5:04 PM
 | 
Apr 05, 2019
 |  BioCentury  |  Finance

Everybody up

Biotech stocks up in 1Q19 after 2018 losses

Biotech stocks were off to a strong start in 1Q19, with 71% of companies tracked by BioCentury seeing market cap growth in the quarter. Across all market cap bands, biotechs saw a median gain of 15%, leading to a net gain of $183.5 billion.

Large caps valued at $10 billion or more posted a median increase of 6%. Celgene Corp. was the top performer, adding 47% to $66.1 billion on word Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. would acquire the company for about $74 billion in cash and stock, plus a tradeable contingent value right (CVR) worth up to $6.3 billion if FDA approves three Celgene products by specified deadlines (see “Bristol-Myers’ Next Phoenix Act?”).

Only three of the large caps were down for the quarter, with the biggest drop by Biogen Inc., which lost 23% after discontinuing Phase III testing of aducanumab, a mAb against β amyloid, to treat Alzheimer’s disease (see “Biogen’s Lead Balloon”).

The best performing tier was companies valued from $5-$9.9 billion, which saw a median gain of 26%, led by bluebird bio Inc.

bluebird, which added 59% to $8.5 billion in 1Q, started the quarter with a Jan. 7 partnership with Inhibrx LLC to use the private company’s single domain antibody (sdAb) technology to generate CAR T cell therapies. It ended the quarter with a positive CHMP opinion on March 29 for its β thalassemia gene therapy Zynteglo, which comprises autologous CD34+ cells encoding βA-T87Q-globin.

BeiGene Ltd. was at the bottom of the pack, though with only a 6% drop on NASDAQ, bringing its market cap to $7.8 billion. Shares were up as much as 8% on NASDAQ and 10% in Hong Kong following its 4Q18 and full year 2018 earnings announcement, in which it said 4Q18 sales of the Celgene cancer drugs it markets in China had more than doubled to $37.8 million year over year, but lost steam as the quarter wore on.

Another gene therapy play, Spark Therapeutics Inc., led the $1-$4.9 billion pack, which saw an overall median gain of 24%.

Spark nearly tripled from the start of the year after Roche announced on Feb. 25 that it would acquire the company for $114.50 per share, or about $4.8 billion. The 126% premium to the prior day’s close was the result of a bidding war with two other undisclosed...

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