U.S. Markets closed

Ionis Pharmaceuticals Looks to Partners to Pay the Bills

Brian Orelli, The Motley Fool

Ionis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IONS) continues to rack up royalties from its spinal muscular atrophy drug Spinraza while the rest of its extensive pipeline basically pays the rest of the biotech's bills.

Ionis Pharmaceuticals results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q2 2019

Q2 2018

Change

Revenue

$164 million

$118 million

39%

Income (loss) from operations

($19 million)

($50 million)

N/A

Earnings (loss) per share

($0.01)

($0.29)

N/A

Data source: Ionis Pharmaceuticals.

What happened with Ionis Pharmaceuticals this quarter?

  • Royalties from Spinraza, which is sold by partner Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB), were up 24% to $71 million.
  • Tegsedi added $10 million, which was more than 40% higher than the first quarter. That's actual sales, not royalties, because Ionis is still a majority owner of its spinoff, Akcea Therapeutics (NASDAQ: AKCA), which sells Tegsedi, so the revenue is consolidated into Ionis' financials.
  • The rest of the revenue came from partners for various programs. Some of the cash has already hit Ionis' bank accounts but has to be amortized over the life of the projects.
  • Akcea plans to launch the lipid-lowering drug Waylivra in Europe this quarter for the treatment of familial chylomicronemia syndrome (FCS). Akcea and Ionis recently released positive data from a clinical trial testing Waylivra in patients with familial partial lipodystrophy (FPL), which should expand the opportunity once it's approved for the additional disease.
  • In the U.S., Ionis and Akcea are still in talks with the Food and Drug Administration over approval of Waylivra for FCS; perhaps the FPL data will help convince U.S. regulators of the positive risk-benefit profile.
  • Ionis' partner GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) released positive results for their hepatitis B drug.
  • The company ended the quarter with $2.3 billion in the bank, leaving plenty of room to maneuver if partner payments don't materialize.
Scientist working in a lab

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

CEO Stanley Crooke talked about how the new versions of its antisense technology can be dosed less frequently, and the difference between drugs that require systemic administration throughout the body and those that have to be administered intrathecally into the spinal canal:

We've looked through our pipeline and we've talked to patients, we've talked to providers, and our conclusion is that by and large, monthly dosing is the easiest thing for patients and providers to work with. For intrathecal administration, our intention is to have drugs there that can be dosed as infrequently as possible. And we're making great progress there.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) still has to decide whether to take its option on the hepatitis B program, but Crooke sees it as a win-win for Ionis: "Obviously, we are optimistic that GSK would choose to move forward with the program. But we would be delighted to have it back."

Looking forward

Management stuck with its 2019 guidance and believes it'll have positive net income for the year.

Spinraza royalties will be important to getting there, especially in the face of competition from Novartis' (NYSE: NVS) new gene therapy Zolgensma for spinal muscular atrophy. But with a majority of the revenue still coming from development partners, investors should be looking for Ionis' vast pipeline to advance, resulting in licensing, milestone, and option payments -- and eventually royalties, down the line.


Brian Orelli has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Biogen and Ionis Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

This article was originally published on Fool.com