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What Happened in the Stock Market Today

Jim Crumly, The Motley Fool

Stocks moved higher on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) closing at record highs.

Today's stock market

Index Percentage Change Point Change
Dow 0.23% 56.87
S&P 500 0.32% 8.49

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Telecom and tech stocks were strong today. The iShares US Telecommunications ETF (NYSEMKT: IYZ) jumped 1.9% and the iShares US Technology ETF (NYSEMKT: IYW) gained 0.9%. Today was the first day for futures trading in bitcoin, and the cryptocurrency closed up over 15%. 

A number of biotech stocks moved on news coming out of the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) this weekend. Shares of bluebird bio (NASDAQ: BLUE) took off on trial results, but Spark Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ONCE) stumbled.

Wall Street sign in front of New York Stock Exchange.

Image source: Getty Images.

Phase 1 results send Bluebird higher

Shares of gene therapy specialist Bluebird Bio soared 17.9% after the company reported results of a phase 1 clinical study of its multiple myeloma candidate, called bb2121, at the ASH conference. The treatment is a collaborative effort with Celgene, whose shares got a 1.8% boost today on the news.

The therapy for the deadly blood cancer is one of a promising class of candidates relying on CAR T technology, which involves extracting a patient's immune cells, modifying them genetically to attack the patient's particular form of cancer, and injecting them back into the patient. In the results reported yesterday, 17 out of the 18 heavily pre-treated patients achieved an objective response from the single bb2121 treatment, 16 out of 18 achieved a very good partial response, and 10 out of 18 achieved a complete response. The very high response rate among patients who had basically run out of life-saving options created a lot of excitement in the medical community. 

Bluebird also presented positive results for its therapies for beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease. The string of wins in the company's gene therapies prompted analyst upgrades, with Jeffries raising its target price for the stock from $130 to $211, and Goldman boosting its target from $186 to $309.

Hemophilia trial sinks Spark Therapeutics

Not everyone was a winner coming out of ASH. Spark Therapeutics, a biotech focused on treating genetic diseases with gene therapies, plummeted 35% after results for its hemophilia treatment appeared to fall short of those of a competitor.

The results of the phase 1/2 study for SPK-8011, a one-time treatment for hemophilia A, showed that the first four subjects had bleeding events reduced to zero in the 12 weeks they were observed after infusion. That would seem like a perfect result, but measurements of levels of factor VIII, the clotting factor missing in patients with this disorder, showed inconsistent improvements among the four. Meanwhile, results of a competing treatment being developed by BioMarin Pharmaceutical were presented at ASH, and they showed higher levels of factor VIII in patients over a study period of 1.5 years.

The news is not conclusively negative for Spark, though. Researchers believe three of the four patients had not reached steady state at the 12-week mark, the study was small, and optimum dosage levels have not yet been determined.

"While still early in the dose-escalation clinical trial of SPK-8011, we are encouraged these data show clinically significant reductions in ABR and AIR with no serious adverse events reported to date," said Katherine A. High, M.D., head of research and development. "We look forward to continuing to enroll additional participants to further increase our understanding of how to optimize the potential efficacy of this investigational gene therapy."

While this weekend's news was unquestionably good for hemophilia sufferers, it was not as great for Spark's investors as it was for BioMarin's, whose stock closed up 7.5%.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed Pfizer as a partner on SPK-8011.

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Jim Crumly owns shares of BMRN, Bluebird Bio, and CELG. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Bluebird Bio and CELG. The Motley Fool recommends BMRN. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.