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Vertex CEO takes an earnings victory lap right before he exits

January 31, 2020, 10:26 PM UTC

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Hello and happy Friday, readers!

It’s earnings week in the biopharma world. Though 2020 is still young, there’s already news of yet another company exceeding Wall Street expectations.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a rare disease specialist focused on cystic fibrosis (CF) treatments, touted the striking sales growth of Trikafta, a triple-combination CF treatment that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2019.

The “Trikafta” name plays off the company’s earlier work to find a CF treatment. The new drug—and its name—combines the medical ingredients elexacaftor, ivacaftor, and tezacaftor (all manufactured by Vertex). What sets this particular trifecta apart from competitors?

For one, it managed to bring in $420 million in sales in the fourth quarter of 2019 even though it was only approved in October. That is, a drug that had only been out for a part of one quarter was somehow able to become the company’s best-selling therapy for a single three-month period.

Cystic fibrosis is a rare, inherited disorder that afflicts some 30,000 people in the U.S. and 70,000 globally, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The condition causes respiratory and digestive problems, hitting the lungs and digestive system.

Vertex is the dominant player in this treatment space, controlling approximately 46% of the global market.

There’s another milestone here: It’s the last earnings boost that Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden will boast about before leaving the CEO role behind. Not a bad swan song. (But he’s not leaving the company completely. Leiden will become the executive chairman of the company’s board.)

In April, Reshma Kewalramani, the former chief medical officer of Vertex, will take on the chief executive role, making her one of the rare big biotech CEOs who is both a woman and person of color. She’ll be inheriting a company that appears to have the wind at its back.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


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