Biotech Stock Nkarta Skyrockets; How Its Natural Killer Cancer Drugs Did Their Job

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Nkarta (NKTX) announced promising results from two studies in blood cancer patients on Monday, leading the tiny biotech stock to score a triple-digit gain.




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The company tested its “natural killer” cell therapies in patients with acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or NHL. After three doses of Nkarta’s treatments, all signs of cancer disappeared in 60% of AML patients and 50% of NHL patients, the company said.

“Investor sentiment was pretty low going into this readout,” Mizuho Securities analyst Salim Syed said in a note. “And, of course, we still need durability data and more, but showing these responses today is a major plus and Street trading valuations should now move substantially higher for both programs.”

On today’s stock market, the biotech stock soared 140.9% to 18.72. After the close, Nkarta announced a public offering for $150 million shares of its common stock.

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Natural killer cells belong to the immune system and can destroy cancer cells or cells infected with a virus. Researchers extracted those cells from healthy donors and then engineered them to seek specific targets associated with AML and NHL.

Patients received three doses of the treatments. Three out of five acute myeloid leukemia patients had a complete response — meaning they showed no signs of cancer. Half of those with NHL met the same bar.

The AML patients had a full hematologic recovery, effectively putting them in remission. To put this in perspective, only 19% of patients treated with similar drugs met the same bar, Syed said. He also notes just five out of 12 patients had any response to a rival from Fate Therapeutics (FATE). None entered remission.

Syed kept his buy rating and 81 price target on the biotech stock.

Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.

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