Juno's Cell-Therapy Fallout Keeps Growing
Juno is still in damage-control mode after Thursday's news the FDA had halted a clinical trial of its lead cancer treatment after three patient deaths. The treatment, a so-called cell therapy, uses a patient's own modified immune cells to fight a form of leukemia.
Juno blamed a change in a pre-treatment chemotherapy regimen for the deaths and said it hopes undoing that change will get the trial back up and running again quickly. But there's been fundamental damage to confidence in the company's stock and science. It has an uphill road to recovery.
Previously bullish analysts are more skeptical about the company's prospects. Analysts are overall less skittish than the market, which has sent Juno's stock plummeting 32 percent to $27.50 since Thursday. But average price target is down to $50 Monday, the lowest since analysts started rating the stock in early 2015.
More worrisome is the degree to which analysts are discounting sales of JCAR15, the drug that caused the patient deaths. Consensus expectations for 2020 sales are down nearly $200 million, likely due to heightened concerns about safety and Juno's competition.
If there's hope here, it's in the one thing Thursday's news didn't change: the company's cash position. Juno has about $1.13 billion in cash and marketable securities on its books (thanks, Celgene!). If its burn rate remains relatively constant -- the company lost about $80 million in the first quarter -- then Juno has around four years of cash left, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
Though it may take time to iron out the kinks in its treatments, Juno seems to have plenty of it.
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