Vertex's 2016 outlook falls short amid mixed results from high-profile CF meds

Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden

SAN FRANCISCO--Cystic fibrosis specialist Vertex ($VRTX) announced 2015 Kalydeco sales that topped analyst expectations, in advance of a presentation at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. But that's where the beat ended.

Kalydeco raked in $630 million for the year, Vertex said, exceeding the $609.2 million that Wall Street forecast, according to Evercore ISI analyst Mark Schoenebaum. But combo med Orkambi--which boasts a current patient pool more than 5 times larger than Kalydeco's--didn't fare as well. Orkambi brought in $220 million, nearly $30 million short of predictions.

Combined, the meds' fourth-quarter performance was "roughly in-line to marginally below consensus," he wrote, with a $400 million total falling shy of the $412 million consensus.

Vertex also laid out 2016 expectations that disappointed analysts, though Schoenebaum did note that company sales guidance "has been conservative" over the past couple years.  The company expects Kalydeco to net between $670 million and $690 million, while Wall Street thought it would deliver about $750 million.

The Massachusetts biotech is waiting on launch info for Orkambi before pinning down a sales prediction for the CF fighter, but it did say it expects Germany to be the only European company chipping in revenue for the year.

Vertex may need big things from Orkambi down the line if it wants to avoid being gobbled up by deal-hungry biotechs. Hefty Gilead Sciences ($GILD) and Biogen ($BIIB) may both need to make pickups sooner rather than later, and as Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden told Bloomberg in November, strong cash flow from Orkambi sales could help the drugmaker strike deals of its own and preserve its solo status.

"There's complete alignment in the employees, the management and the board that we can create more value for patients and we can create more value for shareholders by being independent," he told the news service. And thanks to Orkambi, "we have a track record that we can really point to and say, 'This is the proof of that.'"

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