BLUE vs. CRSP: Why Are These Stocks Moving in Opposite Directions?
Stock Analysis & Ideas

BLUE vs. CRSP: Why Are These Stocks Moving in Opposite Directions?

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Bluebird Bio and CRISPR Therapeutics have demonstrated some volatility since reporting Q1 updates on May 8 and May 9. However, given CRISPR’s relative advantage in the SCD market and stronger portfolio, it’s hard to look beyond it as the best investment opportunity.

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Last week, Bluebird Bio (NASDAQ:BLUE) shares climbed while CRISPR Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CRSP) stock fell back. The latter has since spiked, while Bluebird Bio has given back many of its gains from the previous week. Did the market simply make a mistake? I’m not sure, but I’m certainly more bullish on CRISPR Therapeutics, with the company offering a cheaper and more commercially viable gene-editing treatment than Bluebird Bio. Meanwhile, I’m neutral on Bluebird Bio.

Bluebird Bio vs. CRISPR Therapeutics: What’s the Difference?

Bluebird Bio and CRISPR Therapeutics are frontrunners in gene editing, offering hope for patients battling blood disorders like sickle cell disease (SCD) and beta-thalassemia. The two companies were the first to receive regulatory approval for gene-editing treatments from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulators worldwide.

However, these treatments are by no means the same. Bluebird’s Lyfgenia uses a special virus to deliver a healthy and functional beta-globin gene into a patient’s stem cells. This allows the body to produce functional red blood cells — anti-sickling hemoglobin — that may decrease or stop vaso-occlusive events. Each treatment is patient-specific.

CRISPR Therapeutics, along with Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX), developed Casgevy. This therapy uses the powerful CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool to directly modify a specific gene — the BCL11A gene. The BCL11A gene tells the body to make less fetal hemoglobin and more adult hemoglobin. CRISPR-Cas9 edits the DNA and makes the BCL11A gene less active.

When the gene is edited, the body can make more fetal hemoglobin, and this can stop red blood cells from turning into a sickle-cell shape. CRISPR’s treatment is also patient-specific, taking the body’s own blood stem cells. These are collected and sent for editing.

One of the big differences between the two treatments is the price tag. Casgevy is set to cost $2.2 million per patient, while Lyfgenia will cost $3.1 million per patient. According to Wall Street analysts, Lyfgenia’s higher price tag and safety warning are expected to negatively impact uptake.

What’s Going on with Bluebird Bio and CRISPR Therapeutics Stocks?

Bluebird Bio stock spiked on May 9 after the company released its Q1 results. Bluebird reported the completion of the first patient start (cell collection) for Lyfgenia at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. This is one of the 60 qualified treatment venues for the company. On another positive note, Bluebird reported revenues of $18.6 million — up 681.5% year-over-year — beating estimates by $4.72 million.

Moreover, in its guidance, Bluebird said that it anticipates 85 to 105 patient starts — stem cell collections — in 2024, with the company recognizing revenues from its first Lyfgenia transfusions in the third quarter of 2024.

A week later, many of the gains achieved on May 9 appear to have been lost. Meanwhile, CRISPR, which fell after its own May 8 earnings report, has since made gains. This may just reflect the market digesting all the data.

CRISPR missed earnings and revenue expectations but said in the earnings press release that “multiple patients have already had cells collected.” Analysts have suggested that CRISPR is continuing to lead the way with its gene-editing rollout. CRISPR’s press release also noted that Vertex had signed multiple agreements with government and commercial health insurance providers in the U.S. and secured reimbursed access for eligible patients in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and France.

Of course, these investment opportunities aren’t just about SCD and beta-thalassemia. Analysts largely consider that CRISPR has a stronger pipeline of new treatments than Bluebird Bio. CRISPR, with its wealthy partner Vertex, also has more cash and a larger margin for error.

Is Bluebird Bio Stock a Buy, According to Analysts?

Bluebird Bio stock comes in as a Hold based on the ratings of 11 analysts in the past three months. There are currently four Buys, five Holds, and two Sell ratings. The average Bluebird Bio stock price target is $3.97, with a high forecast of $8.00 and a low forecast of $1.00. The average price target represents 274.5% upside potential.

Is CRISPR Therapeutics Stock a Buy, According to Analysts?

CRISPR Therapeutics stock has a Moderate Buy rating on TipRanks. There are 12 Buys, five Holds, and two Sell ratings from analysts. The average CRISPR Therapeutics stock price target is $79.17, with a high forecast of $112.00 and a low forecast of $30.00. The average price target represents 40.8% upside potential.

The Bottom Line on Bluebird Bio and CRISPR Therapeutics

I see Bluebird Bio as a more risky investment than CRISPR Therapeutics. The former’s pipeline is more focused on the current SCD opportunity, and it has a thin margin for error. Given the safety notice and the price tag, it’s also hard to see how it will be able to compete with CRISPR’s treatment — or other new therapies — in the long run. CRISPR appears in prime position to take control of the gene-editing segment and treatments for SCD and beta-thalassemia. That’s why I’m bullish on the Swiss company.



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