CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

Vertex CEO takes an earnings victory lap right before he exits

January 31, 2020, 10:26 PM UTC

This is the web version of Brainstorm Health Daily, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top health care news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

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
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

DIGITAL HEALTH

One Medical goes public. Digital health firm One Medical's parent firm, 1Life Healthcare, priced its public offering at $14 to $16 per share and raised some $245 million with the help of JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley. The company offers concierge services for primary care visits, including a suite of telehealth and virtual doctor meetings, and has reached a reported $1.5 billion valuation through partnerships with major clients including Google. (CNBC)

INDICATIONS

China isn't pleased with the U.S.'s newest warning on coronavirus. Chinese authorities were not happy to see the following warning come out of the U.S. State Department: “Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan.” Chinese officials responded by calling the statement, literally, "mean," and in opposition to what the World Health Organization (WHO) has said in its own statements about China's containment efforts for the virus and its caution against issuing travel restrictions. (Reuters)

THE BIG PICTURE

Can a face mask save you from coronavirus? The face mask is on the rise in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak in China. As my colleague Naomi Elegant eloquently writes, it's proven to be both a symbol of protection—and a lighting rod for fear. And they may not even be particularly effective. "The facemask is a cultural symbol of protection in East Asia—for yourself and others," Ria Sinha, a senior research fellow at the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, tells Naomi. "So while there is plenty of evidence that suggests masks do not prevent a person getting an airborne disease such as influenza, it is seen as respectful to others to wear one in public if you are ill."(Fortune)

REQUIRED READING

How marketers are increasingly using A.I. to persuade you to buyby David Z. Morris

The Fortune 500 loses another female CEOby Kristen Bellstrom

A.I. is learning how to write ads. What could possibly go wrong?by David Z. Morris

Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.