Vertex Stock Up 40 Percent After Cystic Fibrosis Trial Results: What Next?

Xconomy Boston — 

This is one of the biggest and most anticipated biotech stories of the year—and it’s based right here in Boston.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals is flying high after releasing the results of two Phase 3 studies of a two-drug combination treatment for cystic fibrosis, a deadly genetic disease that affects the lungs. Some 30,000 people have cystic fibrosis in the U.S., and 70,000-plus have it globally.

The Boston company’s stock price (NASDAQ: VRTX) was up about 40 percent, at $93.11, as of 3:40pm ET. That’s the highest Vertex’s stock has been since the bubble days of 2000, and it gives the company a market capitalization of some $22 billion.

As you can guess, the results of the clinical trials, known as Traffic and Transport, were positive. Patients on a combination therapy of Vertex drugs ivacaftor (Kalydeco, which is FDA-approved) and lumacaftor (VX-809, which is experimental) showed a statistically significant improvement in lung function. You can read more about the findings and implications at TheStreet, Forbes, and the New York Times. (Matthew Herper of Forbes calls the news “a victory for gene research” in his headline.)

Xconomy has previously reported on Vertex’s cystic fibrosis drug studies and the ups and downs of that narrative.

The results of the new studies were expected to swing Vertex’s fortunes up or down, in a big way. Now one question is how the broader biotech market will respond to the news. We’ll be watching to see how other stocks fare—so far, the response seems cautious.