Nkarta drops a cancer program as autoimmune cell therapy comes into focus

Nkarta hit the brakes on one of its lead programs Thursday afternoon, deprioritizing a CAR-NK therapy designed to treat an aggressive form of leukemia after it turned in disappointing Phase 1 data. A precipitous stock drop ensued, with shares $NKTX falling 22% Friday morning.

But the investor reaction differed markedly from analysts, who largely remained optimistic about Nkarta’s plans. That’s because it’s turning most of its attention to an area that’s garnered a lot of buzz recently: cell therapy in autoimmune diseases.

The pivot underscores the excitement in an emerging space that’s quickly become crowded.

William Blair analyst Sami Corwin wrote that Nkarta’s move “accurately reflects increased investor enthusiasm” for cell therapy in autoimmune, while TD Cowen’s Yaron Werber said it “makes sense given the emerging potential.” Leerink analyst Daina Graybosch described it as a prudent financial move, as the autoimmune studies…
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