Bluebird Boasts Nearly 140% Revenue Jump, Still Misses Target

bluebird bio_Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket

Pictured: bluebird bio logo on wall/device, courtesy of Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Bluebird bio released its first-quarter 2024 business report on Thursday, touting a nearly 140% year-over-year increase in revenue amid the growing uptake of its three gene therapies.

The Massachusetts-based biotech revealed that it has so far initiated 15 patients on its gene therapies, one of whom started the recently approved sickle cell disease (SCD) treatment Lyfgenia just this month. The remaining 14 patients are receiving either Zynteglo, for pediatric beta-thalassemia, or Skysona, which is intended for cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy in boys.

Bluebird has also assembled a large footprint of qualified treatment centers (QTCs) to help it deliver its gene therapies to patients, according to the press release. The company has activated 64 QTCs for Lyfgenia and Zynteglo and has enlisted six centers to administer Skysona.

CEO Andrew Obenshain in a statement called bluebird’s QTC network “unparalleled,” forming a “solid commercial gene therapy foundation” for its products, alongside the company’s patient access and reimbursement schemes.

“Following the completion of the first LYFGENIA patient start earlier this month, and with the continued momentum behind our ongoing launches, we believe we are poised for accelerated growth through the remainder of 2024,” Obenshain said. Bluebird expects to start cell collections for 85 to 105 new patients across all three of its gene therapy products this year, according to its report.

In the first quarter of 2024, bluebird reported a net revenue of $18.6 million, up from $2.4 million during the same period in 2023. Though bluebird saw a 138% increase in revenue, William Blair analyst Sami Corwin said the biotech nevertheless missed the firm’s forecast of $29 million. Bluebird also fell below the consensus estimate of $21 million.

The biotech could see notable growth this year, particularly as it ramps up its commercialization activities for Lyfgenia. Bluebird expects to reflect revenue from its first Lyfgenia infusion in the third quarter of 2024, according to its Thursday news release.

However, Corwin anticipates that Lyfgenia will face stiff competition from CRISPR Therapeutics and Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ Casgevy, which the analyst predicts will be a “headwind” for bluebird. In March 2024, Corwin told BioSpace that despite a slower initial roll-out—Vertex and CRISPR has so far activated 12 centers, versus bluebird’s 64—Casgevy will still likely emerge the ultimate victor in the SCD gene therapy space.

One key advantage for Casgevy is its price. Bluebird gave Lyfgenia a wholesale acquisition cost of $3.1 million, nearly $1 million more than Casgevy’s $2.2 million. The biotech has since signed at least two coverage deals and a loan to support its gene therapy, though the slow uptake could end up disrupting these agreements, according to William Blair.

“Given only one patient has started the cell collection process for Lyfgenia, we remain cautious as to if the company will be able to achieve enough Lyfgenia patient starts to meet the stipulations of its next term loan tranches,” the analyst note read.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Reach out to him on LinkedIn or email him at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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