2 Volatile Healthcare Stocks

Vital Therapies is laying off 85 employees after halting development of its liver treatment

by Karee Venema

Published on Sep 14, 2018 at 9:50 AM

Shortly before yesterday's close, STAAR Surgical Company (NASDAQ:STAA) said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved the implantable eye lens maker's Visian Toric ICL lens to correct blurred vision caused by myopia. STAA stock surged 4.1% as a result, and is extending this upside today after a brokerage firm chimed in on the decision.

Canaccord Genuity reiterated its "buy" rating and boosted its price target to $55 from $43, saying Thursday's approval "represents tangible progress for the company along the path of tapping into the large U.S. market opportunity," and the Nov. 1 launch of the product will likely create a catalyst for the firm to raise current guidance. At last check, STAA shares are up 2% to trade at $551.75, and just hit a new record high of $54 out of the gate.

This positive price action has likely caught a number of short sellers off guard. Short interest jumped almost 37% in the latest reporting period to 1.17 million shares -- the most since mid-March. This could create bigger tailwinds for STAA stock, should some of the weaker bearish hands capitulate to its upside momentum.

On the flip side is Vital Therapies Inc (NASDAQ:VTL). VTL stock was last seen down 18.7% at $0.40, matching its record low share price hit this past Wednesday, Sept. 12. While devastating drug data sent the security down nearly 93% two days ago, today's drop comes on the heels of a round of company layoffs. Specifically, Vital Therapies said it has terminated 85 employees after suspending the development of its treatment for liver disease, which will result in a severance cost of $2 million to $2.5 million.

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