Stem Cell Breakthrough Leads Healthcare Stocks Higher

Here’s a look at some of the day’s top stories from the healthcare sector (NYSE:XLV):

1) Some good news came in this morning for drug makers Amylin (NASDAQ:AMLN), Alkermes (NASDAQ:ALKS), and Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), as the latest trial for the trio’s joint-product diabetes med ‘Bydureon’ satisfied the FDA with its results. The drug, which treats type two diabetes, was alleged to have caused slowed heart-rates among patients in its first clinical trial, but was proven harmless with respect to those claims in the latest round of tests. A lead doctor for Amylin commented, “We are confident in these results and will continue to work toward making BYDUREON available to patients in the U.S. as soon as possible.”

2) Biopharmaceuticals developer Geron Corp. (NASDAQ:GERN) scored a major win this morning as the company reported positive results from its first round of clinical trials using a stem-cell therapy treatment. A company rep. noted, “We are pleased to report a very good safety profile of GRNOPC1 to date, with no serious adverse events.” Geron’s success led investment bank JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM) to initiate coverage on the firm with an “overweight” rating. GERN stock is up 8.72% on the day.

3) More news on the stem-cell front today as Swedish doctors announced that they successfully replaced a cancer patients wind-pipe with a lab-made organ garnered from the patient’s own stem cells. Companies involved with related research got a big bump, with StemCell (NASDAQ:STEM) up 19.88%, Pluristem (NASDAQ:PSTI) up 3.85%, and Cytori (NASDAQ:CYTX) up 2.32%.

4) Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) made moves on the M&A front yesterday, with plans to purchase PEAK surgical for $105 million and Salient Surgical Technologies for $480 million. The company expects to add $120 million in annual revenue from the acquisitions.

5) Health plan provider WellCare (NYSE:WCG) gained in trading yesterday afternoon the state of Kentucky announced that it would tap the company as a provider to the state’s Medicaid program in seven of its eight regions. CEO commented, “This award results in large part from our significant investments in infrastructure, compliance and operations that are well-aligned with the needs of our government customers, members and business partners, and that are a strong platform for our continued growth.”