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Last November, Novartis secured European approval for a gene therapy against a rare form of blindness. Six months later, not a single patient has been treated, illustrating the challenges that drug makers face when trying to sell high-priced, one-time medicines in Europe.

Now, Bluebird Bio (BLUE) is nearing European approval of its first gene therapy for a rare blood disorder. An announcement could come within weeks. On Thursday, the biotech offered new details about its commercial plans, telling investors and analysts at a meeting in New York that it hopes to move faster than Novartis while cautioning against expectations for a flying start.

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