stocks to watch in health care this Tuesday morning.

Leo Sun
Leo Sun
Jul 15, 2014 at 8:56AM
Health Care

Let's take a look at four stocks -- Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Roche (NASDAQOTH:RHHBY), Novartis (NYSE:NVS), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL)-- which could all loom large in health care headlines this Tuesday morning.

J&J tops expectations during the second quarter
Johnson & Johnson just reported its second quarter earnings. The diversified medical giant's adjusted diluted earnings climbed 12.2% year-over-year to $1.66 per share, topping the consensus estimate by $0.11. Revenue rose 9.1% year-over-year to $19.5 billion, also beating estimates by $550 million.

Out of J&J's three main business segments, Pharmaceuticals was the standout performer, posting a 21.1% year-over-year jump in revenue to $8.5 billion, thanks to strong sales of newer drugs like Olysio (hepatitis C), Xarelto (blood thinner), Zytiga (prostate cancer), Invokana (diabetes), and Imbruvica (leukemia and lymphoma). Revenue at Medical Devices and Diagnostics inched up 0.7% to $7.2 billion, while revenue at its Consumer Sales segment rose 2.4% to $3.7 billion. J&J also raised its full year EPS guidance (excluding special items) from $5.80-$5.90 to $5.85-$5.92.

Shares of J&J, which are already up 17% over the past 12 months, remain relatively unchanged in pre-market trading following the announcement.

Roche's Avastin plus chemo gets a priority review for cervical cancer
The FDA has just granted a priority review to Roche's Avastin plus chemotherapy as a treatment for persistent, recurrent, or metastatic cervical cancer.

The designation was made based on data from a National Cancer Institute-sponsored 452-patient phase 3 study that evaluated the safety and efficacy of the combination. Median overall survival improved from 13.3 months to 17.0 months when compared to chemotherapy alone. Median progression-free survival improved from 5.9 months to 8.2 months.

Avastin is already approved for colorectal, lung, kidney, and brain cancers. Avastin is also frequently used as an off-label treatment for two eye conditions -- wet age-related macular edema (AMD) and diabetic macular edema (DME) -- which are both frequently treated with Novartis/Roche's Lucentis.

Last year, Roche reported 6.25 billion CHF ($7 billion) in Avastin sales, which accounted for 13% of its top line.

Novartis licenses Google's "smart lens" and announces new Alzheimer's plans
Novartis has just made two key announcements -- that its Alcon eye care division signed an agreement with Google to license its "smart lens" technology for ocular medical uses, and that it plans to test new drugs for Alzheimer's disease.

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Google previously showcased its "smart lens" technology as an experimental smart contact lens which attempts to read glucose levels from tears. Google had been previously testing the lens' ability to wirelessly synchronize with a mobile device, in a similar manner as wireless glucose meters like Johnson & Johnson's OneTouch Verio Sync Meter.

However, Alcon intends to develop the technology further for eye care uses, with the ultimate goal of disease mapping and prevention. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Alcon, which Novartis acquired between 2008 and 2011, sells prescription and over-the-counter eye care products, contact lenses, and surgical products. Last year, the division posted sales of $10.5 billion, accounting for 18% of Novartis' annual revenue.

For Google, the Novartis deal further extends its reach into health care, which already includes its biotech subsidiary Calico, Google Fit for mobile fitness, Google Glass applications in hospitals, and Google Helpouts as a telehealth platform. 

In regards to Alzheimer's disease, Novartis plans to test two experimental drugs on symptomless patients with a genetic risk of developing the disease. Both therapies aim to attack the amyloid proteins that may be linked to the disease. However, prior attempts from a number of companies to reduce beta amyloids in patients with symptoms have been largely unsuccessful or inconclusive in reducing symptoms.